“It Is Finished”: John 19:30

On my own, I chose Saying Number Six.

Here’s what I arrived at.

It is a compilation of thoughts I have absorbed over the years, but a couple of lessons from Sathi Achen and KC Achen figure prominently in this particular piece.

Once again, It was an amazing experience for me as it was last year.

Gave a little. Received back a lot.

This aside, a single blog page wouldn’t be enough to cover my gratitude to these men of God and Cloth, (many more than the ones that are mentioned here), who have given me so incalculably much along my journey and formation:

Intellectual men (sorry, for now it’s only men), with advanced educations in Biochemistry, Biology, Psychology, (boy, do they ever need that! even more than scripture perhaps), and Mathematics and Literature and Accounting, Business and Information Technology, from corners far away from the dusty hills of Judea: men who sacrificed so much relinquishing lucrative careers and more, to tell the 2000-year-old story of a Judean man’s Sacrifice.

That faith alone is the proof.

please read.

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The sixth of Jesus’ sayings on the cross was: ‘It Is Finished’. That He could talk at all at that point seems miraculous.

In order for something to be ‘finished’, it has to ‘start’ first.

So when Jesus uttered, ‘it is finished’, what was it that got started?

It is, what got started with the Creation, the Paradise, the Man, the Woman. Sin. And Punishment.

and what was finished: Redemption. Of the same man and woman. From sin and punishment.

The term ‘Original Sin’ can be assigned many interpretations.

At its base, it’s forbidden sex.

At its core however, it is man willfully turning away from God. Man had everything, he walked with God daily, heck, he even had a partner he gave up his ribs for.

And yet, he risked everything and chose an alternate path.

God, in His disappointment and sadness, (as God always is: sad and disappointed when His creation turns away from Him) ‘punished’ humankind to hard labour, painful childbearing, and with the experience of death.

Some may reject the term ‘punishment’. I understand it as, one having to face the consequences of one’s actions.

But, that is not the end. It is the beginning.

Right after issuing ‘The Curse’, in His next breath, God gave us an ‘out’. He said to the crooked creature: ‘Her Offspring shall crush your head’.

The child the woman bears in pain will save the world. Great gain is achieved only through pain.

The Great Transformation from Eve to Mary is now complete.                                                                                                                                                                                                              

One disobedient and the other, in complete submission.

One that caused The Fall. The other that gave us the Redeemer by answering God’s Call.

From illicit relations, to Immaculate Conception.

In Genesis 3:15, God curses the serpent, “man shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

One of my dad’s sermons that still rings in my ears as though it happened yesterday, he exclaimed, ‘the serpent can only tug at our heels. But the offspring of the woman, ‘sthreeyude sandathi’, would crush the serpent’s head’.

Note that a male is not mentioned here. The child of a maiden.

So it was the death of sinfulness. Jesus’ victory over evil.

We get to choose love over hate. Eternal life over certain death.

We’re offered a second chance. The option of a New Life.

It’s significant to take note in context, the hour at which Jesus was executed.

According to the Gospel of Mark, just at the precise time a lamb was being slaughtered, in the Jerusalem Temple on the ninth hour of Passover for the atonement of sins of the Jews, is when the crucifixion took place.

Not just any old lamb, but a chosen male, baby lamb, a lamb without blemish. In Malayalam, it is called, ‘oonam-illatha kunjadu’.

The young, and sinless one gave it up for us.

The Law was rewritten.

A new Adam and a new Jerusalem were born.

Salvation came from the Jews, but it is no longer something exclusively available to just a few. It is for mankind.

All of us now belong to the Chosen Tribe. The Chosen One from the Chosen People chose us.

Built into Jewish synagogues of old, is a section called the Holy Of Holies. Only the high priest, typically a Levite, of the priestly tribe, is allowed to enter this inner sanctum.

In the other world’s great religion, its oldest really, the Hindu temples also have a similar place in their Ampalam or Mandir, called the Sree Kovil (House of God), where God resides. Only Poojaris of Brahmin descent, again of the priestly class, have access to this space.

So that is what transpired on The Cross.

When the curtain tore in the temple, that separation between man and God was overcome. now you and I can enter the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies, the Sree Kovil, through that tear.

Found only in the Gospel of John, the Greek word for the saying it is finished translates into ‘tetelestai’, an accounting term that means paid in full.

Not coincidentally, ‘Kalah’ is the Hebrew word uttered by the rabbi as he sacrifices the baby lamb in the temple. ‘Kalah’ means, ‘it is finished’.

What started in Genesis 3:15 was finished in John 19:30.

The companionship that was lost in Eden is now restored. We have full communion with God. All we have to do is choose it. it’s free for the taking.

It is what is called Grace.

That final offering of atonement by the shed blood of the Lamb is what was finished.

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Romans: Chapter 8

Today is my dad’s 101st birthday. February 13, 2017.

In Vedic thinking, odd numbers are more desirable than even ones. I wrote a tribute for his 100th birthday, but the 101st calls for it in equal measure.

Some time in approximately 1958 and 1959, my father, in his ever-activist, ever-innovative mode, embarked on a mission.

He challenged the youth members of the Chepad MarThoma Church (I don’t recall if there were any age constraints as such) to memorize Paul’s Letter To The Romans: Chapter 8. (Paul as in The Apostle and the Letter is the one he wrote to the early church in Rome.) The whole chapter. ‘Roma Lekhanam, Ettam Adhyayam’, as he called it.

In return, anybody who masters this inscrutable piece of scripture would receive from him personally, the gift of a Bible that he would purchase with his own funds, from the CLS  Book Depot in Thiruvalla.

A Bible in those days cost five rupees.

If there is anything, you have to read this narrative in the context of ‘5 rupees of 1959’. Trust me when I say, it was ‘a lot of’ money. It was roughly one twentieth of my dad’s monthly salary. And this is from someone who was reluctant to buy my sister and me any fancy clothes for fear it’d spoil us from being studious. whatever.

So the contest commenced.

To the unanticipated discovery of both my parents, a staggering number of the church youth paraded to him one by one, over the course of days, weeks, or months, and walked away with this coveted Holy Book. To the point it exhausted his funds.

We have to realize that many, if not all, of them were attempting at this unique contest for the sole purpose of owning a Bible. Such was the fervor then.

At that point, instead of casually pulling out of the initiative altogether and leaving the kids feeling let down, he added a condition, that the passage had to be recited without a single mistake. He had not been strict about it prior. even that didn’t stop the eager learners. They kept coming.

Then out of mild desperation, Papaji stipulated a deadline by which the task had to be completed.

Meanwhile, I came home from the Nicholson (Boarding) School, finishing what was then called First Form (equivalent to today’s sixth standard), for what I anticipated would be my lazy days of summer, unaware of the ongoing undertaking. Amma mentioned it first with a great deal of admiration for the venture, and Papaji subsequently extended this most unwelcome challenge to me.

I had already owned a Bible, (a gift from the said parents), a leather-bound one with my full name, Mercy Mariam Oommen, engraved on the front. The School had mandated that we arrive with our own Bibles. This Bible is still proudly displayed on our coffee table.

So ownership of a new Bible would not be an incentive for me to memorize Romans 8.

For one, Papaji just simply wanted me to learn Romans 8.

Secondarily, he wanted to make certain that I could do what any of those youngsters were putting their hearts and souls into. I was barely ten.

extremely reluctant at first, even resistant, I eventually set about the task as if it’d be a piece of cake. After all, rote memorization was my forte, right?

Wrong. And wrong. It was anything but sweet.

A reader, I was. A reader of Paul’s long letters to a bunch of newly minted Christians in faraway Middle Eastern churches, I was not. Tedious in language and cryptic in meaning, this was also without any intrigue as in fairy tales. ‘Boring’ would be another word.

In English, we have countless Bible versions: The KJV, The Revised Standard, The Good News, The New International, The Children’s (wish we had those), to name some. In Malayalam, there was and is, still the One Version. Boy, was it ever a pain?! Torturous, actually.

Summer days were coming to a rapid close. The rains were beckoning from the moisture-swollen Western Ghats. Along with it, Second Form at Nicholson. and I went to papaji to recite. And suffered through the recitation with one or two errors. And was pretty proud of the feat. and even more so, was very sure nobody had done it better.

I mean, how could they possibly?

To my utter dismay, I saw my dad for the first time in my life that I can remember, being a tad disappointed in me as I had never seen him before. I made one or two mistakes. (It may have been more than just two, but hey, who’s counting?) What is the big deal, right? I don’t recall where and which ones. All I remember is my sadness in making him be not proud. I distinctly remember that part.

It came down to this. He considered me the recipient of some privileged schooling, (and I was), in a way most church kids were not. And he simply expected more. And this exercise meant so much to him.

Let me come to the point.

I don’t remember any longer a single verse from Romans 8.

Except this: the words that have stuck all these years: ‘maranathino jeevano, doothan-marko, vazhchakalko adhikarangalko, ippol-ullathino varuvan-ullathino, uyarathino azhathino, karthavaya kristhu-yeshu…’

“for I am certain that nothing can separate us from His love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below-there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Verses 38-39

Thus, I may go astray, I may neglect to attend church regularly, I may forget to pray twice or even once daily, I may occasionally question the Eucharist for how it has evolved over the years, and for the current form in which it is practiced (for my take, I believe what Jesus intended for us was, to sit in a semi-circle, share a meal and treat each other as family, but what do I know?), I may go visit Matha Amrithanandamayi (I have – more than once), I may go to the Sri Lakshmi Temple (been there), I may visit the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple (done that), I have trod the red tiles inside the Jama Masjid, heck, I may even go to Kashi some day and set my foot in the Ganga – something I really want to do in fact,

But nothing, none of it, will separate me from the love of Jesus Christ.

I do not know if scholars will concur on the essential meaning of these lines, nor do I presume to know what Paul Apostle had in mind. It doesn’t matter. (I’ll happily entertain any alt-theories).

And this is my wish. I hope dearly that all those youth leaguers who took heart of these much-quoted verses all those years ago, (and there were so many of them), now in the golden or diamond years of their lives, will also be reminded of the same.

And that they’ll remember my dad with fondness.

Happy Monday the Thirteenth…

mercy

Iraq And Syria

It’s a pity, nobody has called me from Washington yet to get my valuable insight on the grim happenings in Syria, which have clawed its way into a seemingly tranquil Europe.

So you guys are it: my audience.

Nothing further needs to be said about a people, who made available to us the profound ideas of equality, fraternity, and liberty: concepts rooted in a Judeo-Christian ideology.

Never mind, the French may have given up on the Christian part of it long ago, but the tenets remain, etched into the French psyche. The beautiful Notre dame, a structure we visited in 1974 with our infant daughter nisha, is sitting there very pretty and very empty.

So after the killing spree at the offices of the French cartoonists in January of this year, the French were said to be despairing over the stubborn resistance to assimilation on the part of the millions, whom they welcomed to their land, to live and to let live.

The next thing they knew, those very rights they fought a revolution over, 4 centuries ago, had become endangered, or been put on the threshold of being eliminated altogether.

The Bikini or the Burqa.

That clash of values catapulted us to what happened last week.

As we see all sorts of added and painful security measures being elevated all over Europe, and across the Atlantic, questions have arisen over how to handle the refugee migrants from a God-forsaken place called Syria.

Ironically, and aside from the rest of the story at hand, some of us call ourselves ‘Syrian Christians’. I don’t think there are any Christians left in Syria. Perhaps we should rename ourselves ‘Suriyani christhianis’. only the ‘suriyanis’ will know what to make of that term.

Anyway, instead of vilifying the governors and the presidential candidates for suggesting we put a lid on the ‘Great Migration’, I have come up with the following. I’m sure some of you are going to tell me, ‘you’re kidding, right’? and it’s ok to do that, and I am not.

Google came to my aid, and I discovered that there are roughly 350,000 Christian congregations in the U.S.

Assuming most of them possess their own sanctuaries, I propose that each of the churches adopt one refugee family each, and house them right in their sanctuaries. Giving sanctuary in a sanctuary.

If you think I’m being facetious, I am not.

In return for this, this guest family can help the churches with moderate amounts of housekeeping, until they’re on their feet, and can move onward. Kind of like W’s ‘Faith Initiative’. and it’s 340,000 more than what the president is edicting.

and on that note: what’s up with the president going abroad, and going around questioning Ted Cruz’s patriotism? isn’t it the same as when his patriotism was called into question? the Filipinos are probably confused.

All the vetting, that word we’re hearing a lot these days, (initially I thought this meant putting some water over the head of these people ), will be the responsibility of the sponsoring church. And the church will also be liable for any adverse outcomes.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I have a story to tell. Just bear with me a bit more.

Once a time long ago, I was the food co-coordinator for my church Carmel MarThoma. poor folks, they haven’t got over it yet, and have not invited me back to repeat the performance.

thanksgiving rolled around that year, and I foolishly came up with the the novel idea of us, the church folks, preparing the whole thanksgiving meal, turkey and the sides, and openly inviting the Hudson townspeople to share it with us.

I was surprised by the resistance to the proposal, on the grounds of safety mainly, and other matters. I’m not blaming anyone. I haven’t invited townsfolk to my house, ever. I’m just suggesting, we have a different approach when something directly impacts our daily lives.

It’s getting a little tiresome to be repeatedly exhorted of our Christian duty to care for the least advantaged. No argument there. It’s right there in Matthew’s Gospel. This may be arguably the most quoted Gospel verse. No problem with that either.

but is it possible, Jesus may have meant, we the individuals, you and I, take care of this? and not putting it on Caesar’s head, and be done with it?

as a fact, Jesus never exhorted Caesar to do anything.

Next point in this business of the blame game is, that of giving preference to ‘Christian’ refugees.

We can opt out of this dilemma by offering to take people over 50, with no extended families accompanying them. No religious litmus test will then be necessary. It will still be better than the ‘all or nothing’ stand.

Some of us are suffering from this malady called, The Bias of Lowered Expectations (BLE). What is good for the goose is not good for the gander. Some are expected to do only the ‘least of their best’.

why don’t we expect Saudi Arabia to take in half the number of refugees, with whom they share a religion, language, and a culture, that are being sent to Europe? Why is it OK for the Saudis to stand idly by, but not for the Europeans? Isn’t caring for widows and orphans mandated in their holy book?

I wonder if Jesus said anything about double standards? WWJS(ay)?

Apostle Paul was a supremely learned Jew, a pharisee, on his way to Damascus in Syria, to kill the newly minted Christians in AD 33 or so, but lucky for us, he had an Encounter With A Good Jew and he had a change of heart. Is it unrealistic to wish that some of the ‘bad guys’ may also have that same encounter with the same Jew, if we all prayed hard enough? Or am I nutty?

Good Wednesday evening…i hope i get at least a few (dis)likes to my post.

mercy

A Tale Of Two Josephines – Shirley And Laila

friends and family,

Shirley Josephine Fentin died one week ago. she was 94.

a good Jewish woman, our David’s Grammy, lived in southern California towards the end of her long life. A woman who raised 6 children to accomplished adulthood was the quintessential Jewish mother.

Yet, this was also a Jewish mother, who welcomed her Christian daughter-in-law from a Connecticut Yankee family as one of her own.

And we’re all the better for it.

Didn’t a famous Jew long ago teach us to love our neighbours as ourselves?

I feel privileged to be related to Shirley.

She was Grammy to our Mekhala and David. But ever more sentimentally, our precious Laila was her namesake.

Our three daughters advanced into the twenty-first century, a centuries-old tradition, unique to the Syrian Christians of Kerala, of naming grandchildren after grandparents, first patriarchal and then matriarchal, in that order. All three named each of their firstborns after a paternal grandparent. I call it grand after grand.

Thus, an Italian-Irish utterly devout Roman Catholic family of new England, a Swedish-Norwegian clan from the Midwest, and a Jewish-Episcopalian family from western Massachusetts, all got inducted into the age-old practice of a people, from a faraway place and a remote culture, by having a grandchild (their oldest in the case of two of them) named after them, thus connecting races across the span of continents and time. One human race.

And we have Laila Josephine Fentin.

Any retelling is best served with anecdotes.

So here goes one.

When Laila was born on a full moon night, (I swear with a lunar luminescence), on an April day of 5 years ago, her ecstatic ‘bampi’ Fentin called his own mother, who was in Florida at the time, to announce to her the good news:

‘ma, you have another great grand-daughter. Her name is Laila Josephine.’

Grammy glanced around with some surprise and exclaimed,

why, Gary, that’s my middle name!’

To which, Gary replied,

‘ma, they named her after you.’

I obviously couldn’t see this great-Grammy’s precious expression of the moment, but I’m certain there was pure and well-deserved glee in those 89-year-old eyes.

Susan, Mekhala’s mother-like mother-in-law, always spoke of her own mother-in-law with great fondness, so I’ll paste here what she posted on that ubiquitous social medium called FB. So you don’t have to take my word for it. now we know where Susan gets it from!

“This is my mother-in-law, Shirley Fentin, who never made me feel like I was anything but the handpicked choice for her oldest son and who called me her third daughter. I’m headed out to San Diego tomorrow morning to say goodbye and praying for a peaceful transition to her next destination. Bless you Mom. I love you.”

We might say in 2015, ‘what’s the big deal about a Jew marrying an Anglo-Saxon’?

To put it into perspective, we have to only glance back to the not-so-distant past, when we ‘all’ would have myocardial infarctions (!), if or when our children married ‘white’ people. Someone removed from this culturally might similarly ask, ‘what’s the big deal’?

Our Lord God places certain special people in our lives at various stages, to show us without the aid of any holy books, that such goodness is possible.

Shirley Fentin’s final words were, according to Gary … “no tears, just smiles.”

One of God’s Chosen Folks.

I’m glad that Shirley Josephine came into my life, and that I have a Laila Josephine in my life.

Good night…

Mercy

 

 

Marco, the Mechanic

“God will put his angels in charge of you to protect you where ever you go.” Psalm 91:11

It was last Thursday. February 13, 2014. My Dad’s birthday. He would have turned 98.

Heavy snow was predicted for Massachusetts, starting at mid-afternoon. The forecasters were slightly off, and it started to come down as of noon. Around 1.00pm, Bill, the nicest boss I’ve ever had came up to me and said, ‘Merc, finish what you are doing and try to head home’. I did just that at 1.30pm.

By 2.00pm, I’m on route 128, that well-known thoroughfare that loops around Boston, and by now, the snow is at a steady clip of 2-3 inches per hour. Visibility was reduced to next to zero. I was rolling along at a snail’s pace in the right middle lane, and suddenly my wiper blades stopped working. And I mean, completely ceased.

The snow is now piling up on my car’s all sides, my slow ride became a crawl, I simply couldn’t see an inch ahead, and I finally came to a full stop, right in the middle of one of the busiest highways in the nation. Even the side windows were caked up with the wet slush. Every few seconds, I’d roll down the windows to see the sides of the road. Each time, the interior of my ‘Camry’ would get spilled and filled with a lot of the white powder.

At this point, the obvious alternative I had was to go to the right lane, then try to exit. I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell if I was in the right lane and going into a ditch. Call me stupid, I decided the better option was to stay where I was. I put the hazard lights on, put the car into park.

I was afraid to get out and clean the blades. Again, I strategically decided getting rear-ended with me sitting in the car belted, was a slightly better option than getting hit standing on its side. You pick!

I used my cell (those who know me well, would know that this is a rarity) to call 911. The dispatcher said she’d send the state police and a tow truck but needed to know my location. I couldn’t tell her, because it was virtually impossible to see the highway signs. I said, ‘somewhere past Burlington and Bedford on 128 south’.

As I was sitting there panicked and slightly out of my element, a truck stopped by to ask if I needed help. I responded, that the police were on their way, thanked him much the same.

As minutes passed, however, there was no sign of either the police or the said tow truck.
I tried the defogger at full speed/low speed, hot and then cold, up then down, none made any impression on the stubborn wiper blades. They simply wouldn’t budge.

Then: after what seemed a very long time, another truck drove by, came to a full stop right next to me, on the driver side. Its passenger side window was rolled down. ‘The driver’ asked me what was wrong. I explained.

Then: he literally got out of his car, walked over to mine. (You have to imagine this scenario, of 2 vehicles at dead stops in the middle of 128 in a raging snow storm, to get a feel for the situation). This gentleman examined my car, the blades, and gave it a ‘good clean’, asked me to restart the engine and to turn on the wipers once again.
They were now working.

As soon as he touched my car, somehow I ‘felt’ he would ‘fix’ it, and I pleaded, ‘before you go, you have to give me your name and number’. He pretended not to hear me. I appealed to him again. At my repeated insistence, he said, ‘it’s Marco’, that’s all you need to know.’ he continued, ‘I’m a mechanic, that’s how I know these things.’
I thanked him profusely, he got back into his truck, waited until I had driven a good distance, and then off he went into the mushy mess.

Meanwhile, there was a flurry of phone calls going back and forth to my husband. His reaction to the whole thing will not go out in print here.

This past December during Advent, our Seena Kochama gave a devotional message about the appearance of ‘real angels’ in our every-day lives. Subsequently in January, Reverend James did a study on a similar topic. Both messages were referencing the ‘Annunciation to Mary’, as according to the Gospel of Luke. Both times, I listened with great interest.
In the latter gathering, our friends, Monachen and Lilly, gave a testimony about one of their encounters with an ‘angel’, about a man who spotted some car trouble they were having on a highway, guided and followed them into a parking lot at an exit, proceeded to repair whatever was ailing their car with the tools in his car, and when asked what they could ‘do for him’, answered ‘just follow Jesus, that’ll be enough’.
I remember sitting in that study session, wishing an angel of the Lord would appear to me.

I was overwhelmed by my circumstantial ‘angel’, enough I was narrating the story to Alex, my co-worker, whom I call ‘the best Christian I know’, (he really is), a non-church-goer at that. I asked Alex what I could ‘do for God’ for this ‘angel visit’. Alex said, ‘Nothing. Just thank Him from the bottom of your heart, He doesn’t need anything from you, He already has everything’.
And added, ‘but maybe you can say a prayer for Marco.’

So here goes.
Dear and all-powerful God! Please take care of Marco and his children forever, and then in eternity.
Thank you, Papaji. I guess your job is not done yet. I’m sure you know that.

This is my testimony for 2014.

From 09.11.01 To 05.01.11 – A 10-Year-Old Quest For Justice Of The Human Kind

The second attack was just as spectacular as the first one in scope and in audacity.

The first one happened on September 11 2001, in the world’s most gleaming city, ‘the city that never sleeps’.

The cosmic, strategic, and Devine influences placed the second one on May 1 2011, in a dusty military outpost in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The first one with 19 men in four, sleek, commercial American jetliners. (The twentieth man would be lost to a mundane and unspectacular detail, such as an overstayed or questionable U.S. visa).
The second, with 2 dozen, in four massive American military helicopters. Both symbols of America’s power and grandeur.

The first one, etched indelibly into our nation’s collective memory circuits so that the term, ‘nine eleven’ has become part of our lexicon.

The second one, not so much. It mostly just caused a huge shared sigh of relief.
The first one, on a brilliantly crisp autumn day, when the sky over New York was a jet blue and seemed endless, with nary a cloud.To New Yorkers that morning, sky was the limit.

The second one on a moonless spring night, that presented to the executors, the shortest window of opportunity. There wouldn’t be another one like it for another 28 days, they knew. Delaying it unduly further would be complicated with the approaching season of sandstorms this arid region is well-known for.

The first one made Manhattanites stop dead in their tracks, the roar of jet engines overhead – it felt to some as if it were right over their heads – the kind one hears only if one is on an airport tarmac. It made the startled New Yorkers – getting off the subways, on their way to pick up that routine morning java and perhaps a bagel or a yogurt, hurrying off to their work destinations – look up at the sky that seemed limitless just moments before.
The second one was eerily silent, with America’s ingenuity on brazen display, a mighty nation that commissioned some of its brightest to craft a chopper, in this case an ‘Apache’, which makes as it flies, only a soft swirling whir, one that would make it sound as though it were somewhere in the far distance and going away from the listener.

In both planning and execution, both, ‘9.11’ and ‘5.1’, were near ‘flawless’ missions, carried out by young men, who were convinced they were put on this earth if only to complete this one last assignment. One, to win one for their ‘God, Honour and Country’, the other one, in the name of Allah.
This is where the apparent resemblances end.

On the previous Friday, much of the planet woke up to bear witness – on televisions, ‘i-Phones’ and ‘YouTube’ – to the unfolding of a real-life fairy tale wedding in a far-away kingdom, of a dashing prince and his fair lady, a celebration of young love, a sparkling display of meticulous pageantry the British are famous for, and centuries-old traditions of what once was an empire ‘where the sun never set’.

At about the same time, a half a world away in miles, and worlds away in every other tangible measure, 24 men were preparing to take off, in four of the most advanced flying machines the world has ever seen, from an airfield in the desolate and unforgiving mountain terrains of another distant country, Afghanistan, a country with parts that have the look of the stone ages.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In conjunction with the above events, the parallels are there in the historic and the pre-historic, for us to draw from.

The pilgrims who came to America’s shores almost four centuries ago, were akin to Abraham of Genesis of our Holy Book, who traveled from ‘Ur of Chaldees’ of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) to the ‘promised land’, in complete faith in, and obedience to, his God. Abraham was plucked from among his fellow desert-dwellers and brought to a place where he was commanded to worship a single God. Thus was the start of a monotheistic religion, world’s first.

In a similar spiritual way, the pilgrims arrived along the coastline of a new world, seeking to worship their one God in full freedom. America was their ‘promised land’. To them, ‘milk and honey’ were not just figurative enticements. They were real and bountiful. All of us who have stepped foot on these shores since, are inheritors of this promise. Deuteronomy 8:10, “You will have all you want to eat and you will give thanks to the Lord your God for the fertile land that He has given you”, may have been the pilgrims’ template for celebrating the first Thanksgiving.

So that same God was with ‘us’ on this treacherous mission. Or otherwise stated, ‘we’ were on God’s side.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a God, who gave these nomadic fathers of our faith, a ‘desert shield’.

A Yahweh, who saw the desperate tears of Moshe and Aharon on the banks of the Red Sea.

A God, who was with Joshua when the walls came down in Jericho.

That same God was with the navy SEAL Team 6.

He was in the ‘Apache’ and the ‘Black Hawk’ and on board the USS Carl Vinson.

He was with the interpreter who calmed, a couple of curious onlookers at the gate to the bin Laden compound – in Pashto – neighbours who became inquisitive as to why there was a mild hubbub on this otherwise sleepy street, in an ordinarily quiet town on a dull night.
He was with the scientist who did the rapid one-hour DNA finger-printing test on the world’s most wanted man, whom his foes hadn’t seen in years.
He was with the man who measured the height or the length of the dead man on the floor.

He was with the men who made sure the women and children in the building were dragged away to safety and from being a threat to the mission.

He was most positively with the single SEAL who came eye to eye with the planet’s most notorious criminal and in a swift second, had to decide on a course of action.

And God was with the president who said to his field commanders the previous Thursday morning, ‘it’s a go’, and retained his trademark cool exterior to an unsuspecting world, as he went off to inspect the damage caused by the latest hurricane in New Orleans, with his wife and daughters.
And God was undeniably with the other president who always said, ‘it’s a go’, whether ‘we bring justice to them or them to justice, justice will be done’, the one who sent marching orders to 30,000 courageous men and women and deployed them into harm’s way, in October of 2001, to avenge the slaughter of 3000 innocents.

It took an Obama to bring down an Osama and a Bush to set it all in motion. Yahweh speaking to Moshe from the bush that was burning, but not consumed?

 

“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘do not be afraid of them. I have already given you the victory. Not one of them will be able to stand against you’.” Joshua 10:8

In the ‘Mahabharath’, the ancient Indian epic tale, that emerged from the Vedic era of the Indus Valley Civilization, the battle of ‘Kurukshethra’ has a substantial and central place.

The narrative goes, that there were 5 ‘Pandava’ brothers on one side and 100 ‘Kaurava’ brothers on the other. They were first cousins. Brother against brother. Most of us know who won that battle 4 millennia ago.

The Pandavas prevailed, because Sri Lord Krishna was on their side. The Lord was summoned, for his counsel, by Arjuna, the middle brother and the leader of the pack of brothers.

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

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In the end, the 19 young men from ‘attack one’ didn’t win anything. They lost their lives.

However, the ‘empire struck back’. America rose to the occasion. We comforted, we gave blood, we went to funerals and memorials and we watched a lot of TV.

We rebuilt and we rose from the ashes like the phoenix. And we claimed, ‘we shall never forget’ and vowed, ‘never again’.

 GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Once in a Blue Moon

Yesterday, as I’m sure you were aware, was Neil Armstrong’s funeral. As part of his farewell from this earth, his family asked the mourners that:
whenever we see a full moon, take a good look at it and give Neil a wink.

So don’t laugh when I say this, in the late evening, when the moon had fully emerged, right above our driveway, we went out to gaze at it, to say goodbye to Neil.

Yesterday also happened to be a ‘blue moon’ night, (when a second full moon happens in the same month of the western calendar), a cosmic event that happens only once every 2-3 years (hence the expression ‘once in a blue moon’).
So, as I looked at this resplendent object high up in the night sky, this is what came to me:
the One who ‘hung the moon’ called one of the humblest among all His creation, back ‘home’ and He also winked and said, ‘job well done, son!’.

A little-known fact about the Apollo 11 moon mission is, that Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, had carried consecrated Eucharist to this celestial body’s surface. There was some brouhaha over this at the time, ‘separation of church and state’, and all that, but to me, it was more like a fusion of the most acute intellect and the deepest of faith.

Buzz observed it in remembrance of the ‘Prince of Peace’. These astronauts celebrating this solemn act, came bringing ‘peace for all mankind’ and to the heavens.
They left a plaque on the lunar base, ‘The Sea of Tranquility’, that simply states, ‘we came in peace for all mankind’.
I presume it’s still there. Along with the American flag.

Peace onto earth. Peace back to the heavens.

This kind of colliding of the divine and the earthly, has taken place since the beginning of time. Since the beginning of creation. Always at the right time and at the right place.
One holding the moon in His hand, and the one who was chosen to set foot on it, face to face. Up close and personal.

I got goosebumps thinking of all this and i had to share it. Don’t laugh.

“When I look at the sky, which you have made, at the moon and the stars, which you set in their places” – Psalm 8:3

In peace…