FR. PAUL – WHO STOLE THE COOKIES? – by Dr. Alex Mathew



by Dr. Alex Mathew

Fr. Paul came visiting yesterday with two young people from his parish and wanted me to share with them the advantages in abiding. He had introduced the idea to them. They knew the principles. He wanted me to highlight the advantages. I certainly had great respect and appreciation of his grasp of the subject. I suggested Fr. Paul to start the interaction and I promised to come in when he or the boys would want me to.

Fr. Paul went into a ‘dhyanam’ (meditation) mode for a while. He opened his eyes and kept looking at the cut flowers in the vase. After it seemed a whole while he asked the boys “Look at these cut flowers” The boys looked at the flowers not comprehending. Fr. Paul almost stared into their eyes and kept his eyes on them. They remained locked for something like a minute and he asked them “What do you see?

“Some white chrysanthemums, couple of crimson Gerbera and two fern fronts.” “That is all?” Disenchantment was obvious in Paulachan’s (Fr. Paul’s) tone. The boys looked hard at the vase of flowers and looked at each other and one of them helplessly mumbled, “There is some water in the vase.”

The room vibrated in a loud laughter from Fr. Paul which was so unusual from him. He quieted down soon enough and asked gently; “How long will these flowers last?” The boys picked up some nerves and said with confidence; “The chrysanthemums will start wilting in two days, the gerbera may last another day or two, the fronts will stay fresh for longer.”

That was good observation. Fr. Paul showed appreciation and said “Eventually all these cuttings will dry and will be thrown off. No?” “Yes, father.” They had recovered their composure by now. “You now see how vital it for the plant parts to remain connected to the mother plant?” They just nodded their heads.

Father was by now gathering enthusiasm and was ready to be more vocal. The glow in his eyes showed it and there was an added dash of color on his wheat chin. “Do you realize the truth in John 15: 5 “…for apart from Me you can do nothing”? There were more brisk nods from them. “Of course, father’ they said in chorus.

Fr. Paul made himself more comfortable by lifting his legs on to the cane sofa, reclined back and with a mischievous glint continued: “One significant advantage in Abiding is the freedom from the need to be wandering in search of things we miss at the moment.

There is a saying ‘half of life is spent in sleep and half of the remaining half is spent on searching for missing things.’ Grandpa searching for his specks sitting pretty and square on his nose is a common joke in most households. Most of our search is unnecessary and of course, criminally time consuming.”

He was silent for a few minutes. We waited for him to make a fresh start. I was about to say “That is my story, father.” Then from the depths of his thoughts, he came up and said in a hushed tone, “Have you at any time read 1. Samuel 9?

Saul went along with a servant companion for days searching for missing donkeys of his father. They searched high and low and found no donkeys. They were obliged to go to the man of God to get directions to find the missing animals. God had well drawn-out plans for Saul. He was not aware of it. His focus was the donkeys.

“Samuel counsels Saul and tells him to send away his companion and stay back. ‘but you stay here a while, so that I may show you from the word of God’. (1 Sam.9: 27)”

Being still and seeking the word of God is more profitable than aimless wandering looking for things, which are safely where they are supposed to be. Standing still is so tiresome for us. Actively pursuing things that we miss is a favorite occupation. We do not mind the expenses involved in it. We have no qualms about getting others involved in our search. We may employ and pay others to join us in the search.

In active searching to gain what we miss is our possible sense of fulfillment. Find and get what we miss. Rope in anyone who might assist us in this. Suggestions and counsel by others are welcome. The prime agenda is to find and possess, keep and enjoy.

“This happens on individual and organizational levels. Even if there is cut throat competition and unethical procedures involved, that will not deter us from pursuing our goals”

We felt the father is on an expedition on his own. “Remaining at one place and not searching makes us jittery. So the one-half, of one-half, of our life is spent by all of us in searching and striving at possessing. You see that?” “The words of wisdom from Samuel were ‘Let go of the search’. What is missing is already found. If I am searching for salvation, it is already done. See?’

“The precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary gained for me salvation. If I do not realize it, I must stand still and see from the Word of God what is accomplished for me”

This is where the unique significance of Abiding becomes apparent. I can afford to stay still in Abiding. In Him I have the unique freedom to be quiet. No frantic moving in feverish search is called for or necessary. In Abiding I have the assurance; even on a physical level my needs are met. I have the time and disposition to be one with all others”

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world” – Galatians 6:14

“The function of an abiding branch is to produce His fruits. The branch has neither control nor worry over the timing of fruiting or the quantity of fruit produced. Being His branch is of more importance than concerns about what you will receive in that role” – (Matthew 6: 25).

As I abide, abiding events follow. “True, the fruit happens in me. It is I who bear the fruit. But it is not my fruit. I have no control over what will happen to the fruits. Who will harvest it or who will eat it or who will stamp on it and put it in vats for fermentation, are not within my control. Whatever may happen to the fruit I produce, I have no role to play in the use of it. My function is to be available to bear the fruit. Bear I must, it is for that I am received into abiding in Him”

By now, father Paul seem to have lost awareness of the three other people in the room. He sort of got into a soliloquy of sorts and went on looking perhaps on the coconut grove ahead in the distance.

He mused; “As I look at this scenario wherein I have no say in the matter of distribution and end use of the fruits I bear, I am given a new awareness that He is in control; not me. And that is the truth about life. God is in control.

The motions I may make about the end use of my products, my giving, my social service, my missionary efforts, my knowledge, and all my competences; do nothing to improve my effectiveness.

There too the Master determines the outcome. My privilege and advantage are to rejoice that I am being used of Him. But I have more than that to rejoice. Fruit production is not all that I am expected to do. I am destined to do far more than that.”

“My heavenly Father is the Master Gardener who puts me to further positive use. He prunes me and induces me to produce more fresh branches. If for some reasons I were not pruned, some accessory buds would come up and grow into weak branches, which may not produce anything, worthy. If anything it draws on my inputs and makes me weak. Once I am pruned, I bounce back in renewed energy producing as many healthy branches as the nodes (points of regenerative tissue) left in me.”

I felt glad I asked him to start the interaction. He took over completely. “These branches grow into sturdy, lush and healthy boughs and in turn bring out fruits several folds greater than my own past personal level of production. In me there are more multiple production units now. My bearing capacity has increased. I rejoice in it, yet I am not in the foreground. Through me second generations of production units have come into being. The important point is ‘through’ me, not by me”.

“There is a danger that I may sit back and begin to take glory in the abundant fruits produced by the second generation branches in me. These branches could be my own growing parish members, or those who have been joined to the body of Christ through my reaching out, or those who were motivated to seek the Lord, watching me from distance, noticing my humble witness.

There is nothing for me to glory even in that; on the contrary I need to realize that if I do not produce more abundant branching, my Christian life and witness have failed. Despite my personal standing and showing as an efficient production unit, if I fail to bring forth fresh branches, my worth to the Vine comes under serious doubt. The beauty of Abiding is, it releases me from the need to engage in calculations.”

His voice rose up a few decibels and rang up, “Calculations, the worst sin, according to me.” Then he fell suddenly silent. No one stirred. The place became quiet; the air seemed like in a labored stagnancy. We were all scanning the floor looking for a clue to the sudden change. Looking up we saw the distinct change in him. Was he sad, angry, stirred and disgusted? I had no time to make a correct reading.

He turned his head in a flash to the door and got up in a hurry; took brisk steps the open door. Before I could say; “Acho; some coffee?” He was gone with a wave of his hands leaving the boys behind and me wondering. Some calculating person got into his brain? I seriously I suspect so. I will have plenty of time to ask him that. Will he open up?

What has calculations to do with abiding?

Despite the fruits that we bear are we subject to calculations?

What are the underlining factors which lead us to calculations?

What goes missing in Calculations?


© Alex Mathew


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