Shepherd's Voice January 2020


The Catholic Charismatic Movement is rightly called ‘renewal’ movement because it does not concern only with ‘visions’, ‘prophecies’, ‘talking in tongues’ and ‘charisms’ but with a real conversion of heart and change of life as Our Lord Jesus Christ has asked for at the very beginning of his Gospel. It is the necessary condition for salvation. The Lord says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:2-3). Of course we experience within us the constant struggle between the law of the flesh and the law of the Spirit pulling at each other (cf. Gal. 5:16-25), but the Spirit will ultimately win if we submit ourselves to the Spirit with a childlike trust.
The longing for the “New Heaven and the New Earth” (Rev. 21:1) is the great gift of hope infused into the human soul by the Holy Spirit at Baptism. It points to the defeat of the Evil One and the final victory of the Risen Lord over all forces of sin and death. As disciples of Christ we are called to pray and work for this Day of the Lord with fidelity to his Gospel and trust in his promises. We see the One seated on the throne and who is also the One in whom we live, move and have our being assuring us “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21: 5). This ‘newness’ is the core of our Christian life founded on ‘repentance’ and ‘conversion of heart’ for which there is no ‘time-frame’ and no limit set. It is an on-going process of our daily life and its every moment. The Spirit of God always brings breath of freshness and renewal in our life but we have to also be open to the action of God in us. From individual hearts the newness flows to the human society in all its dimensions. Unless the human heart is clean the society in which we live will never be clean. We need to keep this vision before us as we begin the ‘new year’.
There is the beautiful Latin hymn on the Eucharistic Mystery composed by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century called “Panis Angelicus” (Angelic Bread). One line in the hymn beginning with sacris solemniis powerfully links the Eucharist to ‘newness’: “recedant vetera, nova sint omnia, corda, voces et opera” (let the old pass away, let everything be new, hearts, voices and actions). Can we say that the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the sacrament par excellence of the ‘newness’ Christ has brought to this world and into which we are inserted as members of his Body? We will realize that it is so only if the Eucharist is truly the centre of our life.
The year 2019 has gone into history and 2020 has dawned. We call it the ‘new year’ and wish each other prosperity, good health, and all blessings from God for the 12 months to come. ‘Newness’ always signifies freshness and hope and implies progress, achievement, success, upward mobility, happiness. We usually speak of ‘newness’ from a purely material point of view – new house, new vehicle, new mobile, new computer, new gadget, new clothes, new job etc. but rarely of ‘new life’ in grace which is the first and most important gift we have to ask for from God before everything else and the rest will certainly follow. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6:33) is the promise of the Gospel. Unless the ‘newness’ we long for is of our innermost self whatever else we seek will be meaningless and even detrimental to true happiness because everything is transient and ephemeral unless weighed in the scale of life eternal. The word of God exhorts us: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with the desires, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17). To do the will of God – which is costly discipleship – is the way to true joy and peace which may not be of this world as Our Lord has clearly told us: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn. 14: 27). If I find myself ‘troubled’ and ‘afraid’ sometimes due to ‘cares’ that weigh on my mind and heart, I need to return to the Lord who takes away my anxiety and floods my soul with his peace.
The words of Yahweh in the book of Prophet Ezekiel keep ringing in our ears: “... And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez. 36:25-26). The covenantal relationship with God is a constant process of renewal of our heart in tune with God’s will and in his love. When we experience God’s love we enter into that newness which signifies the defeat of sin in us and the victory of God’s grace. This covenantal relationship has come to its culmination in Christ Our Lord and Saviour from whose fullness we have all received “grace upon grace” (Jn. 1:16). In the Holy Eucharist we celebrate the fullness of the covenantal relationship in Christ when we remember his words: “Take and drink, this is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins”. The Holy Eucharist is indeed the Sacrament of our newness of the heart individually and collectively in the Church and in our human society.
The ‘heart’ signifies not only our ‘feelings’ but symbolizes the very centre of our personality with all its attitudes, perspectives, desires etc. from which flow all our decisions and actions. We have to pray all the time, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). It is not without reason that Our Lord Jesus Christ has taught us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).
At our recent annual retreat for the clergy of the diocese in November 2019 at Navinta animated by Fr. Bonaventure Rodrigues (Spiritual Director of St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary, Bangalore) we were led into a deep ‘inner healing’ experience which proved beyond doubt that the action of the Holy Spirit can make a person totally ‘new’ like the crippled man who was healed (Acts 3:1-10) or like Saul who became Paul and who boldly proclaimed “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). In our subconscious mind we carry the ‘five wounds’ that can create havoc in our personality and can hamper our growth through low self-esteem and stored anger. These are: 1. Rejection, 2. Abandonment, 3. Betrayal, 4. Humiliation, 5. Injustice. If we look into certain patterns of our behaviour we will realize they emanate from these ‘wounds’; but we can be healed by surrendering the ‘memories’ of our life one by one and stage by stage, from even before birth, to the Lord to be healed by him and we will definitely receive this healing in this act of surrender in prayer. This is the ‘transfiguration’ into which the Lord wants to usher us as his disciples; it is a gradual process of entering into the newness of his glory which he alone can grant to us. If we remain unhealed the brokenness continues from generation to generation like the ‘original sin’ that is never wiped away. The five wounds ‘configure’ us to the Lord – to his wounds on the right hand, left hand, left side, right leg and left leg.
What are some of the consequences of ‘rejection’ (our ‘wound on the right hand’)? Withdrawal, feeling of helplessness, unacceptance, loneliness, being ambivalent, panicky, blaming others instead of looking into oneself. The same with ‘abandonment’(our ‘wound on the left hand’): blowing things out of proportion, needing support of others all the time, expecting affection all the time, bi-polar moods, frightened of authority, excessive fear of public. “Betrayal’ too (our ‘wound on the left side’) has its consequences: inability to control emotions, inability to delegate responsibility, aggressiveness, sensitivity, wanting to control all the time. The consequences of ‘humiliation’ (our ‘wound on the right leg’): self-martyr complex, always grumbling, murmuring, gaining satisfaction and even pleasure from suffering for others, making oneself miserable while helping others, feeling put down at the slightest criticism, finding hard to express one’s needs, over sensitiveness. Finally ‘injustice’ (our ‘wound on the left leg’) shows its consequences: over sensitiveness, arguing with authorities to make them agree, being very emotional and impulsive, great fear of making mistakes, stressfulness and tension.
The Good News is that our wounds are his wounds and by being ‘in him’ we are healed, transfigured and transformed. He went through rejection, abandonment, betrayal, humiliation and injustice but he trusted in his Father and was raised to life on the third day victorious over sin and death. Dying with him we shall also rise to fullness of life with him in his Resurrection.
May 2020 see us being new people in grace i.e. in all the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

+ Archbishop Anil Couto
Archbishop of Delhi

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