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The Liberating Christ in a Crippled World

St Matthew in writing the Gospel presents Jesus Christ as the Saviour who will save His people. In Matt 1:21 the angel said to Joseph “… You are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins." Jesus Christ is the Liberator. He liberates, He redeems, He heals and He saves. Sin cripples us and the whole world. To the paralytic Jesus Christ said: “Son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:5). When Jesus Christ found a woman in a synagogue who was bent over and could not straighten up, he called her near Him, touched her and said “Woman you are set free from your infirmity." (Luke 13:13).

In the case of the paralytic, the person wanted four people (his community) to carry him to Jesus. In the case of the woman in the synagogue she wanted permission to go near Jesus who was preaching to the people from the Holy Sanctuary (breaking the spiritual barriers). Jesus describes the woman as the daughter of Abraham, who was bound by Satan. She gets a human touch from Christ. In spite of their infirmity and sin, the woman is addressed as 'daughter’, and the paralytic as 'son’. Both these persons are representatives of a crippled world in the time of Jesus.

We too live in a crippled world. As a community we are here to look up to God, revealed in Jesus Christ, for His blessings. Blessings are given to us so that we take the Word seriously and go out into the world to preach the liberating Christ to a crippled community. As children of God and as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are placed in space and time to discern where God in Jesus Christ is active today and to understand the participation that we have as the body of Christ and to fulfill it with joy and commitment.

Tomorrow begins today.
Today’s world, as I see it, is crippled socially, materially, emotionally and spiritually. It is my plea that we see the realities as true and not virtual. The Bible tells us clearly that the liberation from the harsh realities that cripples our life is possible only through Jesus Christ. The crippled world manifests our helplessness, the darkness of the world and death as the last word. God in Jesus Christ throws light, reveals the possibilities of life and empowers us to have faith. The grace of God strengthens us and His presence is always with us giving us courage, peace and joy.

SOCIALLY CRIPPLED

We live in a socially crippled world. Though we speak of the global world, the larger society is divided by human made walls and territories. Thus we have different continents, nations and states. It percolates down to the narrow walls of mansions, apartments, condominiums and the four walls of our rooms. What a difference from the beautiful world which God created and found it as good. Our inhabited world is further torn by global wars, terrorism and violence. The racism and the caste structure have discriminated our human community. The divide between the rich and the poor has marginalized a large sector of human community. The global warming and the nuclear waste are making the inhabited world a non habitable one. The social evils are dehumanizing and breaking all social values. On top of these, the current economic meltdown is bringing in its own havoc.


Let us take the example of John Bloomfield who put the following in his words:
I am thinking of stitching a big scarlet U on my clothing- 'Unemployed’. I lost my job a week before Thanksgiving last year. But life does not stop. The kids still go to school. Bills need to be paid. Money must be set aside for the college education of my children. These are responsibilities that still fall on my shoulders. My wife is working. She works tirelessly. I contemplate on going to the Gym. When I pick up kids form the school the woman I know stares at me and asks casually -'so did you join the ranks of the unemployed?’…I keep cycling through different stages of grief. fresh on Monday, depressed on Tuesday, understanding the reality on Wednesday, picking up courage on Thursday and living with hope on Friday, etc…Losing my job is not necessarily the worst thing I have endured, though I would not wish it on any one. I am no longer a kid. My response is to be mature. I am a guy with a wife and three kids who live in a beautiful house in a nice city, who lost his job. I am not alone. There are many more. I will get over it. I am hopeful that there will be a happy ending to all of this if I endure and press on…’
This can be the case of any couple sitting over here.

The disciples of Jesus Christ were crippled with fear of the Jews when they saw that their Master was crucified on the cross. Their life story did not stop there. They were brought out from the room where they locked themselves in fear of the Jews. And the result we have is the whole New Testament. St. Peter who denied Jesus three times came out of his crippling experience to lead the flock of Christ. “Fear not" is the message of the Bible. “Do not be anxious" said Jesus Christ. We are called to pick up courage, and to have faith and hope in all our crippling situations. Let us put our hands in the hands of the Lord who calmed the sea!

MATERIALLY CRIPPLED

The matters of this world lead us to materialism. It is sad that this happens to the matter which God created and found good. The evil aspect of materialism leads us to a crippling situation. Why do people commit suicide? At least some do so because of material failure. The four ends of human life, as we find in the religion of India (Hinduism), are Artha, Dharma, Kaama, and Moksha. Artha is finding economy. It is a natural law that people have to work for food and sustenance. Though it comes as a gift and blessing of God, human labour is vitally significant. Jesus enjoyed feasts and he went to the wedding at Cana, and the homes of Simon, Mary and Martha, and Zacheus. Yet he called the rich man who celebrated the abundance of his good harvest, a fool. The man here was boasting in his riches, not knowing that it is God who provides. Jesus loved the young rich ruler who came to him. The young ruler was asked to sell all he possessed, distribute them to the poor and follow the Master. Possessing the materials of this world can lead to sin and crippling. It is to this crippling sin that Jesus Christ is turning the attention of the young rich ruler though he was good in following the Holy law. Salvation, as we see in the case of Zachaeus, is related to caring the poor. 'I will give half of my wealth to the poor.’ Consumerism as we see it today is a result of human crave for materialism. A watchword in a restaurant wall said: “In God we trust; all others pay cash"!

The Oscar winner film The Slum Dog Millionaire is much talked about. It has several good things to be talked about. At the same time it portrays human life in the slums that we see in Bandra, East Mumbai. A writer in Newsweek, Sudeep Mazumdar, wrote thus: “Slums exist, in large part because they are allowed to exist… Slum Dogs aren’t the only ones whose minds need to be opened up." Though the rich and the poor exist today, poverty is not a creation of the poor. As Nobel Laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus explains it, 'Poverty is human made. Therefore the eradication of poverty is possible only when humans put their mind to it.’ (There is no point in shedding tears and saying long prayers for God to act and save the poor; where humans are to act, God will wait for that human response. He will knock at the door of our hearts). Mother Teresa told the whole world that the poor are beautiful and we have lessons to learn from them. It points to the conversion and transformation we need from possessing so many things which a large number of people in our world do not have.

One of the major issues that we face in the current economic scenario of America is the problem of paying mortgages of the houses. A lot of optimistic people brought houses thinking that they can pay off the loans within a certain period of time. (I live in a house like that.) One section of our community is pained because of the loss of job for one or both in the family. It is startling to read that a couple who lost job had to give away their house and start living in motel rooms. There is yet another section of the people who are disturbed by the sudden drop in housing prices. They are sad not because they can’t pay the loans but that they won’t get a good price when they want to sell it. They bought a house which costs more than they can afford, hoping a rise in value so that they can sell it at a higher price and make profit. Profit is a spirit of the market where transactions are done. The house mentioned above is not just a place to live. It is an investment to fetch money. What is required is to make our house a home.

Desire is at the root of all sorrows in the world, said Sri Buddha. God has created humans to differentiate between good and bad. In a material world, where we desire to have possession, the Spirit of the Lord enables us to differentiate need from want. There is nothing wrong in earning things that we need, but it is sin to go after our wants and be rich in a poor world. There is nothing wrong in buying food for our hunger and to celebrate our fellowships, but it is sin to waste when there are hungry mouths to be fed. As Christians and immigrant generations from India, we have a God-given responsibility to tell the whole world and the growing generations that we can take only what we need and not according to our greed. One of the side effects of the current economic meltdown is the sudden disappearance of the economic experts. They too have now been decisively melted down. All look upto Obama for change. In fact, change has to take place among us, the people, from the grass-root level. This is a transformation which we need in our time. There is no point in running away from here. America’s best days lie ahead. To be a Zachaeus who experienced salvation the moderns ought to have a conversion experience that leads to faith and absolute trust in God. One can be a Good Samaritan only by sharing the possessions and committing oneself to work harder to impart abundant life to the wounded. There is beauty in the frail and wandering life of Mother Teresa who decided to say 'no’ to all possible material possessions and became rich by winning the hearts and minds of all people.

EMOTIONALLY CRIPPLED

Emotions are God given gifts. We read in the Bible about the wrath of God. The creation story tells us how much God loved to have fellowship with His creation. God cares His creation like a loving parent. And the book of Hosea tells us how God is disturbed by the disobedience and infidelity of His people. The book of Jonah portrays the shades of emotions not only in the life of Prophet Jonah but also in God. Jesus wept when he saw the tears of Martha and Mary. He experienced hunger and thirst; he had the need to sleep. The Bible also tells us to have mastery over our emotions. Emotions need discipline. Freedom should always be a restricted freedom.

Our physical body is the temple of God. It is to be Holy for the dwelling of Holy God. Physical assault, suicide, sexual abuse, torture to the self or others etc are all against the will of God. One does not have the right over one’s own life, for life belongs to God. Life is a gift from God; how we live it is a gift for God. The laws of this country are guidelines for good living and not for misuse. Conduct and behaviour are very important for Christian living. Do’s and don’ts are given generally in a sinful world that perpetuates evil. The values of the Kingdom of God are given to us, not to take away the laws and commandments but to transcend them and to lead a holy and harmonious life. Human are created to become responsible persons.

We will be emotionally crippled when we become helpless by letting loose the emotions. Vending emotions at times are necessary for life, if it is done with discipline and with a sense of responsibility. Many teenagers are emotionally disturbed as they grow physically and become sexually active. I understand that Obama’s budget holds the view of stressing the importance of abstinence while providing medically accurate and age appropriate information to youths who have already become sexually active. I also understand that there is a difference of opinion in this land between giving comprehensive sex education and teaching only 'abstinence’. Should not our youth be taught that sex within marriage is good and sex outside of marriage is sin? Is it not necessary to caution them the ill effects of HIV infection and the dangers of visiting abortion clinics? Do they get adequate space to discuss the problems and challenges of homosexuality, very much seen in our society?

Let me caution that cell phones are misused by so many, particularly the teens. Sexting has become very rampant. A study released last December says that school principals suspect that almost half of the teens in their schools are found related to it in one way or the other. Parents need to remind their teens that a weak moment can last a lifetime in cyber space. It can also lead to life long real criminal record.

Depression has become a common feature in human life. When you are depressed, you can lose interest in things you once enjoyed. You may even experience sadness or anxiety. Depression hurts physically. One may have fatigues, aches and pains. It can give suicidal thoughts and unusual changes in behaviour. It can cripple your life. Jesus in His sermon on the mount as we see in Matthew 6 told us not to be anxious. No one has the freedom to take away the life by committing suicide. Relationship is God-given, it is sacred and is to be kept. St. Paul speaks in II Cor. 5 about the ministry of reconciliation that takes away all estrangements. In a world where divorce, separation, rape and incest are found, Christian families and communities are called not to conform to this world but to be transformed by the renewal of their mind (Rom 12:1, 2). Wherever God-given relationships are broken, we fall into sin and wherever separations are reconciled we participate in the heavenly joy. (Luke 15)

SPIRITUALLY CRIPPLED

God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. We have been looking into how our lives are crippled socially, materially and emotionally. It is true that we are also spiritually crippled. The Samaritan woman, whom Jesus met at the well in Samaria, might have thought that her life is normal under the given circumstances. Instead of seeing the Truth she used all defense mechanisms when Jesus asked her pin-pointedly the pertinent question, 'where is your husband?’ (John 4:16). She was spiritually blind to understand Jesus as a Messiah. So Jesus tells her that true worship is the worship in Truth and in Spirit. Are we open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and do we seek the Truth? We can be children of God only when we seek the Kingdom of God.
 
CRIPPLED NO MORE!
Renunciation is a virtue. It requires the renunciation of all we think we possess. It is also a renunciation to transcend all selfish desires. Death reminds us that there is no point in having vested interests. The Holy Bible is telling us to love God and also to love the neighbour. Jesus Christ through His life gave us an example. He also gave us a new commandment to love others as he has loved us. He loved God His Father to the point of reducing himself to a zero by His death on Calvary. This was a mark of His absolute obedience. This is love. He gave His life so that we will have life in abundance.

Love is giving ones’ best for the best of the other. God in Jesus Christ has taught us to love one another. God’s creation of human relationships is His way of teaching us to love God and to love one another. It leads us from the love we experience at home to a dimension of loving everyone like God the Father in the Kingdom of God. We are spiritually crippled when we lose sight of this. We are born and brought up in a home where we have blood relationships. But this experience leads us to reach out and find love in married relationships, where the two enter into a binding of love coming from a world that is outside of the blood relationship. Marriage lasts, till death separates the couple. Life takes the person to the Kingdom of God where love becomes the relationship of the liberated community. From the cradle to the Kingdom, one lives in relationships. The privileges of human life are given to us, to understand that God is the Father and we are stewards. It also helps us to understand other human beings as our brothers and sisters.

Others! Jesus came as a “man for others". We attribute otherness only to strangers. If we see members in the family as others that would mean that something is wrong in the given relationships. Christian life which leads to a consummation in the Kingdom of God is a journey that reduces the otherness in the persons whom we meet. Ananias as we see in the Acts of the Apostles called Saul 'my brother’. The spiritual life is therefore to reduce the 'othernesses in all our interpersonal relationships. Otherwise we are crippled. This is not to fan the spirit of possessiveness but to understand that our life has meaning only in community. Again it is not to create spirit of communitarianism or fanaticism, but to enter into the ministry of community formation and community living. There is a greater need today to search for Christian identity in Community

CONCLUSION
Jesus is the Liberator. He liberates us from our crippled world. Christ said,’ If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself take up the cross and follow me.’ We meditate on the Cross of Christ. The cross is not an object of veneration, but an experience to live with everyday. It is an indwelling experience in Jesus who understood the will and purpose of God - the heart of God. This is a costly obedience as we find not only in Jesus but also in Joseph and Mary, the Apostles, the Saints and Martyrs. We are called to be part of this band as we take up the Cross God gives us.

The cross of Christ reveals to us the 'vicarious suffering’ of Jesus. He took it up willfully to liberate us from the crippling sin. As the redeemed people of God, we are also given the ministry to participate in the redemptive activity of God. “This is my body broken for you", said Jesus as he gave bread to His disciples. We, being the body of Christ are called to break it to liberate so many who are in the clutches of sin. The spiritual struggle we have is not against human beings but against the powers of the evil one. The death on the cross resulted in Jesus walking with a thief to the paradise. It transformed a person like Saul to become the Apostle Paul.

The Liberating Christ is alive. The walk of the Crippled is a sign of the experience in the Kingdom of God (Nazareth Manifesto- Luke 4). The tomb of Jesus, closed and sealed with the authority and powers of this world was broken forever to a new city that has no walls. The entire human-made walls, boundaries, deprivation and marginalization, all that contributes to a crippled world, are liberated with the power of the resurrection of Jesus who is Lord of Lords and the King of kings. He makes everything new. We look forward to the New Heaven and New Earth, praying each day -

“Let Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. AMEN

MAR THEODOSIUS
SINAI MAR THOMA CENTER, NY


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