Metropolitanís Message: April 2015Date : 22-03-2016

India celebrated its 66th Republic Day on January 26. Gandhiji envisioned India as a Kingdom of God  (RamaRajya) comprising the whole humanity. The constitution of India is founded on the principles of equality, fraternity, secularism and democracy. It was Gandhiji’s great dream that those who were on the margin should come to the forefront of society. We have had such Presidents from such a groups. If a nation has to progress, it is essential not only to have a well founded constitution, but also a fortified people who follow the constitution in letter and in spirit. Is the hidden agenda of movements like ‘Ghar Vapasi’ (Return Home) aimed at taking these people to the time when they were in a state of deprivation, marginalization and silent slavery?;  Or is it for attaining the development envisioned and proclaimed by the Prime Minister in the slogan ‘Undivided India’? We must not forget the fact that the free India did not attain its present development through autocracy or imperialism, but by protecting the freedom of the people and by upholding the values of democracy and secularism.  350 million of the population of India are above the poverty line.  The nation should take immediate steps to elevate the rest of the population above poverty line. Then only the India of Gandhiji’s dream ‘Rama Rajya’ where everyone is accepted as a child of God will be accomplished. President Barak Obama who was the Chief Guest of the Republic Day celebrations this year wrote after visiting ‘Raj Ghat’ the resting place of Gandhiji, the Father of the Nation,  in Delhi, ‘Gandiji is the greatest gift to the World’. He also wrote, “What Martin Luther King told is true even today. Mahatma Gandhiji’s spirit is still in India. That is the greatest gift to the world. May our lives be of peace and love grasping the spirit of Gandhiji”. Let us pray that India will move forward in unity for the realization of Gandhiji’s dream.

The words inscribed in blood at the door of the cemetery of the veterans of World War II in Nagaland are touching. “We dedicate our today for your tomorrows.” These were written in blood by a wounded and bleeding soldier with a stalk of grass. We must not turn a deaf ear to the roaring in those words of the memory of those who sacrificed their lives for a bright future for India.

 Republic Day invokes us for responsible citizenship. 

It is a welcome news that ice is breaking in the relationship between USA and Cuba and the path of cooperation is opening. The diplomatic ties between the two nations will be re-established by opening consulates in the two countries. Let us pray for new initiatives to establish peace and mutual love and respect among nations of the world. The visit of the Russian President Vladimer Putin and the American President Barak Obama add luster to our hope

Ecumenism is the most beautiful ideology and its vision is One Sheep and One Shepherd. A commission has  been constituted and deliberations begun to explore the areas in which Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church and the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church can work together by standing firm on matters of their respective faith. In the present circumstances, where the separation created after the Synod of Mulamthuruthy still prevails, the goal is to search practical ways of unity and to work together complementing each other. It is to fulfill that goal, the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Moron Mor Ignatius Aprem II came to Maramon on Friday February 15, 2015 accepting our invitation and gave the message. May God help us to grow to this realization.

Church is an interceding community. Intercession is the symbol of our acceptance of other people and the comprehension of their problems. When we pray for others, we draw more close to God and God close to us.

Maramon Convention is an occasion which subjects the Church to rethink of its spiritual and social commitment. Let us glorify God remembering the goodness of our forefathers who labored with dependence on God and steadfast faith to help the Church to sail forward incessantly by finding answers, in the divine light of the Gospel, to the various questions raised in the complexities of human life. The questions “Where are you?”, “Where is your brother?”, which God asked the humans at the beginning of creation, are relevant in every age. The question, “Where are you?”, prompts us to discern our present state and to lead us to the state we ought to be. Where are we today in our relationship with God? In what state?. We have the responsibility to have an introspection.  Along with that we have to ponder upon the question, “Where is your brother?” This question has evolved from the vision that God has delegated us to be the keepers of each other in brotherly love. Individuals, families, churches and nations should wake up to this redemption of brotherhood.  These questions have much relevance when the nations of the world go through various tensions and crises. The tendencies to deny and violate human rights in the name of religion are the evil faces of terrorism.  The words of the Church Father Polycarp (the disciple of Mar Ignatius who was the disciple of Apostle John) which he uttered at the end of his life, when the government of the day tried to force him to relinquish his faith, “86 years have I served Him and He has done me no wrong. How then, can I blaspheme my King and my Savior”? This confession, which he made while facing the evil faces of cruelty and martyrdom, always gives us strength and hope in our journey of faith. The same is made clear in the witness of the first martyr of the early church, viz., Stephen. We must realize that, those who undertake the commission of our Lord ‘Be my witnesses’, are taking the challenge of becoming martyrs.

I pray that the messages we got at the Maramon Convention will give us a stable sense of direction in our church life and family life. This year we were blessed with the messages of Rev. Dushanta Rodrigo from Sri Lanka, Bishop Sipho De Siva from South Africa and Rev. Dr. Sam Kamalesan.

.I am completing 57 years this year after entering the ministry of the church as a deacon and 40 years as a bishop. When I look back, the God Almighty led me with His constant presence and grace through unforgettable and challenging experiences which cannot be contained in words. God gave me the opportunity to serve in hill countries, villages and cities. This is the 41st anniversary of my entering the ministry as a bishop for the first time at the vast Kollam-Kottarakkara Diocese, stretching from Thottappally to Cape Comorin  (Kanya Kumari) and from Kollam to Shenkotta,  staying at Adoor. I remember with gratitude the late Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan, who guided me with brotherly love and affection in church administration. The starting of the Maramon Convention coincides with the 41st anniversary of Episcopal ministry. I request your support in prayer.

It should be noted that when Jesus received baptism from John the Baptist, he was identifying himself with the humans as he descended from heaven to our poverty and humanity. We should also note that the baptism he received was not the baptism of repentance. It was the revealing of his solidarity with the sinful humanity. The people could hear the voice from heaven, “Behold My Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Re-baptism is not biblical. Baptism is not performed by human hands, but it is performed by the hands of God. The hands of those who are delegated to baptize are used by God. We must not forget that re-baptism is its denial.

The Book of Jonah teaches us the fundamental principle that the God who is the creator and sustainer of all creation, loves His whole creation. It was at a time when the people of Nineveh indulged in evil, that God sent Jonah to them. When the king and the people repented and turned to God after hearing Jonah’s message, God spared them from judgment. But Jonah was shattered when the judgment he preached was averted, forgetting the fact that God loved His creation. Even today there is a tendency among those who act as terrorists and others, to destroy and annihilate everything that stands against their ideals, because they don’t assimilate the love of God.

Let us repent of our failures and mend our ways according to God’s will and move forward. We should be able to pray as one of our church fathers did. “Give me the grace to accept and correct my ways, if my conscience convicts me that I am at fault.”

May God give us the grace to examine our lives in the light of the words of Jesus the Sun of Righteousness and to discern good and evil so as to be free from the bondage of perversion and thus be the light of the world, by receiving the light of Christ. 

 

Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan

 

 (This message was translated from the Sabha Tharaka by Rev. Dr. Philip Varghese, New York)