IN HIM WAS LIFE, IS LIFE
from WHO STOLE THE COOKIES?
by Dr. Alex Mathew
I sat in the back row as Fr. Paul was giving his sermon in a special Mass he conducted for seminarians, he said to the Novitiates. Sometimes I attended his sermons uninvited. In the midst of a sermon that is not possible. This time he had asked me to come as he was going to introduce the concept of the fresh new idea of Abiding to them. I knew he liked my being there and nodding my head in agreement to all that he would be saying. As with me, John was his favorite Apostle. So as expected he started with John. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” John 1:1 This is the Life of the one who IS the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. (Heb.13: 8) So it reads. In him is Life. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (Joh.14: 6) He says to you, I will abide in you, if you care to open your life for me. (Rev.3: 20) He offers his life to the one who believes in Him (Joh.3: 15) and in whom He abides.
People who should have known better did not comprehend, did not receive Him. (Joh.1: 11) Paul laid emphasis on the next two words; such people have no mooring in life. They feel as if suspended from nowhere. They are gripped by existential angst. Fear is their permanent companion. They think they have no place to go They feel abandoned even as their Master and their Life waits for them. But the invitation is out for all. ‘Come unto me’ (Mat.11: 28) Abide in me (Joh.15: 4) Do you comprehend the depth and extent of this invitation? He asked that question, obviously expecting no answer in the midst of a sermon. Well, that is the way with people who ardently address people. Christ in you is the hope of your glory. (Col.1: 27) This you should know. This you should live. What causes the incomprehension in general? The Bible says darkness comprehended it not I do not want to imply you are in darkness.
But if you do not comprehend the Life and Light that He is, darkness has taken possession of you. This is where you need to take some initiative. Take the initiative to move out of darkness. This is a choice you have to make if light is what you desire. Then be drenched in His light, infused by His Life. As you move out of darkness, fears that are usual while in the dark slips off your mind. You will get into a frame of mind in keeping with the exhortation in Luk.12: 22. “Do not worry about your life nor about the body or what will you put on”. This is the distinct possibility in abiding wherein there is a steady moment-by-moment supply of all (he gave an added emphasis to ALL) needs. In abiding you can safely forget about gathering extra manna. Such an exercise is futile anywhere, beside the point in Abiding. Freed from such striving and in the resulting assurance and quiet, all anxiety is taken care of in a biological, phenomenal sense. Do not worry about your body Jesus says. Your body essentially is in me organically, by virtue of your being my branch. Your bodily needs are also my concern. Your only function is not to do anything that will cause a distance between you and me. Just remaining in me should be your concern and commitment”. Also understand that, Abiding is not a concept. It is a way of life. It is a life of rest.
It is a life of positive productivity. It is not a life lived for self. It is a life style to provide for others with me. It is not a life to display personal excellence. What is seen in me, what is produced in me, are happening in me by virtue of my place in ‘The True Vine’. My place in Him is nothing of my making. All that happens therein is in spite of me. This gives me humility. It makes me clean. I am continuously being washed in the sap of the Vine. I am continuously being filled with His resources. For my abiding to have real meaning and lasting joy, I must know something about the place I am going to occupy. Not that it makes any difference in the facts, but it will give me more confidence to go ahead. None of us will buy a house or not even a plot of land to make a house without conducting a proper investigation of the property. So let us begin with some basic inquiries. Who is this person offering himself as a possible place for accommodating me? What manner of person is He? To know about Him we do not need to employ a detective agency to do the dirty work of digging up details from private sources. In fact a complete dossier is readily at hand if we are interested. The truth is we do not carefully scan the dossier for details. Even when we come across some facts we fail to “see” despite the fact that we have eyes. I need a new vision, a revelation about Him. Now I want to see, “the revelation of Jesus in me”. So let us first take a closer look at the real person of this ‘I’; Jesus; His omniscience, omnipotence, His omnipresence, and His interest in me. He is beyond my comprehension. His best introduction perhaps is looking at some of the things He brought into being. His power and greatness, His humility and simplicity, His love and compassion, His authority and generosity, His patience and forgiveness, His efficiency and precision, His peace and presence, His divinity and humanity, His wisdom and insights, His care and guidance, His leading and service and creations that are on display everywhere, where you may care to look to see indeed”. He remained quiet for a moment and departing from the usual Mass procedure, he serendipitously asked the scholars, “What is your take on Abiding, I mean from what you heard from me now?” (This is perhaps possible in this private Mass for Novitiates) An almost interminable silence followed and then a feeble response from a rather raw looking Novitiate reverberated in the silence. “Father Paul, your ideas about this Abiding business, I acknowledge intellectually. I can even emotionally relate to idea. But I do not see how it can become a part of my practical existence; in the day-to-day run of the mill life of an ordinary member of an ordinary Parish. Will high sounding speeches like this percolate into the hardened, harried folks in the rural environment?” Fr. Paul was serene and pleasant in his reply. “James, you are not a rural guy, you understand the basics; process this information; digest it, make it simple and share the essence with them in a vocabulary they understand” “But how father, will you tell us that too?” Father Paul folded his hands in a ‘Namaste’ fashion and lifted up his folded hands heavenward and simply said; ‘Grace’.
Then he took up the Liturgy. 2 Cor.12: 9 flashed across my mind. “My grace is sufficient for you….” I do believe that whole heartedly. I knelt down thinking ‘How, where, do we miss grace?’
Grace is a ‘given’ in all circumstances.
Grace is there as the earth beneath us.
We miss a foothold on it?
How do we negate Grace?
© ALEX MATHEW