Wednesday, July 13, 2016

FOR THOSE WHO WOULD CAST STONES

I keep getting messages, through various digital media, about Amoris Laetitia and the dissenters are pretty raucous.  They quote the purists, the righteous and the traditionalists. This got me thinking.

The ‘regular’ Catholic (and even most of the irregular ones) should be familiar with the story of the adulterous woman whom Jesus saved from stoning.

Let’s go back to that moment for a bit. Jesus was, at that time, a young Jewish man familiar with Jewish law and all its nuances.  He would know very well that the penalty for adultery was stoning to death.  Here were elders and Jews, steeped in their faith, who brought this woman before him.  Did she deny the charge? No. Was it a questionable charge? Again, no.  Apparently, the woman’s transgressions were well known. Were the elders well within their rights to stone her? Technically, yes. Because it was the law and they observed the law very rigidly.

What did Jesus do?

He did not harangue the woman. He did not conduct a court of inquiry.  He made a simple statement,’Let he who is without sin cast the first stone’!

While the elders were ‘rooting out’ sin, here was one who sought mercy for a sinner and offered a second chance.

Jesus was radical for his time. So radical that they crucified him.

History repeats itself.

Because mercy is beyond the comprehension of those who cannot love.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Collect Prayer and a loving message for the day….

 “O God, who through the folly of the Cross wondrously taught Saint Justin the Martyr the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ…”

Attending Mass, whether daily or for fulfilling the Sunday obligation, unwittingly becomes routine.  The common prayers – I Confess, Gloria, Creed, Holy Holy, Our Father – are so familiar that we can just rattle them off when they turn up at their appointed place in the Liturgy.  Even the readings, after time, become good friends and, on hearing the first few words, we know what comes next. 

On the other hand, how often do we actually ‘hear’ the other prayers recited during the Liturgy? They are unfamiliar (unless you have your own personal copy of the Mass missal), privy only to the priest at the altar and, if you are not particularly attentive, you could miss the words altogether.  Today, our celebrant intoned the Collect Prayer with unusual clarity and my ears picked up the words, ‘….folly of the Cross…’ and I was intrigued. Yes, I checked the Book after Mass and I had heard correctly. 

This set me thinking about how much we are loved.  If you have ever cared for another so intensely that you forget self for the other, when no sacrifice is too hard and no expense too great, you throw logic to the winds, there is irrationality in the face of danger and there is even less thought to the consequences. How foolish we are when we love deeply! 

Imagine, then, how deep and how immense was Christ’s love for us; all we need to do is to look to the ‘foolishness of the Cross’ to know this reality.

Hold fast to this thought – it will get you through the day.  It will also get you through life.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

SPOTLIGHT!

It’s a word; it’s a noun. It’s also the serendipitous choice for the title of the investigative journalism segment of a provincial newspaper – the Boston Globe. You couldn’t get a better title than this except maybe ‘Five Find-outers and Dog’ (once an Enid Blyton fan, always an Enid Blyton fan)!!

But this is serious, responsible and accountable find-outing. They smell a story that should be in the public domain and follow their noses to put the facts out there, to set the record straight, to right a wrong, despite seemingly insurmountable barricades. They are a small team but a dedicated one, working in tight-knit coordination to uncover the information that starts with a small niggle and ends with a burst of incredulity. Could this be true?

The lives and work of the journalists by themselves makes a good story but not an exceptional one – most investigative teams work this way, taking in the highs and lows, the sleepless nights and fractured personal relationships, the door to door trudge, the meticulous sifting of information and the courtroom attendances. What does make this particular film news is the scandal that it is linked to – the scandal that rocked that unshakeable behemoth, the Catholic Church.  A Church that in Boston, in particular, was an institution that underpinned all of public, social and political life. Incidentally, it still does today but perhaps not with the same self-assurance.

The Boston Globe was where the story broke, leading to the coming out of thousands of victims not just in America but in other parts of the world too, an indication of systemic failure to address a problem that was real and that had traumatic consequences for its victims and ultimately for the Church. Lawsuits and settlements have drained finances, parish churches have shut down, priests at the ground level have had to rebuild on the debris left behind. Thanks to the digital medium, the news had global ramifications in real time. And the biggest victim was, so very regrettably, ‘trust’.

That men betrayed the cloth was not new. That the betrayal was covered up was not new.  In earlier times, the victim would be considered the one accountable and the Church was considered above scandal. A few whispers here and there perhaps. A collective clerical shrug for an unfortunate lapse, but nothing in the public domain.  But times change and truth will out – the longer it is suppressed, the more explosive it proves to be.

Time has passed, there has been compensation, there has been healing and there is now a watchful gaze with a hair-trigger response.  Never again.

So how is ‘Spotlight’ the fantastic experience that critics cite it to be? Because it resurrects a scandal from the past?  Because it holds the audience in rapt attention from frame to frame? Or, because it confronts us with the uncomfortable truth that but for one man’s dogged conviction, the facts may never have been told? 

For Catholics everywhere and for priests in particular, the upheaval was real.  Trust is difficult to earn and for those who remain with the Church, this film will resurrect doubts that were buried.  We can only hope and pray that ‘never again’ is the reality for the rest of time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

BLANK SLATE

The New Year is given to us as a blank slate – 366 days (it’s a leap year!) to ‘write’ on and imprint our actions and interactions. But, what of our thoughts, feelings and memories? Where do these go?

Since way back when, I have kept diaries.  Not just memories but scrapbooks of stuff that has caught my eye and, not surprisingly, most of my collection is ‘words’ – bits and pieces from books and articles that I have read.  The odd illustration finds a place too and clippings from here and there.  I treasure my collection; in moments when I need to ‘get away’ but can’t, I tuck myself into a chair and go back in time through the pages, lingering over the memories that they evoke and delighting once again in the connection felt at the first encounter. The vibrancy remains undiminished with the passage of time.

The electronic blog and Facebook provide tempting alternatives and I do succumb from time to time to the ease of the digital medium, but this year, thanks to a young lady who finds colour in words (and whose words add colour to the day!), I have the blank pages of a diary/album to accompany the unfolding year.  And I will take her happy advice to imprint the pages with memories, experiences, new encounters and the ‘mud of places’ that I will visit.  A concrete legacy for the future!


For now, the immediate present, I will savour the texture of the handmade paper, reveling in its pristine newness. I have one more reason to be eager for what is to come!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

MORNING WALK

Daily bread does not land on my doorstep; I must fetch.  So, in the murky early hour after first Mass, I make my way through the back lanes that take me to the bread shop.  It is not a pleasant journey.  Dingy, shuttered shop-fronts line the pavements on either side; pavements that one cannot use because the previous day’s garbage has been put out for the collection that has yet to be accomplished.  The contents spill out onto the road, thanks to rummaging canines, cats and the hopeful crows. One has to walk in the middle of the road to avoid the odd squelch and snapping teeth, the occasional remnant from the previous night’s hangover – denizens of the local ‘joints’ – and the amorphous, swaddled shapes of the still sleeping homeless who make the pavements their bedroom.  

It’s not a long journey, but the surroundings make it seem so.  I hurry past my daily encounter with now familiar squalor, with purposeful determination. Today, the bread shop is manned by the father, a courteous old man who patiently waits on each customer. He reaches out for my shopping bag and fills in the items as I recite my list – bread, buns, butter, milk, eggs.  He takes my money and hands me my change. I shoulder my bag and sidestep a couple of eager cats playing tag and waiting on the probability of a punctured milk pouch – there is a crateful of them at the entrance. It’s time for the return journey.

In the time between, the conservancy gang has visited.  The garbage has been picked up and the road swept clean.  The pavement dwellers have gathered up their bedding and melted into an invisible background. The shop fronts are still shuttered but in a few hours they will be humming with arriving and departing customers who require the barber, the chemist, the tailor, the electrician, the stationer, photocopies, hot snacks – name it, you’ll find it; practically every need is met! Come evening, the bars will thrum with customers ending their day by getting high to remedy a low. And then shutters will down, some by nightfall others in the wee hours.


Shifting scenes on a temporary canvas – painted over but not obliterated. A living pentimento!  


Monday, October 5, 2015

THE WORST NIGHT (AND DAY) OF MY LIFE



The weather suddenly turned foul, the thunder thundered vigorously, the lightning flooded the sky and the rain poured down in buckets.  I needed a refuge and I needed it fast.  I saw the light on in this house and I sought admittance but no one answered.  Fortunately, there was an entry point and so I took advantage, hoping no one would grudge shelter to a bedraggled stranger.
 
No one was home! That was surprising. I checked out the place, made myself comfortable and heaved a sigh of relief. There was food on the kitchen counter top too.  What a welcome! But it did not last too long.

After a couple of hours, I heard a key turn in the lock and light footsteps enter. It was a woman carrying a shopping bag and she sang as she entered.  Happy company, I thought and sat up to say hello. She took one look and yelled, ‘Get out of my house you varmint!’ and she set to with a will, banging about and screaming till I cowered in fear. I managed to find a roomy cupboard and concealed myself there but apparently she had seen me enter.  The next thing I knew was that I had been locked in and there I remained for the night and the best part of the next day.  You can imagine my plight. When would I see daylight again? 

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I heard was the voices.  A man and that woman talking.  The woman was explaining in shrill staccato and the man seemed to be in vociferous agreement.  Then, the cupboard door swung open and my place of concealment was flooded with light.  The man had a thick stick in his hand and looked dangerous.  Was my life in jeopardy? It was ‘do or die’.  I leapt past the man; the element of surprise was on my side.  He chased me around the room but I was quicker and, seeing an open window, I jumped out as fast as I could without a thought to the consequences.  Oh, the joy of being free and out in the open again.  

Whatever happened to ‘shelter the homeless’ and ‘feed the hungry’? Is charity so very dead?

Take my word for it, it’s certainly no fun being a rat (especially if you land up in Wendy’s home)!!

WHY?

I am haunted by a name – Janhavi Gadkar. When the story broke, like the average Mumbai voyeur, I followed it avidly not because of the condemnation heaped upon Janhavi’s head but because it raised one burning question,‘Why?’

All I know of her is what the media told me.  Accurate? I know from experience not to trust everything I read, but the basics were corroborated across the board and one can draw inferences that are pretty close to reality.  Here was an attractive young woman, from a fairly conservative but educated Maharashtrian background, better off than just merely well to do, evidently smart because she qualified for a top post with Reliance, well read and well travelled.

She was obviously on the up and up, ‘in’ with her colleagues – on the social front, at least – and one who inspired affection (Her ex-husband came forward for her and that must make her special. The ‘ex’ usually moves on and never looks back!). Her happiness spills over in her photos and she seemed to be in love with life.  When everything is going your way, why would you throw it all away?

I do not ask why she was driving while inebriated.  I ask why she was inebriated in the first place.  Why did she put so much store in the pub culture, in social drinking where she matched her male colleagues in their ability to imbibe what was clearly ‘over the limit’?  Why would anyone want to lose self-control or choose to be deliberately vulnerable to external influences? That, too, after more than one bad experience? When did she start and why?

For some time, Janhavi was erased from the news thanks to the ‘Sheena Bora’ case, but today her name popped up again and the questions came flooding back. Yes, she took a life. But she is not a murderer.  And, unless she is extremely thick skinned, she will have to live with the horror for the rest of her life. She will have to start over, if ever she is given the chance and so will her family. In a sense, even if she gets off with a light sentence, she will, in reality, serve a life term.

Why would someone for whom life was opening up in amazing ways do something so stupid?

Why?