25 June 2016

THE «YES, BUT» SYNDROME

XIII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
1 kings 19:16b, 19-21; galatians 5:1, 13-18; luke 9:51-62

in his book «games people play», eric berne talks about the «why don’t you… yes but» game that many people play. people start by lamenting a problem but find excuses for every solution offered. for instance… 
white: «my husband always insists on doing our own repairs, and he never builds anything right.»
black: «why doesn’t he take a course in carpentry?» white: «yes, but he doesn’t have time.» blue: «why don’t you buy him some good tools?» white: «yes, but he doesn’t know how to use them.»
red: «why don’t you have your building done by a carpenter?» white: «yes, but that would cost too much.» 
brown: «why don’t you just accept what he does the way he does it?» white: «yes, but the whole thing might fall down.»


many of us suffer from the «yes, but…» syndrome. we are ready to get down to our books, start that much-postponed project, begin changing our behaviour, take on the world, and maybe even climb mount everest, but…

in the gospel, the anonymous trio of would-be followers are «yes-butters».
the first is enthusiastic to follow JESUS, who cautions him that he must be ready for a tough life without basic necessities and be prepared to identify with the poor.
the second and third are ready to follow JESUS but want to fulfil their family obligations first.
JESUS’ admonitions seem harsh. however, he is clear that following him and carrying out his mission requires single-minded commitment. he sets the example himself: «he resolutely determined to journey to jerusalem». nothing took priority over his mission. interestingly, in the garden of gethsemane, JESUS reverses the «yes, but…» syndrome. he asks the FATHER to «remove this cup from me, but not my will but yours be done» (luke 22:42)!

in what areas of my life am i a «yes-butter»? 
i need to heed paul’s advice to the galatians to «live by the SPIRIT» to overcome the «yes, but…» syndrome.

18 June 2016

CHANGE YOUR CONDUCT OR CHANGE YOUR NAME

XII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
zechariah 12:10-11, 13:1; galatians 3:26-29; luke 9:18-24

alexander, the great military commander,  took great pride in his army. he would reward courageous soldiers, and severely punish those guilty of disobedience or cowardice. once a young soldier was brought to alexander because he was found guilty of deserting his post.
«what is your name?» asked alexander. the young man replied softly: «alexander, sir.»
«what?» «alexander.»
looking into the young man’s eyes, alexander declared: «soldier, either change your conduct or change your name!»

this might be a legend but it conveys an important truth: we need to live up to our names! now, the name we bear is «christian»! 


what does it mean to be a christian?
in the gospel, JESUS calls us to follow him… the messiah/christ. who is the messiah? JESUS clarifies his identity: given the popular idea that the messiah would be a military and conquering hero, he insists that he must suffer, be rejected, and be killed. he will live up to his identity. and he emphasises that those who chose to follow him would have to suffer for their identity.
in the second reading, st paul gives us a further understanding of what it means to be a christian. through baptism, we have become children of GOD, and have clothed ourselves with christ. we have a new life. this new life has crucial ramifications: divisions—on the basis of ethnicity, of socio-economic status, of gender—cease to exist. we «are all one in christ.»

do i live up to my name and identity: 
do i follow the suffering JESUS by denying myself and carrying my cross?
- do i live like a child of GOD?
- do i live the new life… without making ethnic, socio-economic and gender distinctions to live as «one in christ»?
if not, i have to change my conduct… for i cannot change my name!
may i live up to my name and identity as a christian.

11 June 2016

GO BEYOND THE «NOISE»

XI SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
2 samuel 12:7-10, 13; galatians 2:16, 19-21; luke 7:36—8:3

the classroom in which a certain teacher taught was in a building on a very busy road. the sound of traffic, especially of ambulances, was constant and an irritant. during every class, the teacher would complain to the students about the noise.
that changed one day! the teacher began class by apologizing for his daily complaints about the ambulances and sirens. his pregnant wife had an emergency situation that weekend, and the ambulance squad saved the lives of his wife and their baby. he said: «i want to apologize because i was listening to the noise instead of thinking about the lives» (cf. isaiah jones, «seeing beyond the sin»).


the «noise» in simon’s life prevent him from seeing the woman who anoints JESUS’ feet. JESUS asks him: «do you see this woman?» simon does not see the woman! simon sees her reputation that precedes her (a sinner); her inappropriate behaviour…
he sees everything but this human being created in GOD’S image.
the «noise» of selfishness and lust make david see bathsheba as an object of lust and desire, and uriah as an obstacle to his possession of her. david fails to see them as human beings, and as wife and husband.
JESUS sees the woman and david as people who have sinned and who need forgiveness. and he forgives both! 

often, the «noise» of selfishness, pride, or chauvinism prevent us thinking about «lives»: we see problems to be solved not human beings who need love; sinners who must be corrected or condemned, not broken people who need forgiveness. we need a new perspective! 
JESUS asks me the question he asked simon: «do you see this woman/man/yourself?»
what are the «noises» that prevent me from seeing the person as he/she is or as i am?

04 June 2016

HELP WOMEN GET A FUTURE

X SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
1 kings 17:17-24; galatians 1:11-19; luke 7:11-17

at 18, he adopted a dance girl’s kids. today, twenty-eight years later, he has rescued 1000+ girls from traffickers.
ajeet singh was 18 when he saw a nautch girl performing at a wedding in varanasi. «the way people looked at her and treated her shocked and saddened me. i decided to do something to free such girls from such a profession,» he recalls. after the girl finished dancing, ajeet asked her if he could take care of her children! he adopted her three children—despite huge opposition from his family—and started teaching them.
he realised that wasn’t enough. «the system is so complex that mere education or awareness cannot solve it. the issue is slavery. trafficking needs to be abolished. only then can girls be saved,» he says.
it need a more aggressive approach. ajeet started an organisation «guria» in 1993 to fight against the sexual exploitation of girls. they started with rescuing girls, and rehabilitating them after counselling and skill training. they moved on to initiate legal action against the sex traffickers.
thanks to ajeet, thousands of unprotected and vulnerable girls lead a better life today. they have a future.

ajeet’s intervention for these women mirrors GOD’s intervention for women in this sunday’s readings.
in the first reading, elijah raises the son of the widow of zarephath. in the gospel, JESUS raises the son of the widow of nain. 
the thrust in the two stories is the same: GOD intervenes in the lives of the two women who, without husbands and sons, found themselves unprotected and vulnerable in a male-dominated/patriarchal world. to be a widow in such a society was devastating. and when a widow lost her son, it was—to quote elijah—an affliction. she lost everything… livelihood, security, status, security, and identity. she did not have a future. by restoring their sons to life, elijah and JESUS give the women a future.

women, today, still find themselves vulnerable and exploited in our male-dominated society. as GOD’s heirs and children, we are called to follow his example of intervening in the lives of women… especially the exploited.
ajeet and his collaborators—and several othersfollow his example. what about you and me?