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Devotional Thoghts for July 28, 2013/Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

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    Tenth Sunday after the Holy Feast of Pentecost Gospel Text: Mathew 18:1-14. Today is tenth Sunday after Holy Feast of Pentecost. In certain years there are 12
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 9, 2013
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      Tenth Sunday after the Holy Feast of Pentecost Gospel Text: Mathew 18:1-14.

      Today is tenth Sunday after Holy Feast of Pentecost. In certain years there are
      12 Sundays before the next feast which is the Feast of Transfiguration
      (Tabernacle) on August 6. We have come to another important season of the Church
      year namely, Soonoyo Lent that begins today, 1st August. Today's reading
      addresses two thought provoking themes, (1) who is great in the Kingdom of
      heaven, v 1-4, 9 ( 1a) offending a believer in Christ, v 5-10 and (2) parable of
      the lost sheep, v 11-14. I limit my discussion of the first theme for fear of
      length. The very question, "who is great" stems from selfish thought. All living
      beings are created with certain degree of selfishness which is basic to
      survival, but when it exceeds the limit and breaks the boundary it becomes
      hazardous to self and the community. Selfishness has both positive and negative
      sides; a competition spirit in examinations, job selections, sports, business,
      etc is good side of selfishness necessary for progress but if unchecked and
      outgrown into self-centeredness unmindful of others it becomes harmful. Nothing
      wrong if one wants to be great or number one through qualities and socially
      acceptable and genuine means but employing illicit and hidden agendas, ways and
      means depriving the deserving others are not conducive to competition.
      Disciples, in the course of three plus years' training into gospel ministry,
      might have asked too numerous questions and Jesus answered them all with a
      spirit of Rabbinical authority, all of them are not written in the gospels. It
      is unfair to brand the disciples as power mongers. Had they not asked such a
      question they would not have learned what true greatness was and such ignorance
      would have become a pivotal reason for future wrangling. Disciples' question and
      Jesus' explanation has thus prevented a future problem; thus I do not attribute
      stings to the disciples' question, whatever might be circumstance.
      Jesus set a child in their midst and said, "Except you be converted and become
      as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." According
      to our tradition Mor Ignatius Noorono, third bishop of Antioch (1, St Peter-
      Semavoon Reeso D'sleehe, 2, Evodius) was the child Jesus took in his hands and
      so he acquired the surname, "Theoforos," which means, he whom God bore in his
      hands. Disciples might have had a wrong notion that by virtue of being with
      Jesus they will be assured entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Here Jesus
      corrected them revealing a virtue essential to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
      Why Jesus took the example of a child? Child in the first part connotes
      biological sense, that is, of young age. A child is a symbol of many virtues;
      growth process, immature, inquisitive to learn, adaptability to situations,
      innocent, unsuspecting, straightforward, truthful, frank, ignorant to cook-up
      stories, trusting the near-ones, unmerited dependence on parents, courteous, not
      revenging, humility to accept the wrong, reconciling and so on. Each of these
      qualities is worth a long discussion. Why, but for these qualities, God chose
      the child-Samuel to convey His message of judgment to the old man Eli?

      Leo Tolstoy wrote how soon and easily children forget the offences in his famous
      story, "Little girls are wiser than their elders." The Russian story thus goes:
      on a festive day some girls clad in new dress were playing in the street. One
      opprobrious girl splashed mud on the new dress. The girl ran into her house
      crying aloud and sobbing, told her parents what happened. The parents took the
      matter offensively to the parents of the offending girl. Without much delay
      neighbors joined sides and a great street fight ensued. After hours of fighting
      the matter got worse. But some of them looked back at the girls and to their
      surprise they saw the girls playing together as if nothing had ever happened.
      This sight, Tolstoy sums up, opened the eyes of the fighting elders and they
      learned a lesson and stopped fights. Many of us have read the story and yet we,
      so-called-Christian brethren, especially the spiritual leaders cannot reconcile
      the differences and come to Church unity. They establish independent empires not
      knowing that by division they are becoming independent of God and Savior and
      risking their own salvation.
      Jesus was teaching that the disciples must practice all these qualities and more
      found in young children. What the children do not have or do not know is pride
      and arrogance of the older people. Pride and arrogance destroy not only the
      individual but the social fabric as a whole and hence a Christian ought to shun
      such and similar evils. Think a moment, is it not the pride and arrogance of
      certain leaders on both sides, eternalize faction feud in our church? Will the
      leaders open their eyes! Recounting the immature, ignorant and thoughtless
      nature of a child St Paul admonished that matured men must put away the childish
      things, 1Cor 13:11. He meant; we ought to `be child-like but not childish.'
      Child-like means be humble and simple, be obedient to law of God and nation,
      depend on God as children cleave unto their parents, Humility is the crown of
      all virtues. Devoid of humility other virtues shall be futile.

      Another aspect Jesus wanted to teach was the context of social perception about
      children. Jewish community did not acknowledge the children at par with adults.
      St Paul says, "That the heir, as long he is a child differs nothing from a
      servant though he be lord of all; but is under the tutors and governors until
      the time appointed. When we were children, we were in bondage under the elements
      of the world," Gal 4:1. There is an adage in our vernacular, `Treat the infant a
      god, adolescent child a servant and grown up equal;' in other words, the
      children are to be brought up in strict discipline. No doubt, all societies
      confer children as birthright to be loved, cared and nurtured. Yet, there exists
      certain neglect, offending and ignoring in all societies, when it comes to
      decision making of cardinal issues in the household. So even, the disciples were
      vulnerable to open criticism, rebellion, scandals, mitigation and such other
      negative responses from affluent members of society where they preach gospel.
      Jesus on another occasion said, "I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves;
      therefore be wise as serpents and harmless like doves," Mat 10:16. Enduring the
      inevitable rebellion and scandals is a cost of true discipleship. But the
      disciple is expected to keep aloof from negative influences and put themselves
      above reproach. Again children are given things, according to what they deserve
      not as a right but as free gift, a benefit from the parents. So even, it is not
      as a rightful share but as free gift from God, the disciple is blessed. This is
      an important point a disciple, believer or person in a position of authority
      should always keep in mind that God placed him/her in such position and
      therefore not his/her will but the Will of God should prevail at all cost; and
      the ultimate goal is Glory of God. Had the spiritual hierarchy of both factions
      understood this principle, there would be no reason to pursue a course of
      division and hatred that we are now in.
      "Child" in the second part of the theme refers spiritual aspect. One who has
      come into Christian faith is more like a child who has to learn and mature; in
      other words, a new comer in faith is a child in spiritual matters, Hebrew
      5:12-14. It is in this sense St Paul advised Timothy not to lay hands on new
      converts, 1Tim 5:22. Hudaya Canon 7:3&5 insist not to consecrate a bishop unless
      tested for long time, convinced of his steadfast faith and blameless conduct and
      received consent of the synod. I wish, had certain prelates in the past prudence
      to obey the canon, the Church would have been free from most of the present day
      problems! Many are unaware that a new Christian convert from Trichur named Paul
      whose former name was Ramakrishnan started "Ceylon Pentecost" group, parent
      organization of more than a dozen Pentecostal groups at present.

      Jesus was fond of Children and pointed a child as model of Christian
      discipleship. A Christian believer can be from any walk of life; from a ruling
      class to vassal, from a newborn to aged, from scholar to illiterate, from Jews
      or gentiles and from any nation or from any race. Once he or she accepted and
      confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and baptized in the name of Holy
      Trinity, he/she is a disciple at par with others irrespective of how or who they
      were before. We who come from the social background of Indian, much despicable
      caste system, are badly obsessed with vanity of high-caste origin. Many do not
      understand that their notion is farce. Historically it is not true. By saying
      that St Thomas converted only high caste Brahmins, the claimants are painting an
      indelible black mark on St Thomas and Jesus through St Thomas that they believed
      and encouraged caste system which was peculiar to India alone and unknown in the
      other parts of the world. Jews or gentiles had no caste system. Neither Jesus
      nor St Thomas, knew (not in information sense) the caste system in India and how
      they could promote something they did not know or believe right? By vanity,
      pride and arrogance we branded the converted believers, "Kollan Chacko, Pulayan
      Mathai, Kuravan John" etc and offended them. We followed a wrong course
      segregating the baptized faithful in the name of caste. That was the chief
      reason why Christianity did not flourish in India, as elsewhere. Regrettably we
      have self-downsized as an exclusive society.

      Jesus Christ sternly warned those who offend a disciple. One should not cause a
      disciple to sin either. A disciple must resist worldly temptations and not
      persuade others to temptation for; causing to sin is the worst sin. Punishment
      Jesus prescribed to the offender seems too harsh and non-palatable for the
      modern man. We should understand that Jesus was speaking to the disciples of
      Jewish background who knew well the Mosaic Law and they could easily relate to
      the severity of offence and its ramifications. Jesus did not mean a physical
      mutilation of organs, I guess, but was insisting that salvation of soul is more
      important than the physical organs; that one should be more keen to strive for
      salvation of soul than preserving the physical organ and get the soul lost. This
      message is extremely relevant in a world of materialistic obsession, namely,
      whether material prosperity or the eternal life of soul is more important. Jesus
      said, "What profit is to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own
      soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Mat. 16:26 and "Seek
      first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and everything shall be added
      unto you," Mat 6:33.
      Let me conclude: Mathew chapter 18 deals with exhortation about the unity and
      discipline of the Church. What ought to be the attitude of the members, how they
      ought to relate to one another, etc. Seven qualities are poignantly mentioned,
      responsibility, self-renunciation, caring others, discipline, fellowship and
      forgiveness, humility being the most important. The pinnacle: members must
      forgive each other and reconcile differences, if any, desist from all dangers
      that destroy the unity and integrity of the Church. The phrase, "unless you
      turn" is a warning that the disciples were on the wrong way, the way of
      destruction and the first priority is to repent and turn back into the right
      direction; that is, the way of salvation. This call of Jesus (unless you turn)
      is more relevant to the spiritual leaders in our times than to anyone, anytime
      before. God save our Church!

      KK Johnachen, Philadelphia.

      Moderators' Note:
      This message is a repost from ICON's archives.
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