Readings: 1 Cor 2: 10b-16
Brian Hall have introduced Hall-Tonna values map for understanding the value system held by an individual at a given time and its influence in the life of a person. Interestingly in their last phase of value stages, they mention word as a value. According to them word is defined as the “ability to use the power of language to heal and transform the values and world view of the hearers. To communicate universal truths so effectively that hearers become conscious of their limitations, so that life and hope are renewed, and the hearers recognise their place in the larger, universal order”.
In the Gospel the people admire the power of the Word that comes from Jesus that even make the evil spirit silent and make the situation healing, whole, and inspiring. We are all gifted with the power of Word to heal, bring peace, wellbeing and praise of God. St. Paul reminds us in the first reading that we all have received the Spirit of God, towards making Words taught by spirit and wisdom in to existential and practical reality.
As we begin this new month of September, we strive to make the words life giving and enriching instead of using the words that harm and bring distress. May our blessed mother intercede for us.
(By Fr. Sunil Orethel SDB)
Rome, 29 August 2020 — As is the case each year, new missionaries ad gentes were sent out by the Rector Major in 2018, as part of the 149th Salesian missionary expedition. One of them is Cl. Anthony Panmei. His destination was the ICC (Central Italian province) with its headquarters in Rome. We are happy that Anthony has shared his interview from the bottom of his heart. Thank you!
Who are you?
My name is Anthony Panmei (pamei). I have been a very happy Salesian of Don Bosco for seven years. I am 27 years old. I come from a little village called Duiluan in the district of Tamenglong in Manipur, India. Today, I am a Salesian missionary in Italy, the homeland of my Salesianity. At present I am a practical trainee in the ICC province (Central Italy).
Can you briefly introduce your family?
I come from a poor, simple and happy Catholic family. God gifted my parents, Bartholomew and Christina, with 10 children. I am the eighth child in the family. My Dad was a cheerful charitable man: he made medicines and cured many without charge. God called him to his heavenly reward in 2004; he was only 49. My Mum is a simple, uneducated and God-fearing woman. I had a Grandma known for her hard work in the initial stage of the Catholic Church in our village. I have an uncle who was a catechist for 30 years: he worked as a missionary in neighbouring villages. We consider him as the spiritual father of the family. He is jokingly referred to as a man who forgot to marry and works for the church. He is avoided by many for his long prayers, the Rosary. He is the pillar of faith in my family and he would lead us to daily Rosary and night prayers. At a very early age I learned my prayers and the habit of listening to good thoughts before I went to bed. We learned many stories and gospel songs, as we called it, from my dad. At the age of 11 I began to lead the family prayers with my siblings. When I began my studies, far away from home, my sisters who were catechists in the Sunday school and my brother who was a seminarian, guided me in my faith formation.
How were you attracted by Jesus?
It all began with a child-like fear and love for God. The greatest symbol of my faith from my childhood till today is the Cross. My eldest sister somehow instilled in my heart the conviction that “He died for me.” As a child I would boil with anger whenever I saw the pictures of the Way of the Cross where I see the Roman soldiers persecuting Jesus. We once tore off the pages of the prayer books in the church with the intention of destroying the Romans, the executors of Christ. The conviction and the experience that God loves me more than anybody else is one thing that keeps me moving. In my daily life and in my encounter with people I feel the partial love of God for me in different ways. I got a feeling that I am the most beloved of God and I want others to feel the same. The best ways for me to relate with God is, the sacrament of confession, my favourite sacrament, the Holy Mass and brief prayers or dialogue with God any moment and anywhere.
And how were you attracted by Don Bosco?
I began my studies in the care of the Salesians. I was 11 years old when I began my studies and I profited from the educational system of the Salesians (intensive course for the young who begin their studies late), in my place, to jump four classes in a year. Since then, I have always been with the Salesians till the day I became a Salesian. At first I was attracted to Don Bosco but much more to his Salesians whom I saw. The Salesians, back then, were for me priests, missionaries, doctors, educators and fathers to all. Many of us thought that they were the best forms of a human being. I wanted to be like them. Later as I come to know him better, I felt in love with Don Bosco as a person and with his way of being with God (intimacy) and love for the young. Now as a Salesian, Don Bosco is my way.
How was your life in the Sirajuli missionary aspirantate?
One of the best experiences I have had as a Salesian and as a human being was in Sirajuli (missionary aspirantate). I was there for my first year of practical training. It was a year of grace for me: I taught and I learned. I was an assistant for the aspirants and a teacher both in the school and in the community. It is from Sirajuli that my love for Salesian missionary vocations became much visible.
As a destined missionary, I was proud to be a witness to the aspirants. We, as a community, organized vacation camps, contacted boys personally and toured three provinces in search of missionary vocations. I am so grateful to Fr Thomas Lakra, the rector, who had so much zeal for vocations and prompted me to be like him. Taking care of the boys who are willing to be Salesian missionaries, I felt the responsibility of an elder brother to help them grow, discern and answer God’s call.
From my school years I learned to balance my love for all the students without partiality. I would say one of the best ways to be a Salesian is to live with the young and be involved in their daily growth like in Sirajuli. I saw the boys growing and I grew along with them. It was a home characterized by hard work, enthusiasm and joy. One of the best aspects of Sirajuli is the missionary zeal of this Aspirantate environment. We had a missionary seminar and a prayer service every month, a missionary month, and a theatre on the lives of the Salesian missionaries once a year. Some of the best moments in Sirajuli were the reactions, dinner with the boys and preparations for feast days.
What did you learn in Italy?
Italy is much more missionary to me than I am to this country. Numerous lay people along with the Salesians here have taught me many great things. I would underline some aspects that I admire and that I have learned from the Salesians here: the spirit of fraternal relationship among the Salesians (confrere to confrere), growing in personal responsibility, collaborating with lay people and enthusiasm for youth movements. When I’m interacting with the young, despite my limits in the language, they enrich my life. I have learned that they are in need of a guide who can be there with them to talk, to listen, to play and to animate. They are lively and fun loving, emotional and full of a sense of wonder, immersed in the virtual world of mass media and prone to love and be loved. They love to be part of groups and movements and they look for someone to back them up. I have learned from them to be much more daring to take the first step in encountering the young and with them I updated my knowledge of technologies. They have made me to be more expressive and gentle in my affection and love for them.
What is your dream or vision for Italy?
I have two dreams for this beautiful country and people: I wish and hope that there will be many more vocations to Salesian religious life from Italy and that many more younger people may actively participate in the Church.
What is your dream about the Salesian congregation?
I have met many Salesians who are saints, by the way they live and relate, and I wish that all of us be saints. I pray that our congregation will continue have confreres who see themselves as Salesians, an identity beyond borders, before identifying themselves with anything else. I pray that the names Don Bosco and Salesian will continue to be the magic words, dear to their life, for the young all over the world.”
First Reading: First Corinthians 2:1-5
St Paul tells the Corinthians that he did not try to impress them with human wisdom. What mattered to him most was to know Jesus Christ, who was crucified. He approached with fear and trembling as he was not equipped with human wisdom. Instead, he approached them with the spirit and power of God, so that their faith may rest on human wisdom, but on God alone.
Gospel: Luke 4:16-30
At Nazareth, on the Sabbath day, Jesus was given a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. The passage read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Then, sitting down, he told them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Everyone, who heard him were amazed at his authority. They said, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” He told that he was aware that they were expecting him to work the miracles that he did at Capernaum. But, he told that a prophet is not accepted in his own native place. He reminded them of the widows in Israel during the time of Elijah, who experienced severe famine. But, Elijah was not sent to any of these, but to the widow in Zarepath in the land of Sidon. Elisha healed Naaman the Syrian, and not the lepers in Israel. The people were angry with Jesus. They dragged him out of the town and wanted to throw him over the cliff, but he walked through the middle of the crowd and went his way.
We have been hearing these days about Senior Supreme Court Lawyer Prashant Bushan’s allegations against the Supreme Court Chief Justices for not upholding fundamental rights and protecting dissent. He is now charged with contempt of court. He has refused to apologize as he considers that what he had said was raising the voice of his conscience. Without making any judgements about this particular case, we can certainly say that sometimes some people raise their voice against injustice without fear. They speak what their conscience tells them to. And, we have the supreme example in our Lord. He told his people that they were people of less faith. They were narrow-minded people. They were unable to accept criticisms and change. They were unwilling to question their archaic traditions and adopt the new law of love. But, we know the consequences of such daring opposition of our Lord. The people wanted to kill him. It is necessary that we be people who are willing to face criticisms, challenges, threats, violence than be people who continue to promote a system that is silent in the face of manifest injustice. Most of us wonder that we do not have the skills, talents, language, knowledge to oppose an unjust system. In other words, we feel that we do not have the required human wisdom. We argue that it is too risky to raise our voice against injustices. But, St Paul in the first reading assures us that God will fill us with his power and wisdom and that is more powerful than any other wisdom that one could imagine. What can we take home today? Human wisdom helps us as long as it helps us to carry out our daily routine. But, when it comes to manifest injustice, we need to listen to our conscience. And to proceed ahead, we need divine wisdom. And the Good News is that Jesus will give this wisdom to those who ask for. When we deeply believe in the continuous presence of Jesus in our lives, we will be fearless, and in this fearlessness, we will experience his power and spirit, to face any opposition that comes our way.
(By S. Peter)
THE ‘BRAND HEART’ OF CHRISTIANITY
Readings: Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27
Marketing experts point out that it is important for companies and organizations to develop a brand identity, or the “face” that interacts with the world. But they are quick to caution: whatever you create should communicate who you are: the brand heart (purpose, vision-mission, values).
One may see this Sunday’s gospel as a landmark in Jesus spelling out his “brand heart”!
Jesus has been gradually schooling the disciples about who he is: not just a teacher, or a magnetic preacher, or a healer and miracle worker, but the complete revelation of divine love. Through Peter’s confession of faith (which we heard last Sunday), they have recognized Jesus as the Christ.
But Jesus does not fit the popular conception of the Christ as a military conqueror. And so, he begins to show his disciples that he is the Christ who must suffer; there is a certain necessity about his suffering and death. He had decided to confront opposing forces, to challenge oppressive powers. He understood it was a decision which would have tragic consequences but he accepted them.
But Peter cannot understand! There is no place for suffering in his understanding of the Messiah. Peter the rock is also a stumbling stone! Jesus tells him to take his place as a disciple: behind the Master! And makes it clear what getting behind him entails: taking up the cross and following him… on his way to Jerusalem.
The theme of a brand heart is found in the first reading too which depicts Jeremiah’s suffering as a prophet. He had to deliver an unpopular message, which the people heard as treason, and tortured him. Jeremiah grows tired of the demands of authentic prophecy and tries voluntary retirement, but could not extinguish the fire burning within! He must speak in God’s name regardless of the cost.
Like Jeremiah and Jesus, faithful disciples cannot avoid suffering. It is an integral part of discipleship, a necessary consequence of living by Gospel values, of confronting oppressive forces.
Each of us has a cross to carry; only the size and the weight differ! What are the crosses in my life? Am I willing to carry these and follow Jesus? Who are “the elders, chief priests and scribes” I must confront? Who is the “Peter” to whom I must say “get behind me”?
But discipleship is not only about the cross; there is also the crown. Jesus is convinced that God will vindicate him. He also promises his disciples that if they carry their cross, they will find a life of communion with God.
May we carry our crosses that we may also carry the crown of a life of communion with God.
(By Fr. Vinod SDB)
Readings: Jer. 1:17-19 and Mk. 6:17-29
Martyrdom of John the Baptist (Memorial)
The martyrdom of John the Baptist can be called as the martyrdom for truth and justice. A man who lived by Truth and embraces justice. John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus, a dauntless preacher, who prepared the way for the Lord is testified today through his martyrdom.
In the first reading, prophet Jeremiah was sternly warned by God either to preach His words fearless in front of the kings, princes, priests and the people of the land or else He would scare him in their presence. God did not want him to be timid in carrying out the mission. He has asked Jeremiah to be his mouthpiece to the people. God makes sure that no enemy overpowers His chosen people. He comes in their defends when need arises. He would fortify them with a pillar of iron and walls of bronze. The Lord will dwell in the midst of his people. He will be their shield.
Today’s gospel enumerates the unexpected opportunity, of which, Herodias takes an advantage to avenge on John the Baptist, through the instrumentality of her daughter Salome, on Herod’s birthday. The long awaited grudge of Herodias on the righteousness of John the Baptist is actualised on this occasion. John who has preceded Jesus by birth has preceded him even in death. John’s life was free from fears, doubts and compromises. He rather spoke with clarity, conviction and courage. He lived a righteous life, for which he had to pay the prize with his martyrdom.
At times, it is more difficult to live for Jesus, than to die for Jesus. Today our life as priest and religious are challenged from being equivocal. John the Baptist was a clear indicator of the people to Jesus, the Lamb of God. So also, are we invited to become that clear voice which leads people back to God. In order to be the messenger of God, we need to strike the balance between the things of God from these worldly whims. We need to have clear focus and priorities, so that, people we serve are not puzzled with our words and lifestyle. John the Baptist lived a life of true conformity to what he believed and proclaimed. He was true to his God’s entrusted mission, lived it and proclaimed it, until the end of his earthly sojourn.
May John the Baptist intercede for us the strength and courage to be more convinced and true to our mission, God has entrusted to each of us. May the Lord sustain and guide us to become a clear pointer that leads our people to God, the Creator.
(By Fr. Rang Anthony SDB)
Readings: 1 Cor. 1:17-25 and Mt. 25:1-13
Memorial of St. Augustine
Today, we celebrate the memory of St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo. The silent prayers of Monica had transformed her son Augustine, a disheartened sinner. The prayer of a godly mother can change the heart of stone into a heart of flesh. A sacrificial prayer has the upper hand over any evil influence. It cannot be otherwise because it is an act of ‘agape’- the highest form of love! In today’s liturgical celebration, we get to know the true essence of mother’s love for her son. It reminds us that love surpasses everything! Prayer works miracle! True love unites us, for the source of love is God!
In the first reading, St. Paul tells the people of Corinth very clearly about his unique mission, he has received from the Lord Jesus. He was chosen by Jesus Christ not to baptise, but to preach his gospel to the Jews and gentiles alike. For Paul, preaching the gospel of Christ meant to preach the beautiful significance of the Cross of Christ. Here Paul would categorise three groups of people, who would look at the Cross in different manner: the first are the Jews who considers Cross as a great scandal, the second are the Greeks for whom the Cross is seen as foolishness, and for the believers the Cross is the Power and Wisdom of God. Salvation comes from the Crucifixion of Christ. This Wisdom of God surpasses all human wisdom and knowledge.
Today’s gospel is the immediate continuation of yesterday’s gospel. The dominant theme of ‘watchfulness’ or ‘vigilance’ is emphasised. Interestingly, Jesus likes to use lots of comparisons in his parables, whenever he explains to his disciples about the kingdom of heaven. On this day, Jesus brings in the comparison of ten bridesmaids. Of these five were sensible and the other five insensible. The five maidens who were sensible and ever prepared kept vigil and attended the arrival of the Bridegroom, and got into the Wedding Banquet. On the other hand, the insensible and foolish maidens were caught unexpectedly in their drowsiness and unpreparedness. Waiting is something active and not passive. An active watchfulness keeps one busy, preparing oneself to be at his best, when the bridegroom will come in.
We ought to be ready for that hour, when our Lord will come to take us into his Wedding Banquet. We have to be prepared since the hour and time is unknown. These hours of vigil should not be a drowsy moment, lest the bridegroom passes without our notice! St. Monica as a loving mother kept watchful vigil in prayers over her son Augustine. This act of her prayerful vigilance has helped Augustine to render his soul back to God. To stay prepared for the Lord’s coming is a common invitation for all!
(By Fr. Rang Anthony SDB)
1 Cor. 1:1-9 and Mt. 24:42-51
Memorial of St. Monica
Today we celebrate the memory of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. St. Augustine in his young age was influenced by the Manichean heresy, which teaches that all flesh is evil. Consequently, he fall victim to a pleasure seeking immoral life. For which his mother Monica had to spend her silent years in fasting and tearful prayers before the crucifix, for the conversion of Augustine. The faithful prayer of a mother is not wasted. The Lord eventually answered her prayers. In 386, at the age of 31, Augustine was converted to Christianity from the pagan Machanean religion. St. Monica died peacefully in 387, a year after the conversion of her son.
In the first reading, St. Paul as the faithful shepherd of the Church of Corinth vividly presents himself as the Apostle called by Jesus himself. Being conscious of his God’s call to be an apostle, Paul wishes the sanctifying grace of God to be upon the people of good will, who accepts and calls upon the name of Jesus as their Lord. He encourages the people of Corinth with the assurance of God’s presence in their midst and their activities. Paul strengthens their faith by promising that the faithful God whom they serve will never fail them in their needs. This is the exhortation that Paul had for the people of Corinth. Here Paul claims himself to be a full pledge Apostle like the other twelve. The aspect of him that edifies us is the total responsibility that he had assumed upon himself, to the Mission that he had vowed to the Lord. It does not matter come what may or to what situation he is placed. The exemplary life of Paul teaches us to be a responsible Stewarts for God’s kingdom. If God has entrusted to us the mission, we are sure that He has given us sufficient graces to carry it out. The Lord will not ask us, anything, which is beyond our strength. He knows us perfectly well!
Instead, the gospel invites us to be vigilant upon the evil tendencies that lingers around the human minds and desires. Jesus presents before us two types of servants: the trustworthy and an unfaithful type of servants. The first servant knows the responsibility entrusted to his care by the Master. He carries it out with an outmost love and sense of responsibility. In this context, the elements of love and responsibility go hand in hand with the indispensable element of trust, between the servant and the Master. Love was the driving force that made the first servant carry out his responsibility in the absence of his Master. Whereas, the second servant, knows his responsibility entrusted by the Master, but takes advantage of the Master’s absence and began to live a reckless life, unmindful of the Master’s love and trust. The second servant failed to carry out his assignment responsibly due to lack of mutual confidential rapport with the Master.
Likewise, our eschatological reward will depend on the degree of love we consciously put in our priestly and religious ministry. The sacrificial love we exercise in our ministry is going to have a significant effect even at the glorious coming of our Lord. We are invited to be prepared and stay vigil, so that the arrival of the Master does not take us by surprise!
(By Fr. Rang Anthony SDB)
2 Thess. 3:6-10, 16-18
The first reading from the second letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians speaks about the importance of setting an exemplary life as a role model, for people who look up to us, as person of God. The committed followers of Christ become the clear signboard for the others to follow. An indicator that leads to attain one’s happiness and complete fulfilment in life – which is the ultimate goal for all mankind.
St. Paul urges the Thessalonians, to maintain the religious discipline, as disciple of Jesus. He cautions them not to be led astray or swayed away by any indiscipline person who does not live a life conforming to the life of Christ. Paul lived his life in conformity with his teachings. This is the clear reason why he speaks with moral authority. People of good will in Thessalonica, are led to follow Jesus through the exemplary life and preaching of Paul. Paul demonstrates the moral authority over the people of Thessalonica when he said, “we were not undisciplined when we were with you, nor did we ever accept food from anyone without paying for it; no, we worked with unsparing energy, night and day, so as not to be a burden on any of you.”(2 Thess. 3:7-8). To be a model for the people as St. Paul, strenuous effort and work of self-discipline in our religious life is the hallmark. Paul, clearly advises the Thessalonians not to mingle with the indiscipline persons, because such person could play a misleading role of dichotomy, which could cause confusion and disorient people of goodwill, who desire to follow Christ, as their Saviour!
In the gospel, Jesus uses the strongest term against the Pharisees and Scribes – the teachers of the Law. Jesus points out the hypocritical attitudes of these two groups of people. They were termed as the ‘whitewashed tombs’ who were more interested in the external show off parade than the internal purification of themselves. The Lord pinpoints the insincere behaviour of the Pharisees and the Scribes by publicly accusing their hypocritical life-style. Jesus truly detests their hypocritic acts of building the sepulchre of the prophets, while on the other hand, they are the ones who contempt Jesus to death.
May Jesus bless us to live an integrated life as religious. May the people we serve see us, as the disciples of Jesus. May our religious conviction help us to overcome the tendency to compromise certain religious values in our lives. May Jesus continue to inspire and guide each of us, to be true to our commitment, as God-fearing servant for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom!
(By Fr. Rang Anthony SDB)
Robert Shetkintong (Dilbung) has been posted as the next Ambassador of India to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Robert joined the Indian Foreign Service in 2001. In 2003, he was posted to the Indian Mission in Tel Aviv as a language trainee (Hebrew). On completion of language course, he was posted to the Indian Embassy in Rome, and was there for almost 4 years. He then returned to New Delhi and served at the Headquarters between 2009 and 2012. He subsequently served at the Indian Missions in Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).
Robert hails from Keithelmanbi Village, St. Paul’s Parish Pallel, Chandel District, Manipur. His parents are Dilbung Samuel Shetwor and Mrs. Dilbung Angela Shangting. They are a devout Catholic family, rich in human and Christian virtues of love, joy, sincerity, hard work, relationship and God fearing. Robert has two sisters – elder sister is Sr. Maria Dilbung FMA and younger sister is Rose Dilbung. His father is one among the trained Catechists during the time of Fr. Larea SDB at Dibrugarh.
As a child, Robert loved to play football and spent hours at play along with his friends but would also dedicate quality time for his studies. He played the role of youth leader and proved to be a great leader and guide. He displayed leadership qualities right from his youthful days.
His schooling began in St. Joseph’s School Sugnu back in 1980s with the encouragement that came through Fr. Sebastian Chelat and many others. In 1986, he shifted to Don Bosco School, Chingmeirong in class 7 and completed the matric examination in 1990. He then went to St. Joseph’s College Bangalore for Classes 11 and 12. He completed BA (Pol Science) from St. Anthony’s Shillong while staying in St. Stephen’s hall, Shillong. He went to New Delhi for pursuing his further studies and completed his MA and M. Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
In 1990 when he and his elder sister were awaiting their matric results, just a few days before the results, it is said that his mother had a commendable dream – she was admiring two beautiful shining jewels in her palm when all of a sudden a religious sister grabbed one of them and went her way and she had just one in her palm. With prayers and wishes of friends and community, Robert’s mother’s dream of the remaining jewel in her palm continues to shine.
Robert is married to Tingjahat Hangshing and they have two children – Sarah and Raymond.
Rangajan 22 August 2020: People of the neighbouring villages of Rangajan, in Assam, do not have clean water to drink. The situation becomes worse during the rainy season as the rain water flows into their wells and ponds. Most people use this water for drinking and cooking purposes. They don’t have hand-pumps or water filters. Sometimes they try to filter the water with the locally made tin filters but water is not properly filtered with these filters. This leads to a health hazard and in fact mortality rate is very high in the villages around. This at times also brings in fatal illnesses like jaundice, pneumonia and diarrheal diseases. Don Bosco Rangajan took pity on the situation of the people in and around and decided to rope in like-minded people to provide assistance to those poor people. Through the generous assistance of some benefactors Don Bosco Rangajan has been able to provide 22 water filters to 22 families. It is hoped that with the better quality of water health of the families will improve.