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Christ the Shepherd King
Fr Anthony Charanghat
This Sunday, we celebrate the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ our Universal King, focusing on His all-embracing authority as monarch over all aspects of our life. The image of the Kingship of Christ derived from Christian scriptures and theology is that of a Shepherd King. It is bereft of any trace of triumphalism and pomp associated with most of the royalty and rulers of our world. Unlike them, Jesus came 'to serve rather than be served'. The marks of the identity of His reign were—to be one with the poor and the needy; and have a humble approach of being benevolent, hospitable and merciful.
The prophet Ezekiel portrays God as the true shepherd of Israel, who promises to look after his flock with care and justice. This is a powerful image that reassures the faithful of God's intimate concern for His people, underlining His commitment to gathering the scattered, healing the wounded and shepherding them with righteousness. He provides a stark contrast between the human travesty of justice and utter callousness of our leaders and the ultimate source of the equitable justice and compassion of Jesus' Divine Kingship.
Psalm 23 further cements the idea of God as the shepherd, leading His people to green pastures and still waters, indicative of a peaceful and loving reign. This Psalm is a personal expression of trust in God's guidance and provision, in keeping with the theme of divine kingship as one that nurtures and protects the sheep.
St Paul offers a cosmic perspective on Christ's Lordship, asserting that through Christ's Resurrection, death has been defeated, and He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. Paul speaks of a grand eschatological vision where Christ, the 'Second Adam', will restore all Creation to its intended harmony, and then hand over His kingdom to God the Father, culminating in God being "all in all."
The Gospel reading from Matthew, known as 'The Parable of the Last Judgment,' emphasises that the judgment of individuals will be based on their actions towards the needy during their lifetime. The imagery of separating sheep from goats serves as a metaphor to the wisdom of the final separation of the righteous from the unrighteous.
This parable is not merely a depiction of the end times, but serves as a moral compass for the present. It underscores that the criteria for judgment will be the acts of mercy done to the least of Jesus' brethren—the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. These acts of kindness are equated with serving Jesus Himself, as serving one's neighbour is linked intricately to loving God Himself. This message is revolutionary because it suggests that one's relationship with God is reflected in one's relationship with fellow human beings.
The narrative encourages followers to serve Christ through serving others, suggesting that ethical behaviour is not just a result of religious commitment, but can be an active expression of our love for God. It challenges believers to reflect on their actions and how they align with the values of Jesus' Gospel, suggesting that daily acts of loving service are what will ultimately transform the world.
We are urged to wrap up the Church's liturgical year, pointing towards a future where Christ returns and hands over a purified and perfected kingdom to God the Father. This kingdom, characterised by truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love and peace, is because of our Hope already present in a mysterious way on earth, that will reach its fulfilment with Christ's second coming.
In essence, this feast embodies the hope and the challenge of the Christian faith—to live in such a way that reflects the kingship of Christ in the 'here and now,' while looking forward to the ultimate fulfilment of God's kingdom. It is a call to be a Eucharistic people, living out the sacrificial love of Christ, and by doing so, participating in the transformation of the world according to the values of the kingdom of God. This feast is not the end, but a gateway to the new liturgical year, renewing the call to live out the mission of Christ in the world.
Loving the Face of the Poor
The Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, issued on November 20, 2016 signaling the completion of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, also marked the World Day of the Poor established by Pope Francis. The World Day of the Poor was inaugurated by Pope Francis with a celebration of the Eucharist on November 19, 2017 at St Peter's Basilica. A free lunch was served in the adjacent Paul VI Hall, in several Catholic colleges, and in other Vatican venues. Cardinal Oswald Gracias launched ACTS (Actively Called To Serve) – a similar project distributing bags to parishes inviting people to donate groceries and other essential items for the poor in our Archdiocese.
On the 7th World Day of the Poor (November 19, 2023), Pope Francis has chosen a verse from the Book of Tobit: "Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor" (Tob 4:7). It is a reflection on a scene of family life. Tobit embraces his son Tobias and exhorts him to "revere the Lord all your days; to live uprightly all the days of your life, and do not walk in the ways of wrongdoing" (Tob 4:5), as he sets out on a long journey. He commands his son to make concrete gestures, carry out good works, and practise justice. He firmly recommends that all those who practise righteousness, should give alms from their possessions, and not begrudge the gift when they make it.
The words of Tobit challenge our own sensitivity towards the poor around us. Do we take the poor, our brothers and sisters, for granted? Poverty has many faces – the economically and financially deprived, the migrants, the ragpickers, landless labourers, the exploited, the cry of the elderly and abandoned, the lonely…the list is endless. Do we have a heart for the poor?
The Gospels underline that the poor are generally close to the heart of Christ. Right from the Mosaic Covenant to the New Testament times, the Scriptures enjoin the believers to look after the poor, widows, orphans, foreigners, and the needy. The Old Testament highlights God's marvellous disposition towards the poor: Yahweh is "a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in their distress" (Isaiah 25:4).
With the coming of Jesus, the stakes are raised further; service to the poor and the marginalised is now at the core of Christian discipleship. "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Mt 25:40). Jesus specifically directed the Gospel call to the poor," The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor" (Luke 4:18).
At the recently concluded XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in Rome, Pope Francis dined with a group of Rome's poor at his Vatican residence. Like the Synod Assembly participants, the poor who had assembled for lunch were asked, "What is it that they expect from the Church?" The answer was absolutely amazing and mind-boggling; what the poor said was "love, only love". Later on, at yet another Synod's discussions on the poor, the participants exclaimed their desire for a Church that is pro-poor, that is humble, that lowers herself, that walks with the poor. It is a fact that the poor have many faces, and that they are often excluded from society.
The Church has witnessed many men and women in our society, irrespective of caste and creed, who have resolutely reached out in love and care for the poor, excluded and those on the peripheries. In our Small Christian Communities, there are similar instances of children, youth, adults and senior citizens making a fundamental option for the poor. These are people who may not necessarily give alms in charity, but what they give is much more precious – a listening ear, a helping hand, walking that extra mile; in short, they work for the integral promotion of individuals. This is when the Kingdom of God becomes present and visible.
As baptized into the Body of Christ and as witnesses of Jesus, all of us are challenged to imitate the heart of the Master. We are called to give expecting nothing in return, to love gratuitously (cfr Luke 6:32-26) and become beacons of light ensuring no one is in want (Archdiocesan SCC Vision statement). It is only then that we will be identified as Christians by the larger world, a light on a hilltop. By our unconditional love and care for the poor of society, the beloved of God.
(Guest editorial) Bp Barthol Barretto is Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay.
DIWALI – A festival of Illumination
Fr Anthony Charanghat
Diwali, the joyous festival of glowing Lights, once again casts its symbolic presence of the Divine radiance across the globe. The deep significance of the celebration of this event resonates with the universal aspiration for ‘The LIGHT’ to dispel the darkness of evil. It is a call for the victory of knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair, and respecting the sacredness of the value of human life over the vicious violence and the indiscriminate dehumanising death dealt by the horror of war.
This year, as countless lamps illuminate homes and hearts, Diwali's profound significance extends beyond its traditional rituals. In the context of our times, it has become an urgent call to all nations to strive relentlessly for peace in a world marred by conflict. The convergence of Diwali and Children's Day celebrations during November 2023 draw a poignant contrast – the celebration of light and children against the darkness of the gruesome conflicts prevalent in the world.
These festivities, rich in symbolism and spirit, provide us a lens to reflect on the tragic consequences of war, where the most vulnerable, the children, suffer disproportionately. Their innocence is a stark contrast to the harrowing realities they face in war-torn areas, where the sanctity of childhood is often the first casualty.
The celebration of Diwali and Children's Day is a time to celebrate life and a reminder of the lives we must safeguard. These powerful symbols must awaken our collective consciousness to categorically defend the sacrosanct value of life at all stages of life, especially the defenceless innocent children, sick, senior citizens and civilians not involved in war.
On Children's Day, as we advocate for education and the rights of children, we must raise our voices for those who are deprived of their childhood by the atrocities of war. This day urges us to look beyond borders, and see the faces of our own children in the war-stricken young ones. That would motivate all to recognise the plight of innocent children caught in the crossfire, compelling us to work towards a world where the laughter of children in peace outshines the cries of distress in war.
The war between Israel and Hamas in Palestine and other war zones continues to escalate unabatedly. There is much work to be done, to lift no stone unturned for a détente on cease-fire, between both sides of the divide. This would open the avenue to lasting peace to protect the innocent, and a light to shine on the way to a future where children can grow up untainted by the shadow of war.
Some of the wise teachings of our National and Spiritual leaders representing all traditions could ensure efforts of fostering peace at the grassroot level. India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, whose birthday we celebrate as Children’s Day this month, was known for his deep affection for children; he saw in children the very essence of hope and the future's potential. He believed in nurturing young minds and hearts with the values of understanding and mutual respect, essential for a world free from the scourge of war.
Gandhi's ideals of moulding the minds of children in the power of truth and the importance of fighting for what is right by non-violence have echoed effectively through the millennia as a beacon of peace and love.
Jesus Christ highlighted the virtues inherent in children—humility, openness, and trust—as the cornerstones for spiritual development and a closer approximation to the divine healing indispensable for the restoration of peace. To embrace such transparent selfless qualities of children can be the key to bringing peace to the current plight in the Holy Land.
Such great leaders collectively represent ideals of love, peace, creativity, and education. Nurturing these values in the younger generation would be the promise for a brighter future. To see every child as a sacred trust, an emissary of peace, deserving of a future not marred by bloodshed, but illuminated by the light of hope and harmony is the door to the Divine guaranteed gift of peace. May the land that is holy to so many become a powerhouse of the Light to bring peace in the world.
The Martyrdom of Death and Daily Living
The recent announcement by the Vatican's Dicastery for the Causes of the Saints granting permission to begin the cause of the canonisation of 35 martyrs of the Kandhamal pogrom that took place during the 2008 anti-Christian riots is a blessing for the Indian Church, and a recognition of the deep faith of Indian Christians. From now on, they will be called 'Servants of God' — the first step towards sainthood.
To the Church Father Tertullian is attributed the saying, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church." This has proved to be so true in Kandhamal, where the original sinister intention of cleansing out the Christian population has, on the contrary, led to the blossoming of faith and increase in numbers of the Christian faithful. Examples such as Kandhamal, along with those of persons such as Blessed Rani Maria, point towards a growing intolerance of religious freedom in recent years in a country which has been, through history, a cradle of civilisations and religions.
It is significant to also note that the Vatican's announcement went completely unreported in the secular press and media, considering its profound gravity. International observers have consistently been pointing out the downslide of religious freedom in India with each passing year. While Christianity in India has always been known for its out-sized contribution in nation-building, in sectors such as education, healthcare and social upliftment, for the first time, sadly, it is also being acknowledged for the persecution it endures from a hostile state.
How do the Kandhamal martyrs speak to us? We are broken and inspired at the same time, as we hear the painful details of their suffering and heroic love for Christ. And since most of us may never be called to make the supreme sacrifice for our faith, we may yet wonder what we would do in a similar situation. We may never face the ultimate life-or-death question that so many martyrs did, but it is prudent for us to recognise that, in a certain sense, we face this question every day. We are called to emulate the lives of the martyrs—not through physical death, but by embracing martyrdom in everyday life.
As Christian disciples, we are called to be martyrs in spirit, first and foremost by loving God above all else in our day-to-day life. This is easier said than done, in a world where so many other things clamour for our time and attention—success, wealth, career, social life, extra-curricular activities, and even family. "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37 ESV)
Being a "day-to-day martyr" means making the daily choice to keep Christ at the centre of our decision making, and to be willing to make the sacrifice of time, talent and life for the good of the Church, the Kingdom of God made present on earth. In Romans 12:1, Paul calls every Christian to present themselves as a 'living' sacrifice. A living sacrifice is to live every moment of our lives for Christ's sake, to faithfully offer ourselves to God as His instrument to love and serve Him in the way God desires from us. Most of us will not die a violent death for our Christian faith, but our witness for Christ and willingness to die for Him should not be any less than those who will.
Our daily life is full of opportunities to honour the martyrs of Kandhamal — when we reject the temptation to make work our worship, when we resist the desire to satisfy ourselves with worldly experiences, when we teach our children to honour God rather than prioritise the demands of worldly success, when we learn to recognise the face of God in the vulnerable and unloved, when we offer our time generously to serve our Church community, and most importantly, when we make time to deepen our relationship with God through a disciplined prayer life.
Through dying to our lower desires and clinging to things that are higher, we are not only living like Christ, but as the Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, we are being "changed into Christ." This is the aim of all Christians—martyrs and non-martyrs alike. From embracing this mentality, there is hope that not only are we changed into Christ, but that our families, and ultimately, this world, may be too.
Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.
Path of the Power of Prayer
-Singular Solution to Peace
Fr Anthony Charanghat
Pope Francis has always called for the silencing of guns and the avoidance of an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe of the horror of war in the annals of human history. He has labelled the spiralling spectre of gruesome conflicts and war in many nations going beyond the spectrum of control, as a diabolical evil that needs to be conquered. He has once again invited all Christians and all people of any faith to embark on the path of prayer as the singular solution to Peace in the Gaza-Israeli war.
For decades, the conflict between Hamas and Israel has been an unfortunate and inescapable reality for millions of people. The pain, loss and trauma that have resulted from this protracted situation are palpable, leaving scars that run deep in the hearts and memories of countless individuals. While political and military solutions have been attempted time and again, true peace remains elusive.
In such a seemingly intractable situation, might the answer lie in a more spiritual approach? Across both sides of the Hamas-Israel divide, there are countless individuals who are exhausted by the cycle of violence and yearn for a lasting peace. By elevating the discourse to a spiritual level, we might find common ground in shared values and aspirations. Both Jewish and Islamic traditions emphasise the importance of peace, justice, and compassion. By focusing on these shared values, prayer can serve as a unifying force, bridging the gap between two communities that have been at odds for so long.
The Pope's recent emphatic appeal to stop the war unconditionally came in the wake of the explosion at the al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. The Hamas militant group blamed the blast on an Israeli airstrike, while the Israeli military blamed a rocket misfired by other Palestinian militants. Irrespective of the conflicting claims of the warring parties, it needs to be unilaterally condemned.
It is a sign of Hope (supernatural virtue) against hope, that other nations too are making serious efforts to call for a truce to keep the Israel-Hamas war from spiralling into a broader regional conflict, involving Hamas, Hezbollah, and possibly Iran. There is an imminent danger of this situation ultimately escalating into a horrific World War of attrition, plunging the entire globe into the darkness of destruction, death, decimation and annihilation of all people.
During his recent general audience, Pope Francis said, "Dear brothers and sisters, my thoughts go to Palestine and Israel." It was an unbiased remark that drew long applause from the crowd. "The victims increase, and the situations both in Gaza and Israel are desperate," he said.
On the day of his plea till then, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, some 3,200 Palestinians, including around 1,030 children, have been killed and 12,500 injured in Gaza by the constant Israeli bombing over the past 12 days. The strikes come in response to the more than 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, killed in the attack by Hamas in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Many more were injured, and nearly 200 Israelis, including women and children, were taken hostage by Hamas and are still being held in Gaza. Both sides are now reported to be continuing acts of unbridled revenge, retaliation and senseless retribution, targeting civilians unengaged in military action, innocent children in schools and the sick in hospital violating the Geneva Convention of law of war crimes committed against humanity.
"The situation in Gaza is getting worse", the Pope said. Gaza, a 141-square-mile enclave with a population of 2.3 million people, has been under total siege since Oct. 7, and Israel is preventing electricity, gas, food, water and medical supplies from entering the area. "Please do everything possible to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe," he said.
Pope Francis told the crowd: "Brothers and sisters, war does not resolve any problem. It only sows death and destruction. It increases hate, multiplies the vendetta. War cancels the future. It cancels the future!" It only devalues life and obliterates the fraternity of humanity.
Pope Francis said: "I exhort all people of goodwill to take only one side in this conflict, that of peace. Not with words, but with prayer, with total dedication."
Hearts on fire, feet on the move
Fr Anthony Charanghat
In his message for World Mission Day 2023, Pope Francis takes inspiration from the Gospel of Luke, specifically the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). The theme he selects is "Hearts on fire, feet on the move," which encapsulates the fervent enthusiasm and action-driven spirit that should define missionary disciples within the Church.
Pope Francis reflects on the journey of these two disciples who initially felt dejected and lost due to the death of Jesus. However, their encounter with the risen Christ, both through listening to His words and the breaking of bread, rekindles their faith and ignites their hearts with a burning desire to live and spread the message of Christ's resurrection.
Three key elements stand out from this narrative. First is the importance of the Word of God in igniting and transforming hearts. The disciples' initial despair and disappointment turns into burning enthusiasm when they encounter Jesus who explains the Scriptures to them. The Holy Father underscores the importance of knowing and understanding the Scriptures for living a deeper Christian life and effective Gospel proclamation. He quotes Saint Jerome's words: "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ."
Secondly, the disciples' eyes were opened at the Breaking of the Bread. The disciples' recognition of Jesus occurs during the breaking of the bread, which symbolises the breaking of the Body and shedding of the Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. Pope Francis highlights the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Church's life and mission. The memorial celebration of the Last Supper is the foretaste of our perfect communion with God, our ultimate goal of eternal happiness. Pope Benedict XVI's words are invoked: "An authentically Eucharistic Church is a missionary Church." Breaking bread with the hungry in the name of Christ is a missionary act, but the Eucharistic bread, which is Christ Himself, is the pinnacle of mission.
The Pope stresses the importance of daily prayer, especially in Eucharistic adoration, to maintain a deep and mystic communion with Christ, enabling Christians to become effective witnesses of the Gospel. Eucharist in action is the Proclaiming of Christ's Message. The disciples, after recognising Jesus, set out without delay to share their experience with others. Pope Francis highlights that the joy of encountering Jesus leads to a burning desire to share Him with the world.
The mission is presented as a vital and perpetual calling, essential to the Church's identity. The message underlines that everyone has the right to receive the Gospel, and it is the duty of Christians to share this message with joy. The Church's mission is highlighted as an essential element in achieving the fullness of our Christian life.
The Pope emphasises the importance of unity with Jesus, achieved through prayer and the Eucharist. Such a union propels Christians to be active in their missionary journey. He invokes all Pontifical Mission Societies to cooperate in fostering a vibrant missionary life in the Church.
Pope Francis' message for World Mission Day 2023 is a call to all Christians to have burning hearts filled with the Word of God, opened eyes recognising Christ in the Eucharist, and feet that are always ready to set out on the missionary journey. The message urges all to have a true spirit of joy and enthusiasm in sharing the Gospel. The importance of encountering Christ in the Eucharist will give an impetus to all Christians to respond to their calling of the Church's mission.
The central resource for the mission is for individuals to encounter the light of the Risen Christ through the Scriptures and the Eucharist. Then our witness can shine even in the darkest times. The phrase of our "feet setting out" will be a symbol of our indefatigable passion to reach all people, and offer the Good News of peace and salvation. It is the right of all to receive the Gospel and the duty of Christians to joyfully share this message, making missionary activity of spreading the Good News the primary goal for both individuals and the Church.
Pope Francis reiterates that Christians have the duty to announce the Gospel without excluding anyone, not as one who imposes a new obligation, but as one who shares a joy, signaling a beautiful horizon, offers a desirable banquet" (Evangelii Gaudium, 14). Such an "attitude in our missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church's missionary activity."
Synod on Synodality enters its second week
The Synod on Synodality at the Vatican began its second working week on Monday, October 9, at the time of going to press. The Synod methodology will see another premiere this week, as the gathering switches from group work in small circles to a plenary assembly — one of the official Congregationes Generales. Journalists will finally, for a time, be able to tune into actual speeches and proceedings in the audience hall, after the Pope recommended keeping the Synod proceedings private and urged the Synod delegates to refrain from speaking to the media.
A brief summary of the opening week of the Synod is carried in the inside pages of The Examiner, titled "The Synod begins".
The second week of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme "For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission" began with the daily morning Mass on Monday in St Peter's Basilica. Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, delivered the homily, reflecting on Jesus' invitation to pray for workers in God's abundant harvest.
In his homily, the Cardinal Patriarch noted that Jesus felt compassion for the large crowd which was following Him, and so told His disciples: "The harvest is abundant, but the labourers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out labourers for his harvest." Cardinal Raï said Jesus' words offer a starting point to understand the current state of the Church and the challenges facing society. He reflected first on the abundant harvest as a symbol of various pressing global issues that require attention and action from the Church and all Christians. These issues, he said, include the pursuit of just peace amid ongoing wars, addressing climate change and protecting the environment, challenging exploitative economic systems, aiding persecuted individuals, and healing the wounds inflicted by various forms of abuse.
The Maronite Patriarch of Antioch went on to consider the labourers who are called to gather the harvest. Cardinal Raï said the Synod's Instrumentum Laboris (working document) identifies these labourers as every person sent by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. God's Spirit, said Cardinal Raï, is the true "protagonist of the mission entrusted to the Church, and thus of the entire synodal journey." Every labourer needs to receive formation and guidance from the Holy Spirit to embrace a synodal way of living. Such training, he said, "involves formation for a life of communion, mission and participation, as well as synodal spirituality at the heart of the Church's renewal."
The Synod's General Rapporteur, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, introduced Module B-1, and recalled that in the first module, "we reconnected with the experience of the 'journeying together' of the people of God over the past two years," and "worked to bring the synodal Church into sharper focus as a comprehensive vision."
With the second module, on the other hand, he said, we "address the first of the three questions that have emerged from listening to the people of God, and on which this Assembly is called to exercise its discernment." With the Module's title being "A communion that radiates", the Cardinal suggested the priority will be reflecting on "How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?"
After Cardinal Hollerich's introduction, Synod members heard several interventions and testimonies on the themes presented in Module B-1. Fr Timothy Radcliffe, OP, offered a spiritual reflection on 'The Samaritan Woman at the Well: John 4:730.' Dr Anna Rowlands, professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice at the Department of Theology and Religion & Centre for Catholic Studies of Durham University in the UK, offered a theological reflection on the theme: 'Communion: the wedding feast of the Lamb.'
Metropolitan Job (Getcha) of Pisidia, Co-President of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, offered a reflection on the experience of synodality in the Orthodox Church. In addition, Fr Clarence Davedassan of Malaysia spoke on 'How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?' While Siu Wai Vanessa Cheng, a lay Catholic from Hong Kong, delivered her testimony on 'Synodality and Culture,' and in particular, 'Synodality and Asian Cultures.'
(collated from various online sources)