Pope John Paul II Pope of the masses

I am neither a catholic nor an advocate of any of the churches fighting for wealth on earth and the unseen thrones of the Apostles in heaven. While this has cost me much – recognition, name, fame and honors in the Christian world, the heavenly father chose this worm to complete many a mighty task for Him. It is here that Pope John Paul II comes into my life – a relatively unknown man from a little known communist country whom the Lord used to attain mighty goals for Him to take up a path not treaded by his predecessors.

His election to the highest office of the biggest church on earth was unique. The shocking, sudden and sad demise of Pope John Paul I just 33 days after he became Pope, triggered another Papal Conclave 10 days after his funeral. While there were two strong contenders for the Papacy, neither of them could attain the required mandate and Polish Cardinal Karol Jozef was proposed as a compromise candidate and elected on the eighth ballot on the third day of the Conclave having won 99 votes from the participating 111 electors.

From then on he made a difference in Papacy making deviations from traditions. He was the 264th pope, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. At 58 years of age, he became the youngest Pope since 1846. He took the name of John Paul II in tribute to his immediate predecessor and in honor of late Pope Paul VI. He broke tradition soon after his election by speaking to the crowd gathered at the St. Peter’s Square when he made his appearance on the balcony after the election. That was just the beginning.

During his pontificate Pope John Paul II travelled 1,100,000 kilometers to reach 129 countries, attracting large crowds wherever he went – some of them the largest ever assembled in human history as in X World Youth Day where an estimated five million people gathered at Luneta Park in Manila to attend the Mass offered by him. He met with several heads of churches which had broken away from the Catholic Church centuries ago. It was his first trip to Poland in 1979 that sparked the spirit of freedom and led to the formation of Solidarity and forced the exit of Communism not only from Poland but also other East European Countries including Russia.

The most fascinating attribute of Pope John Paul II which drew me to him was the utmost value he gave for holiness in spiritual life. Today we find many who claim holiness in titles and personal lives but make compromises to tolerate and mask the unholiness of their subordinates. Pope John Paul II was not only holy but he made sure that the discipline of Holiness should be the watchword of his subordinates, teachings and the faithful.  His special emphasis and encouragement on the universal call to holiness was proclaimed when he beatified  1340 and canonized 483 people which was more than the tally of all his predecessors in the last five centuries. He was inflexible and stood firm in upholding the teachings against abortion and euthanasia and made no compromises in his opposition to capital punishment.

The assassination attempt on his life on 13th May, 1981, by Mehmet Ali Agca as he was entering St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City once again revealed his dependence on God and the great faith he had in the intercessions of Mother Mary. His request to the faithful to “Pray for my brother Agca whom I have sincerely forgiven” and his subsequent visit to Rome’s Rebibbia prison where he met Agca, and his request to the Italian President to pardon Agca are all beacons of his love and compassion for humanity. He strongly believed that the two bullets were deviated away from his heart to the intestines by the precious hands of Holy Mary. The proclamation of his holiness by the masses were evident when the crowd of more than three million  who had assembled to bid him farewell on 8th April, 2005 at the St. Peter’s square acclaimed in one accord “Santo Subito” (Make him a Saint).

His successor Pope Benedict just did that, breaking the traditions of the Church by declaring the start of the proceedings for the beatification and canonization  of Pope John Paul II, just 41 days after his demise – a process that would be ordered by the church only after a minimum period of five years which could be extended to  decades or centuries after the death of a person.

Pope John Paul II himself had broken this tradition when he ordered to start the canonization procedures for Mother Teresa just two years after her death.

The Almighty God in His compassion and mercy enabled me too, to experience His blessings through the prayers of His beloved saint Pope John Paul II.  Raaji and I were also blessed with the privilege to visit his tomb at Vatican.

The “Pope John Paul II Vatican Arcade” set up at the “Museum of the Word“ one of  the greatest Bible Museums on earth,  is the greatest attribute  of my love  to Pope John Paul II.

Praise the Lord!

In the Abode of Simplicity

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It was a wet morning in Kolkata when Raaji and I reached there, on our trail of reaching the beloved ones of the Almighty God. The compassion and care of Mother Teresa had captured my heart long, long ago. I always feel sad when I remember Mother Teresa because I did not see her when she was alive even though I could have. However I take consolation of the fact that 25 years ago, I did not have the spiritual gifts of today and my priorities were different. A couple of years after her demise, I visited the Mother’s House where she is entombed.    

That was two decades ago. There has not been much changes since then – the filthy streets, rickshaws carrying human beings being pulled by human beings, the flurry of aging Ambassador cars which are almost extinct in other states and the rusted old shabby trams which are overcrowded as before still remain a landmark of Kolkata. It was drizzling and a Sister from Mother’s House was there at the start of the narrow lane leading the visitors to the Mother’s House where Mother Teresa lived and was later entombed when she left for her heavenly abode. Another Sister at the reception showed us the way to the chapel where Mother was entombed.

God gave me the opportunity to visit the final resting places where some of His beloved ones were entombed ever since I set out on the trail of His beloved ones who had done mighty things for Him while they were on earth. The faithful had built beautiful, magnificent tombs in their love and adoration for these saints. Of these, the tomb of Mother stands out as the simplest tomb of a saint I have ever seen – just an elevated box-like structure which is around 7ft long, 4ft wide and 4 ft high covered with simple Mosaic (which is fading) with a small epitaph on top. Though it is situated in the Chapel of the Mother’s house adjacent to the noisy main road, an aura of peace, calmness and silence prevails the place. There was a continuous flow of people praying at the tomb, some touching it, some embracing it and some others prostrating before it with tears.

These were sign posts of the solace, comfort and compassion of her Master showered by her prayers on the helpless and hapless even after her time here on earth. I had penned and tuned a hymn while I was meditating before her tomb 25 years ago. My love for her had increased tremendously in the last two and half decades as I experienced her love more and more, though I was far, far away from her simplicity and compassion. 

The visit to the museum next door and the bedroom she used for decades were all beacons of her piety, humility and simplicity to her Lord and Savior Jesus. I am not a Catholic but I seek her prayers and experience the power of her intercessions. She offered herself as an embodiment of sacrifice and service showing her Master’s love to the destitute, desolate and dying not by fiery words but by works of care, compassion and consolation. I do not know of anyone else canonized in history other than Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu from Albania, who became Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who was bestowed the greatest honors of this world including the Nobel Prize, The Ramon Magsaysay award and the Bharat Ratna while alive.

As time rolls on more and more are fascinated by her simple, humble and holy life on earth, and her prayers lead millions of helpless, hopeless and broken hearted every day to experience the peace, hope and the joy of her Savior and master Jesus Christ.

Praise the Lord!

On the trail of St. Peter

I have always adored St. Peter because of  his zeal and love for his Master. He was a man of spontaneous action. When Jesus said to him “Follow me, I will make you fishers of people,” he left everything – his nets, his boat, his friends and his profession of fishing itself and followed Jesus immediately. His decision was instant without any consultation with his wife or family. He did not wait to clarify with Jesus how to fish for people. He trusted Him, obeyed the call and followed Him instantly. Those who are critical about his denial of Jesus, easily forget the fact that Peter was the only other disciple who went into the palace of the high priest Caiaphas along with John. Neither can they imagine the reactions of the other disciples if put in a similar situation.

 When Jesus looked at him after his third denial, Peter’s reaction and repentance was instant. He went out and wept bitterly. That shows it all – his fall in a weak moment of human anxiety and then the realization of his fall and repentance with just a look of his Master. Maybe this is one of the prime traits of Peter that prompted Jesus to tell him – “And I say to you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not be able to defeat it” and adds – “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in heaven.”

St. Peter is also the greatest example of how a person can be transformed by the anointment of the Holy Spirit for the service of the Lord. Peter denied Jesus thrice. It was he who led the disciples back to the Sea of Galilee persuading them to take up again their nets which they had discarded at the calling of Jesus. Yet despite all these backslidings Jesus still loved him and entrusted His flock to him. On the day of the Pentecost the Holy Ghost fell upon them as cloven tongues of fire and transformed the 120 who were waiting for the Master’s promise. After this mighty anointing of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost he led the disciples not to the Sea of Galilee but into the streets of Jerusalem. After the ascension of Jesus and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, Peter in his maiden speech drew 3000 people to the church, and then 5000. The early church was growing. The mighty anointing of the Holy Spirit completely transformed him from a timid man in the palace of Caiaphas to a bold and mighty warrior of Jesus who courageously tells the members of the Sanhedrin “You must judge whether it is right before God to obey you rather than God?”

For me, Peter is the greatest example and inspiration in the Bible of how God chooses the foolish things of this world and uses them in a mighty way for His glory. The Lord used Peter to fish thousands and thousands of people for Him just as he had captured boats full of fishes as a fisherman in his heyday. It is traditionally believed that Peter was crucified in Rome and buried where the Basilica of St Peter was later built, beneath the high altar. It was my great desire to visit the place where St. Peter was entombed and God blessed me and Raaji with an opportunity to visit this sacred place at the Vatican in Rome.

My very first impression was that though many churches were founded by the Apostles of Jesus in different parts of the world, no other apostle is venerated and adored this way as St. Peter is revered by the Catholic Church. The aura of St. Peter amid the galaxy of saints entombed there fills the Vatican more than the glorious works of Michelangelo, the ancient artifacts in the Vatican Museum, or the Sistine chapel. It was indeed one of the most blessed moments in our lives to be at the final resting place of this great apostle who laid down his life for his Master – moments which are cherished every moment of our sojourn on earth.

On the trail of St. Thomas

St. Thomas one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ reached the shores of Kerala in AD 52. He built seven and half churches in Kerala. The ‘half church’ located at Thiruvithamcode in the south of Kerala, possibly gets its name from its smaller size. Of these churches the Niranam Church built by him in A.D.54 is only 12 kms away from my home and our ancestors were the members of this church. The Orthodox Church has possession of this church and the half church at Thiruvithamcode. The Christians of Kerala were called St. Thomas Christians. We are proud to be known as the St. Thomas Christians as no other Christians in the world have the name of a disciple of Jesus attached to them and Christianity in Kerala is as old as it is in any part of the world.

Though we speak much about our ancestry from St. Thomas, I have observed that our veneration and adoration for St. Thomas exists more on paper than in real practice. In fact I have not heard much from my parents or grandparents about this great disciple of Jesus, who talked and walked with Jesus and came all the way from Jerusalem and landed just 12 kms from my home founding one of the oldest Christian churches in the world. In fact I was taught more about the saintly St. Gregorios who lived and entered into eternal glory at Parumala which is only 3 kms away from my home. He was the only canonized Saint of the Malankara Orthodox church till 2003. The feasts and festivities in his remembrance are celebrated with much pomp and splendor by the Orthodox Church while St. Thomas the beloved disciple of Jesus has nothing in comparison. I have put in my own experience to throw light on the attitude of the people and church at large for the last 100 years or more.

St. Thomas came into my life while I was still a Pre – University student at Madras – now called Chennai. I fell ill and my father came down to meet me. He took me to Fr.Gheevarghese Thykadavil who was the vicar of the Orthodox Church at Mylapore. He advised my father to take me to Santhome Cathedral Basilica Church where St. Thomas was entombed. In fact this is one of the three known churches in the world where an apostle of Jesus was entombed. My father took me to Santhome Cathedral Basilica church said to be built over the tomb of St Thomas and after our prayers there he took me further to Parangimalai which is now known as St. Thomas Mount, a small 300 ft. high hillock surrounded by a forest.

It is near the Madras International Airport. Even now it remains scarcely populated. St. Thomas was martyred there being pierced from behind with a lance as he was praying before the cross that he chiseled himself, from granite. This cross with the blood stains was discovered centuries later and was placed on the altar of the small church built at the spot where he was martyred. This cross used to sweat blood during the Mass and this miracle of the sweating of blood continued for several centuries. The last instance of this sweating of blood occurred in 1704.

Crosses made by St. Thomas have a dove flying onto the top of the cross and being the only one of its kind, they came to be known as St. Thomas Crosses. With no proper road, the walk to reach the pinnacle of the hillock was tiresome.  There is a small church there and the pilgrims were slowly trickling in.  I sought the intercession of St. Thomas here as well just as I had done in Santhome Cathedral Basilica where his body was entombed. But it was here that I experienced the divine aura and healing. This divine experience I had five decades ago, took me to this place of his martyrdom whenever I visited Chennai, the last of which was a couple of weeks ago. The roads have been widened and the premises have been developed to take care of the growing influx of the pilgrims.

The body of St. Thomas was entombed in Mylapore after his martyrdom and Santhome Cathedral Basilica was built there. However only some of his relics remain there today, as his body was taken away and entombed at the Greek Island Chios.

In 1258 Ortona’s Gen.Leone Acciaiuoli while visiting the island went into a local church to pray. A light hand waved at him while praying urging him to go closer to the tomb. He felt a sweetness and peace as he had never felt before. He reached the tomb and took a bone. The halo surrounding the bone was a proof that it was the relic of St. Thomas. He came back on the next night and stole the rest of the relics and tomb itself. The relics were brought and placed in a local church in Ortona about 195 miles away from Rome. The relics survived centuries of turbulent events, including an earthquake, a fire, an attack by the Turks, and an attack by the French. It was hidden in the Second World War during the German occupation in the house of the parish priest. The church was reopened after renovation and rebuilding in 1949 and the tomb and the relics of St. Thomas stored in a gilded copper shrine were placed in the crypt in the Basilica. Today many continue to take the take the 195 mile route pilgrimage “Cammino di San Tommaso” from Rome to Ortona to seek intercessions and blessings from St. Thomas at the Basilica di San Tommaso.

My adoration and veneration of St. Thomas which began 50 years ago as Pre University student continue to grow as I am crowned with more and more blessings each time I visit the St. Thomas Mount and the Santhome Cathedral Basilica.

Praise the Lord!

On the Trail of Mary Magdalene

The true depth of love is manifested only when tested in the trials of fire. This love manifests when one is ready to risk it all including their very life, for the people, ideas and ideals that they love. Mary Magdalene outshines the apostles, disciples and all followers of Jesus in this demonstration of her love for their Master. She was a neglected woman battered and shattered in life by the seven demons who relentlessly tormented her for years. It was Jesus who broke this treacherous bondage and gave her a new lease of life. She immediately joined the disciples and followed Jesus till His ascension. She remained with Jesus even at the foot of the cross when all His disciples ran away and stayed there till His body was put into the tomb. She was the first one to reach the tomb on the third morning while it was still dark and was the first one to see Jesus after His resurrection. She became the first person Jesus spoke to after His resurrection, in fact Jesus calling her by her name – Mary. She became the first one to preach the risen Christ when He had asked her to inform the disciples that He has risen from the dead and would meet them in Galilee. This is the last we hear of Mary Magdalene in the Bible. Mary’s life or whereabouts thereafter were not given much prominence in early church history. So the world does not know much about her after the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Mary Magdalene as I reached Southern France in search of the tomb of St. Martha. According to the tradition of Provence, Martha, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Maximinus (one of the seventy) and some companions were put in a boat without rudder or sail into the Mediterranean.

Reliquary containing the Bone of Mary Magdalene

Jesus took care of the boat and brought it to a place called ‘Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer’ in Arles, Gaul (France) in 47 AD. Lazarus went to Marseilles and converted the whole province. Martha went to Avignon and Mary Magdalene retired to a cave in the 3500 feet high rocky mountain La-Sainte-Baume amidst a dense forest, where she spent the last 30 years of her life in prayer and contemplation. The tradition of Provence says that she was lifted up by angels seven times a day and was fed by heavenly nourishments. This proved to be no exaggeration because even today we found no human inhabitation there. The Dominican Order of the Catholic Church have been guarding this relic for hundreds of years. They have set up a hostel nearby for the stay and hospitality of the pilgrims. We were told by the priest in charge of the hostel that we could  reach the cave only by foot and it may require a minimum of thirty to forty minutes’ walk.

So we started and after a few minutes the path began narrowing and we had to climb hundreds upon hundreds of crudely cut steps up the mountain through the forest. The trail was named “The King’s Way” through which hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had walked – pilgrims which included eighteen kings and eight Popes. There is no sign post or anything to show directions on the way to the cavern. There is not even a plank to sit and rest during the climb and no drinking water is provided even in the cave for the tired pilgrims who reach there, exhausted after the climb of more the 2200 feet. Worst still is the fact that no toilet is provided may be because of a perception all the water may be excreted as sweat. It is not because there is a lack of space as there is a building adjacent to the cave where the Dominicans claim that 4 of their priests reside. We were unable to find any humans there even  to clean the premises. We found only a couple of brochures inside the cave and needless to say that these too were in French. There was no refreshment stall in the premises – may be because the authorities may think that it may hamper the penitence of the pilgrims. I put on these remarks because those in possession of this sacred place have failed to show to the world a beloved disciple of Jesus and have dampened the spirits of the pilgrims who reach the site.

Reliquary containing the Skull of Mary Magdalene

However all our frustrations vanished as we finally reached the very place where Mary Magdalene lived the last 30 years of her life secluded from all contacts of the outside world. The cool breeze and the divine aura inside the cave lifted us up to a new plane of peace and mental bliss. There was yet another cave beneath the main one, which appeared to be the place where she had lived. Some of the material inside here were broken and as I was looking at a broken cross there, a French pilgrim told me that there was an attempt to destroy the site during the French revolution.

Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene

Still Mary Magdalene’s statue stood there even after 20 centuries radiating the fragrance of the love of her Master. In the main cave there was another statue of Mary Magdalene being lifted by the angels. The return trek was much easier and as we were having lunch we were told by other pilgrims that the tomb of Mary Magdalene was in the Basilica of Mary Magdalene, which was only an hour’s drive away. We were astonished when they told us that skull of Mary Magdalene was placed in a golden reliquary which could be seen by everyone.

Though the almighty God had given me the privilege to visit the final resting places of many of His beloved saints in different parts of the world, it was the first time that I had seen the skull of a saint. There was another reliquary which contained a tiny piece of her bone. My Master blessed with yet another blessed experience on this journey and that too a rare one to remember throughout my days on earth. 

  

On the Trail of St. Martha

Raaji and I left from St. Panchraas Railway Station in London by the “Euro Star”, a fast luxury train, for Avignon which is in Southern France. The facilities provided in the Euro Star were excellent, and the punctuality it maintains is simply wonderful. Brother Sayo and Gigi joined us from Lourdes, and we went to the Saint Martha Royal Collegiate Church in Tarascon, where Christians have been coming for centuries to venerate the relics of St. Martha.  It is believed that in 48 AD Martha, her sister Mary together with her brother Lazarus, Maximinus (one of the seventy), and Marcella (a follower of  Martha) were put into a boat with neither  sail nor rudder into the Mediterranean Sea by the hostile Jews. Jesus protected their boat and brought it to the shores of Provence in Gaul (Southern France).  Lazarus preached the gospel in Marseilles and converted the city into Christianity, while Martha travelled to Avignon. The inhabitants of Avignon pleaded with her to save them from the monster called the Tarasque, which devoured the people and the beasts of the place. Martha approached the cave with a cross in her hand and ordered the monster to come out in the name of Christ. The monster obeyed and Martha led it to the people who then killed it.  The place was then named Tarascon, and Martha continued to live there preaching the gospel to the inhabitants and converted them. A chapel was built enclosing her tomb, and it became one of the most famous sanctuaries of Provence. In 500 AD, Clovis, the king of the Franks who fell ill as a consequence of his siege of Avignon, came to pray at the tomb of Martha and was healed.

The relics of Saint Martha were discovered in 1187, and a church was built in the Gothic style. Many came there to seek blessings from the hostess of Christ including the kings of France and Sicily, Cardinals and future Popes. The crypt was restored again in the 17th century and two hexagonal chapels were added. Thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the world come to venerate the relics of St. Martha and pray. And Pope John Paul II said that people come to the Collegiate every year “to experience a privileged moment of spirituality in prayer and reflection”.

The faithful flock to this tomb containing the sacred body of St. Martha confiding in her their suffering and hopes so that she can intercede for them. Today the church appears to be considered more as an archaeological Gothic structure than the priceless final resting place of a beloved Saint of Jesus Christ. There are life-size paintings adorning the walls of the church but the faithful who come from different parts of the world cannot understand anything about them other than that they are very old.

Every literature inside this church is in French and nothing is found in English. This indeed was disappointing as we traveled through France. When we traveled along the British terrain in the Euro Star, announcements were made both in English and French but English was heard no more soon after it made its entry into France. I saw many tourists who were disgusted as there was only French and only French signboards everywhere. It may be an attempt to portray French as a great language. While I was not bothered about their policy to uplift their language I was really disturbed at the fact that even a universal church could not provide any literature in English for the pilgrims who assembled there. Neither were there any guides or priests present to explain the great details of the life of St. Martha whose zeal, love and sacrifices for her Master would inspire the faithful who come to seek her prayers and blessings. I praise and thank Jesus for leading me to this heavenly opportunity to seek the prayers and blessings of one more of His blessed Saints.


On the trail of the Lord’s beloved

I have always been fascinated by the lives of the men and women who responded and obeyed the heavenly call and set out, many of whom even sacrificed their lives for God. Leading holy lives, and making countless sacrifices in building the kingdom of God here on earth, many of these godly men and women have been canonized by the different Christian churches, honoring them with the title of “Saint”. Tens of thousands of these canonized saints have faded away from the lives and minds of the Christian faithful through the passage of time, while there remain hundreds of thousands of saintly people whose holy lives have not been celebrated, or been canonized simply because they were not members of any particular church which confers the title of sainthood. We come across many saints in the early church who were with Jesus during his sojourn on earth and had suffered cruel persecutions and even martyrdom. Many of these pious men and women are not remembered much now and their lives after the gospel age remain unexplored. People are more familiar with the popular Saints of the modern times and often seek their intercessions. I want to be clear here that we are not to be praying to the saints, but seek their prayers for us to the only intercessor before God, Jesus Christ.

I deeply love and hold close to my heart the saints adorning the kingdom of God and their prayers and intercessions strengthen the faith of the faithful in the trail for their master.  Some may question as to why intercessions should be made to these Saints as they are dead. They forget to realize that if holy men and women of God in their life on earth could pray, intercede and attain mighty miracles from God for those of the flock who come to them, how much more they can do while they are in the presence of God. Some wonder why intercessions are made to many saints or certain saints. These saints have attained sainthood because they excelled in various missions assigned to them by the graces and gifts granted by the Almighty God. So intercessions are sought by the faithful to saints who have left a trail in their similar endeavors for God. Thus I seek the prayers and intercessions of beloved saints who have done mighty things for God in similar missions. They have been a great source of power and strength to me in the rocky terrains of my spiritual walk. So it had been my desire to set up a gallery of Saints in the Museum of the Word and name it the “Paradise of Saints”.

Though the chapel had been completed a couple of years ago, nothing was done toward making the “Paradise of Saints”. During my last trip to lead a fasting prayer, the Lord miraculously provided me access to a reliquary of St. Martha.  While I have preached many times about Martha, Mary and Lazarus, I had no visions about them as Saints. I decided to explore and follow their trail after the ascension of Jesus Christ.  While investigating and finalizing plans to visiting the final resting places of these saints in between my hectic schedule till September, I received the invitation from Dr.Jai and my sister Grace to attend the wedding of their son Dr.Susheel in London on the 15th June, 2019. I decided to extend the trip to Southern France to find the trails of St.Martha and St.Mary Magdelene. I informed Bro. Joseph Kulangara of our plans to visit and he agreed to join us with his wife Gigi. Thus began the journey to trace the trail of these beloved saints of Jesus.

DOG’S OWN COUNTRY

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stray_dogs

Decades ago the government of Kerala coined a phrase to promote tourism in Kerala. The think tanks of the time wanted people across the world to flow into Kerala. Realising that only around 13% on earth are atheists or non-believers in God according to demographics, they decided to include the word “GOD” into their tourist promotion slogan. They thought they could attract the remaining 87% people to this southern tip of India near the equator irrespective of their religious affinities. Ironically, no opposition came either from the governments of political parties who never believed in any form of God or from the predominant Christian communities for whom the Third Commandment of the Ten Commandments which clearly states that, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain,” (Exodus 20:7 – Holy Bible) was clearly violated. Being born and brought up outside India, indeed Kerala had fascinated me right from childhood with its beautiful rivers, temples, churches and mosques in their thousands, the tall coconut trees in their millions, the scores of elephants on the roads and a people who could communicate in English and practice exemplary religious tolerance. All these factors may have encouraged the authorities to promote this piece of land as “God’s Own Country”.

Things have changed today and Kerala has captured the attention of the world itself on the issue of killing of stray dogs. The matter has been taken to the highest law-making authorities of the nation by the animal lovers, especially dog lovers. Before I pen my thoughts, let me say that I love dogs and have found them to be one of the most faithful and loving animals. Their love for their master is immeasurable. I have had a pet dog since I was twelve years old. At present I have my Rottweiler, “Bruno,” who is a member of the Kennel Club of India. It is my love and concern for dogs that prompts me to write these lines.

Those who find cruelty in killing stray dogs should have concern for their hunger and suffering as well. What options are in place currently to feed these starving animals and give them shelter? They live of the wastes of food littered on the roadside and garbage heaped everywhere. Many of them have visible skin diseases. Dogs run down by vehicles are yet another common sight on roads. Those who deplore the killing of these uncared dogs, advocate sterilization so that their growing numbers can be contained. But the question remains, who will take care of these poor animals? We may have to look deeper into the intent and plans of these well-wishers who try and defend these stray animals who are increasingly being driven to violence possibly from their hunger and suffering. How many of these advocates of dog-compassion rehabilitate these stray animals or feed them once a day? These animals in the middle of their tortured existence and suffering do not have the luxury of euthanasia which some nations provide for humans.

Is it not cruelty then to allow these animals to continue to live in misery, hunger and suffering? Let us think aloud! If we are unable to find a lasting solution and lead the nation on this issue, we may have to give Kerala a new slogan: DOG’s Own Country. Then the only consolation would be that the letters in the word GOD still remain in the slogan, just backwards. This reversal may well be a reflection that the values we treasured from old,  are slowly being reversed for the worse.

 

The Divine Vision from a dampening experience

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The vision and mission of the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, Mr. William Cameron Townsend, has always been an inspiration to me. So on this World Bible Translation Day 2016, Raaji and I decided to visit their headquarters in Orlando, Florida. At the front desk, I introduced myself as a Bible translator and presented them with copies of the New Testament in the four Indian tribal languages we had translated. He replied to me that their policy did not allow them to accept or endorse Bible Translations by others. I stated that I was there neither for their endorsement nor acceptance but to inform them about these translations, so that these four languages could be removed from their much publicized list of languages that were in need of a translation of the Bible and their resources could be used for other languages in need. I requested them to place these translations in their Asian showcase of Bible translations. Once again I was informed that their policy was to display only the translations made by them. It was evident that their policy of not promoting or letting the world know about other translations made on earth arose from their fear of losing their prominence and benefits.

I had similar experiences earlier from the Bible Society of India, Bible translation organizations and even Churches involved in making translations of the Word.  The common factor is that all of them lament a lot about the thousands of languages in which at least a portion of the Bible is yet to be translated. But they fail to appreciate or accommodate a new translation made by lesser known people with no assets or affluences in some remote corner on earth, because they do not belong to any such organization. They fail to realize that a translation can be made only when a spiritual battle is won, and only spirit-filled men of God can bring forth a translation of the Word of God.

That night, as I poured out my heart before the Lord about this dampening experience, He led me to a new vision: to start a museum to showcase all the Bibles on earth in all the languages translated by any organization, church or individual with an up-to-date record of such translations. It would also show the progress mankind had made ever since God had written the Word with His own fingers and handed it over to Moses for His people. Thus the “The Museum of the Word” was born! It is an uphill task, but God has used such negative situations in the past, guiding me to set new goals for Him, complete them, and crowning them with His blessings.

About two decades ago, I was broken hearted when the Bible Society of India in Bangalore refused even to look at the errors in their outdated Malayalam Bible translation that I had painstakingly documented. They turned me away, asking me what theological credentials I had to propose such corrections. I wept that night at their insults. They did not even bother to look at the corrections or their validity – corrections I had researched and compiled over fourteen years. That night the Lord came to me in all His glory. “Fear not I am with you. I want you to complete and publish the Bible all by yourself and yourself only. Now I am anointing you with the gift to translate my Word,” the Lord said.  The very next day, I started the Millennium Modern Malayalam Bible Project or the 3MBP. The Vishudha Sathya Vedapusthakam, my translation of the Bible in Malayalam, was published on the 22nd of December, 2000. Satan never gave up. I was deported with my family from the country I had worked for twenty-four years because I translated the Bible. It was masterminded by my own Christian brethren. They proclaimed that I was finished forever, as was my Bible translation. Again I heard the sweet voice of the Lord, “I will not let you down. I am with you.”

Yes,  He is ever with me and has enabled me to pioneer translations in 6 more languages!

Three years ago, the leaders of the fasting prayer fellowship I had toiled to build up over three and half decades, conspired together and expelled me from the fellowship with false accusations and injurious insults… It broke my heart. It seemed my efforts of a lifetime for the Lord were shattered by a few people who feared their wickedness would be exposed. Again the Lord assured me nothing was lost and that He would lift me up and lead me in His glorious path. The Lord reminded me of Bill Bright and Merlyn Carothers who faced similar solitudes in their spiritual journey. The Lord helped me to start the broadcast of Word to World Television Channel 165 days ago and the Word to World Centre to house it 24 days ago. The Lord has used every adversity of mine to accomplish mighty feats for Him. And now once again, from the dampening experiences on this World Bible Translation Day arises a new project for His glory- THE MUSEUM OF THE WORD.

Praise the Lord!

 September 30th, 2016

Reminiscences on Father’s Day

Hugs, flowers, greeting cards, gifts, some good food and once again Father’s day is over. My thoughts about father’s day go much beyond these social gestures.

When I think of Father’s day, the very first thought that rushes to my mind is about my Heavenly Father Yahweh, my Almighty God. It is He who allowed me to come on earth through my father whose faith, love, and discipline led me to the knowledge and experiences of my Heavenly Father. Again I am grateful and ever indebted to my Heavenly Father for granting me three loving children. Above all, I have no words to express my love and gratitude to my Heavenly Father for making me a spiritual father to thousands on earth, speaking different languages and hailing from different cultures. This is the greatest of all reasons to place my Heavenly Father  far above all considerations on or about father’s day reminiscences.

My father, late Mr. M.V. Mathews, whom I call Pappa has the paramount position in my heart among mortal humans on this father’s day. It is Pappa, whose life and principles drew me to God. His family life was exemplary – I say because of his care and love for my mom. They were unanimous in everything, doing everything in one accord.

He was very strict, possibly even too strict with me in my childhood with no appreciation or exhibition of love, which my younger siblings got. Fathers Day BlogBeing his first born he could not tolerate any pranks, nor put up with my mischief and strong willed nature. He tried to discipline me with the cane but failed as I refused to be tamed. This went on till the age of 12 and his attitude began to change as there came five others after me. His confidence in me grew and from my 16th year he freely allowed me to handle the finances. It was the tune of thousands those days which today may mean lakhs. He has never scolded or even uttered a word when I ran into losses because of my immaturity. He has never asked me whether I drank or smoked and never asked me for the accounts of his money taken by me. He tried his utmost to give us, all what we children asked for. He sold a piece of his property to pay the capitation fee for my admission to the B. Pharm course in spite of the advices of dear and loved ones who tried to stop him. However, I failed repeatedly in the first year B. Pharm course and went to Pappa with the results of my fourth failure. I expected a shout from him and had prepared myself to apply for a job in the Indian Navy. To my surprise Pappa told me, “I want you to complete the B. Pharm degree at any cost even if I have to sell all my property.” It shattered me because he never blamed me, though he knew that one of the main reasons for my repeated failure was that I was involved in student politics going to the extent of even leading a strike. His words gave me a new sense of hope and confidence. I returned and never failed again, graduating with a first class! I was chosen for a highly paid job even before graduation among 15,000 applicants from all over India. At the end of my final interview conducted by the top brass of the company I put forward my hand to shake hands with the members of the interview board. Everybody except the top man shook hands but he refused. I felt humiliated. When I returned home, all at home were buoyant that I was selected and stood first in the interview. However I told my father that I could not work with a person who had no basic courtesy to shake hands with someone who stretched forth his hand. There were a lot of debts at home and this high paying job would have eased the situation. I thought he would compel me to take up the job due to his financial strains, but he strongly said, “Don’t take it up if you are not happy.” I didn’t take up that job and furthermore, decided never to look out for a job in India. I wanted to go abroad and that wait cost me another 15 jobless months in India. Pappa never ever blamed me and was still supporting me when debts were on the increase- that was Pappa!

His spiritual life paved the way for my own journey. He was the pioneer in building two churches one in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia and another in his native place Mannar Kerala, India. His prayer life was a great example for us, as was his honesty and determination to stand for truth. Indeed his life, love, and confidence showered in me, is the foundation of all what I am today.

The shining stars in the horizon of my reminiscences is that God blessed me with three lovely, loving, God-fearing children and their spouses who share my principles and join me in the building of the Kingdom of God. Their zeal and passion for God till this moment is something I treasure on this father’s day.

Praises a million and glory to my Heavenly Father, for His showers of blessings, for granting me a father and making me a father for building the Kingdom of God on earth.

Praise the Lord
Father’s Day 2016