Monday, 21 December 2015

The Meaning of Christmas


 -By Fr.  Dominic Gomes,    Vicar- General



While Christmas is so familiar that we sometimes wonder whether anything fresh and true can be said about it, there is a way to explore its meaning that may seem new to us today, yet  in fact quite traditional, dating back to the Middle Ages and the ancient Fathers of the Church.

Modern interpreters often argue about whether a given Scripture passage should be interpreted literally or symbolically. Medieval writers would question the either/or approach. They thought a passage could have as many as four right interpretations, one literal and three symbolic.

These were: (1) the historical or literal, which is the primary sense on which the others all depend; (2) the prophetic sense when an Old Testament event foreshadows its New Testament fulfillment; (3) the moral or spiritual sense, when events and characters in a story correspond to elements in our own lives; and (4) the eschatological sense, when a scene on earth foreshadows something of heavenly glory.

This symbolism is legitimate because it doesn’t detract from the historical, literal sense, but builds on and expands it. It’s based on the theologically sound premise that history too symbolizes, or points beyond itself, for God wrote three books, not just one: nature and history as well as Scripture. The story of history is composed not only of events, but of words, signs and symbols. This is unfamiliar to us only because we have lost a sense of depth and exchanged it for a flat, one-dimensional, bottom-line mentality in which everything means only one thing.

Let’s try to recapture the riches of this lost worldview by applying the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

There are two ways to connecting the historical and the spiritual senses. The Jesuit method, from St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises, tells us to imaginatively place ourselves into the Gospel stories. The older Augustinian method tells us to look for elements of the story in our lives. We shall be using this latter method as we survey the scene in Bethlehem for the next four weeks.

Look at the Nativity set. Around the Christ Child, we see four people or groups: Mary, Joseph, the wise men and the shepherds. We are all around the Christ Child, defined by our relationship to Him; we are all Marys, Josephs, wise men or shepherds.

May this Christmas help us to realize that each one of us has a mission: to experience God’s love and share it with others, especially with those in need, in a thousand different ways, every day, every moment, making such sharing, giving and serving a way of life and the result of such a way of life will be peace and joy! May this peace and joy be yours this Christmas and every day of your life.

Wishing you all a Blessed Christ centered Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2016 with all its blessings.





Sunday, 26 July 2015

Joyful servitude to the Risen Lord – St John Mary Vianney

John Mary Vianney was born into a farmer’s family in the small town of Dardilly in France on 8 May 1786. His family was materially poor but rich in humanity and in faith. Baptized on the day of his birth, as was the good custom in those days, he spent most of his childhood and adolescence years working in the fields and tending the flocks that even at the age of 17 he was still illiterate. St. John Mary Vianney’s mother was a woman of great piety and who led her son into the faith at an early age.  He once remarked; and I quote “I owe a debt to my mother. Virtues go easily into the hearts of their children”.

He was a man with a vision who overcame the numerous obstacles in Pastoral Ministry and performed deeds that seemed impossible.  The first place he visited on his appointment to Ars was the parish church which was in an absolute dilapidated condition and which saddened him greatly; he also noticed that the lamp in the sanctuary not burning and the tabernacle was empty.  In the face of such grim reality, he never gave up hope; instead he firmly resolved to ensure that the house of God should always be opened to all.

His pastoral zeal brought about radical spiritual transformation in the community due to his exemplary saintly life.  He knew that he had to live by example.  His neighbours often noticed him walking to the church through the cemetery with a lantern in his hand, long before daybreak to pray in the church.  He combined prayer with action, visited his parishioners’ and understood their problems and hardships and tried to solve them. 
He instilled in his parishioners the value of prayer especially the gift of the HOLY MASS. He instructed them using simple language, the events of daily life through enduring faith and special love of God, this was his principle throughout his life.  By day or at night he was always available to his parishioners.   Through his selfless life he brought about a spiritual renewal that touched the lives of people of his parishioners.  He often told his parishioners’, “You have less to suffer in following the cross than serving the world and its pleasures.”

His work as a confessor was his most remarkable accomplishment.  The great miracle of the Cure d’ Ars, “was his confessional, besieged day and night.”  It can be said with equal truth that his greatest miracle was the conversion of sinners.  Once, a hardened sinner approached him for confession “How long is it since your last confession?”  “Forty years” the man replied.  “Forty years!” exclaimed the saint.  After the man had made a hasty calculation he replied “Yes it is true”. Later through the long hours of confession the man was converted.  St. John Mary Vianney possessed the gift of being able to understand the troubling soul of people instantly and to feel at once their spiritual trouble afflicting them; it is through such times of confessions that he was able to draw people from their sins and drawn into becoming faithful Christians. 

St. John Mary Vianney gave God, the permission to use him as a vehicle for thousands of conversions.  He is for the priests today an example of how God works wonderfully to those who dedicate their lives to Him and seek to do his will.  He was a man devoted to his vision of a priestly vocation.  Today the Catholic Church looks up to him as one of its greatest saints simply because he was faithful to his duties and to the flock of Christ.  Through his pastoral approach, he brought about a spiritual renewal that touched the people of the whole of France.
To live the vision of St John Mary Vianney,  Archdiocese of Calcutta, under the guidance of Archbishop Thomas D’Souza, in collaboration with Archdiocesan pastoral core team members (APPCoT) has been regularly planning and executing the pastoral plan  for last two  and half years so as to bring renewal and make our   parishes participatory,   vibrant and a communion of communities . In this process of evolving the pastoral plan more effectively, we have recently completed the zonal –wise pastoral plan animation programme of the 12 concerns at all the four deaneries by July 2015.
 In this regard, Inauguration of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan in the Parishes – the last, crucial and imperative phase of the plan - will be on 9th August, 2015.

Parish involvement and facilitation is the one and only way to make this Pastoral initiative meaningful, action-oriented and successful. As we celebrate the feast day of St John Mary Vianney with great rreverence, joy and happiness, let us also reflect today on the challenges that confront our churches and parishes with the vision and foresight of Saint John Vianney.


- Fr. Dominic Gomes ( Vicar General)

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Our Mighty God the Prince of Peace

                                           
                                                        Our Mighty God the Prince of Peace
                                                                         Fr. Dominic Gomes

Mother Teresa once stated, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other”. This is so appropriate in today’s world. There is a story of a young girl whose parents had been killed in a ghastly act of terrorism. It was a tragic situation.  She was now alone on Christmas Eve, very sad and depressed. She came out and stood under the clear night sky. In her frustration and bitterness she shouted to the stars:  “Glory on earth and peace to God in the highest” ... and the echo came back... Highest… Highest.Highest... Peace...Peace...Peace.  The young girl sat down and cried as ‘Peace’for her was only an echo that began to fade far away.  

Christmas peace is it only an echo in many parts of the world? YES! Christmas peace is only an echo in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Bethlehem and so many places around the earth. And certainly Christmas peace is only an echo for those families whose members were bombed by terrorist or killed in the many wars around the world.  Is that what Christmas peace is, merely an echo from the distant past? 
Yes it is merely an echo in so many homes?  Where husbands and wives fight shouting obscenities to one another, where there is conflict between father and son; where there is so much hurting and so much harming?

Is there some fundamental flaw to our human nature?   What is wrong with us that we are the only creatures on earth that murder and torture our own species?  We make weapons capable of destroying millions.   What is wrong with a husband and wife who can hurt each other so deeply and be so extremely cruel to each other?  Or that parents can actually abuse their own child?  My God, what is wrong with us? ... Why is peace so hard for us to accomplish?

Because we are so deeply flawed, God sent us his son, Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  Jesus says:  I have come to bring you peace, to teach you to walk in the paths of peace. I have come to teach you to be people of peace.  Peace always followsjustice and righteousness. This is true within our family and personal life, the life of our nation and the world. It’s the same everywhere. If you want peace, you have to pursue justice and righteousness. Justice is the structuring of society, our economy and government, so that the little people, the widows, orphans, handicapped and the poor are taken care of justly without which there will be no peace within society or family. For peace always follows justice.
  The only way that you can live in peace is with the gift of forgiveness, the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  The “peace of Christ” has to do with those people in whom the ‘Prince of Peace’ comes to live. When the‘Prince of Peace’ lives within the manger of our hearts, we become one who works for justice and rightness. Peace follows. Like others, a Christian too has to struggle through periods of grief, gloominess and hurt. But we have divine help and assurance to hold us up. The peace of Jesus that lies within us keeps us settled, sure and confident in the hope of Christ’s return, when his peace will at last encompass all. You simply take a step of faith and surrender all your efforts to Jesus. Are you ready this Christmas to believe Jesus is enough, that he is all you need to know God’s peace?