God’s own country! The land, blessed with sunshine, mountains, brooks ,streams, rivers, paddy fields and pristine beaches. The unsung paradise for the nostalgic mind. Hailing from this paradise with a predominant agricultural background, we’ve witnessed thriving trees, took pride in nurturing them, showcasing our green thumb. In nature, nothing is useless; trees typically flourish and yield fruit. When they bear fruit, their energy is solely devoted to producing for others, fulfilling their purpose. This idea seems applicable to us. As a faith community, we’ve evolved from a young sapling to a sturdy tree.
In St. Mathew’s Gospel we read, And on the last judgment it will be “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”(Matthew 、25:34-36).I was always puzzled why he wouldn’t say ‘come you, all Sunday Mass attendees, Catholics or who believe in Jesus’. St. James clarifies “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead ”( James 2:17). While we are supposed to do everything to grow and sustain our faith, in its fullness we are to bear fruit that is worthy of Him in meeting the (spiritual, emotional and physical) hunger, thirst, nakedness, need for friendship and counsel of our brethren. All our Masses, prayers, retreats, adorations and other activities are essential means to an end and not an end in itself. The end being ‘Loving God and loving our neighbors for the sake of Him’.
Are we fulfilling this as His vineyard? We look at Jerusalem temple and at the fate of Jews as historical facts and console ourselves saying that it will never happen to us. Many faith communities established by the apostles in various places are nonexistent now. Apparently the owner had come looking for fruit and finding none, removed the fence of the vineyard and left it to fend for itself. Let’s not become like the cursed fig tree or the vineyard abandoned by its owner.
New year is a time for new resolutions and introspection. Our Mother church is nudging us lovingly to practice the Corporal and spiritual work of Mercy.
Corporal works of Mercy
feed the hungry
give drink to the thirsty
clothe the naked
shelter the homeless
visit the sick
visit the imprisoned
bury the dead.
Spiritual works of Mercy
counsel the doubtful
instruct the ignorant
comfort the afflicted
bear wrongs patiently
pray for the living and the dead
Jews failed to recognize the God man when he was introduced by Pilate “Ecce homo” ( behold the man). Knowing only the ‘ultimate man’ who dressed impeccably with no hair out of place, the disheveled, distressed and dirty Man doesn’t fit the image, even now. For us, the Lazarus ( parable of the rich man and Lazarus) is someone in Ethiopia, Venezuela or on Mars, while we conveniently forget the Lazarus at our doorstep. I used to think that I supported the vices of the poor when I helped them. But can l truthfully say that I’ve always used wisely, the talents, money or time that was given to me? Was I judging unjustly like the Pharisees intended to stone the sinful woman? Like the delicate germinating plant that breaks open the hard husk of the seed, our unconditional love and charity can bring about small buds of repentance and conversion even in hardened criminals. He challenges “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent”.(Mathew 12:7)
Let’s never forget that whether riding an Air Force One or clad in rags, the value of a human being is above everything else because he is created in the image and likeness of God. Are we disgusted by the filth of this world? Could we just say a prayer to revive the lifeless Jesus in the other. Is it too difficult to smile at a stranger while saying ‘Good Morning’? Many hearts are lightened by a loving smile! A look, a thought and a memory with love has much value for the One who collect our tears and count our sights. The wisdom of this world says”Better late than never” and “ Just do it”. Let us bear fruit like a true catholic and all saints. Be courageous to break open the coccoon of self absorption and stop worshiping the unholy trinity of ‘I, Me and Myself/Mine’ and become ‘JOY’ ( Jesus first, Others second and You last) to the world.Thus add a small drop of the heavenly fragrance to this World and become the visible face of the God. Please see the links below to learn how to practice the works of mercy.
Happy New Year and a new beginning to my beloved St. Alphonsa family!!!
Works of Mercy – Catholic Apostolate Center
Practical Suggestions for Practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy | Salt + Light Media