Tuesday, March 31

‘Costly Grace’

Two years ago, I heard a story of a community of Catholic Sisters who were living in isolation. They spent their days in absolute silence. They never talked to one another. The outside world had little part to play in their life. It so happened that the local Bishop, who was driving by, wanted to visit this monastery. Bishop’s secretary was a young enthusiast in his early twenties and was a priest himself. Both of them were let into the monastery. They went around different rooms and chapels of this large mansion. To the Secretary’s surprise, he found the life of the Sisters very simple. Their rooms stood mostly empty: just an earthen pot with water, a hard cot and with a bare table. Meeting the Mother Superior of the monastery, the Bishop’s Secretary asked, “Tell me Sister, how you can give up all the good and best things in life to choose a world of poverty, simplicity and frugality. It must have been very painful for you”. To his surprise, Mother Superior answered, “That’s where you are totally mistaken. We never gave up any good things in our life for embracing poverty and frugality. Instead, it was like finding a meadow where a great treasure was hidden. We sold off all we had and brought that meadow to search for the hidden treasure.”

My favourite of the Jesus’ parables is that of the man selling everything and purchasing a farm where is hidden a treasure. He buys it to search for that. It always bemused me to think of the Kingdom of God in terms of searching: searching meadows of our life for that hidden treasure. We hear of a ‘Costly Grace’ from Bonheoffer, the famous German Theologian. Searching is one of the many costs involved in the process to the discovery of our roots and faith.


“Lord, let this Lenten Season seed in me the gift of searching...searching for that great treasure which is hidden in the meadows of my life. May I be glad to set apart the best of me for this search and thus find perfect joy in every moment of my life”


Monday, March 30

Signposts on Pilgrim’s Way

With the general elections down the corner, the sights and sounds of the surroundings grab our eyes and ears. Silence is a difficult commodity these days.

Elections are always a number game. Lots of peoples speak of numbers these days. Forming a government in a democracy is purely a number game. It is not the majority that always forms a government but those who shore up maximum numbers. The TV and the print media add fire to this number game: they make people guess the right magic number that will let any party form a government.

Numbers are not a domain of politics or of science alone. Christianity too has lots to do with numbers: 7 Sacraments, 40 days in Lent, 12 gifts of the Holy Spirit, 14 stations of the cross, 7 sayings of the cross, God in 3 Persons, 12 days in Christmas ....and the list goes on. Can I call them ‘religious numbers’ or by any other name? However we call them, these numbers have been significant to both the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

One thing my evangelical friends do ask me is the importance of these traditional religious numbers. Do they serve any purpose for daily living? I tell them that these are just signposts on Pilgrim’s Way. The Church keeps these numbers as just spiritual tags...to keep check of the moving days and months on our way Home.

Our normal life would be poor without calendars... without a sense of passing days. Imagine spending a day in the office without being conscious of the date! In the office, I glance at the wall-calendar more than once every day. A business premises with a display of an outdated calendar is the first sign of a drooping business. A religious life too would be poverty-stricken without numbers.

Religious numbers points to religious calendar. They are spiritual uttering of a pilgrim. Being conscious of the Church Almanac is being conscious of the spiritual seasons of our times. Church Almanac blends contemporary spirituality with living tradition. That is the real beauty of the ‘religious numbers’.

I take to heart all the ‘seasons’ in the Christian Living. The sacramental living is a ‘God with Us’ experience. This is a continual journey : a journey where the traveller does not end his travel before he reaches the destination. In the earthly journey, the traveller travels trough different seasons. For a pilgrim, he travels through the spiritual journey consisting of spiritual seasons. The religious numbers are little steps that I take to climb into these seasons of joy.

Religious numbers are the signposts where I conduct personal audit of my daily living and of my daily dying... and they give in to the rhapsody of a life that is ebbing to eternity.


Thursday, March 26

Arrival at the City…

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 7: 13 to 17
Photo Location : Pookodu Lake, Waynad, Kerala

Wednesday, March 25

Frugality to fraternity

Today’s society calls us to parade the riches. I have seen it and felt the need of it everywhere. The advertisement media too has played a big part in developing this culture in me. Modern life teaches me to seek attention, gain attention and finally, to retain attention. Often this show-off is sustained with consumerism. And, both these habits are perfected in today’s economic vironment.

Years ago, when I got my first ATM card, I knew it only as a key to operate my Savings Bank Account from remote locations. It went on like that for years. Then, late in the evening in a shop, it all changed. Wanting to purchase a woollen blanket, I ran short of money. The salesman asked me if I was having an ATM card and if there was money in my bank account. Surprised, I told him ‘Yes’ to both these questions. That day consumerism planted a little flag in my heart. After all these years of shopping, I have understood one truth: I buy many things simply because I have a means to buy them. Consumerism had understood that truth far before me!! That’s why they have given me access to shopping malls and credit cards.

Practitioners of lent has a different calling. One word that comes to me here is frugality. Simply speaking, frugality is a sparing culture. Frugality is saying ‘No’ to different trivial urges that pop-up in a shopping mall. Frugality calls us to keep economy in the use of recourses. But why be frugal? The interesting objective in frugality is not frugality in itself. Frugality is only a means to something more profound: fraternity. Fraternity is all about brotherhood...the quality of being a brother of another man. Only when we combine frugality with fraternity, will the synergy emerge. One cause of Christian Lent is to develop fraternity through frugality. Simply said, when a Christian home gives-up on the essentials and write a cheque on charity, that is the essence of lent. So, as frugality ends in fraternity, Lent takes a deep meaning... a holy meaning. Beyond the season of Lent, it becomes a habit to the living.

There is another dimension to frugality. Today, I would like to make my frugality ostensible... visible. Christianity teaches the opposite. The visible dynamics of frugality should be fraternity. If frugality is the driving force behind fraternity, then, only fraternity should be visible, not frugality. Those who parade frugality in public are as poverty stricken as those who parade riches.

A song says, ‘Let the world know we a Christians by our love’. It is as simple as that!!


Monday, March 23

the book... notes to myself

It is more positive for me to believe that every day is a page in my life-book. The story never emerges until all the pages of the book are written. The challenge is to take this day as one page at a time and write it with courage. The fact is, I do not know how many pages are left for me to write. The beauty is I have all the authority to write it in my own manner. Some write a short story; others write a tome. What is my writing anyway? If the writing abruptly ends, will it make a good reading? On the other hand, will I leave some pages unwritten here and there? True, I cannot pull off any page in this book; I can only correct the story by writing another page in the manner I look at it anew. True, this book will be open for the world to read...if not now, surely later.

There was an acquaintance of mine who was a loner. A widower, he was taking care of himself. One day, I got a call telling me that he had passed away in a hospital. Having rushed to the hospital, I was given the key to his house. I was to rush to his house and keep things ready to receive the body home. Reaching his house, I was touched seeing the manner in which he had lived: neat and clean,...the house stood in absolute order. ‘What a book I was reading?' I told myself. His garden with in full bloom and everything stood with a smile. I was too afraid of that sacredness... I was too afraid of that quietness. His was a book too sacred to open and read!

Occasionally, seeing my photos, friends ask me what my camera is. (It is an entry level digital). In my heart, I am amused at this question. That’s because, it isn’t a camera that draws any pictures...it is the person behind that camera who ‘clicks’ the picture. I have never heard people ask, ‘What brush he has used to make that painting?’... then why do they ask me what my camera is!!

In the end of it all, can I leave the book soiled? Will it be loose-leafed? Alternatively, should it be clean and bound? After all, is it a paperback or a library edition that I am working at?
Photo location: Pookodu Lake, Waynad, Kerala


'Prayer is the movement of trust, of gratitude, of adoration, or of sorrow, that places us before God, seeing both Him and ourselves in the light of His infinite truth, and moves us to ask Him for the mercy, the spiritual strength, the material help, that we all need'

.....Rev.Thomas Merton

Sunday, March 22

"Thoughts in Solitude"

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Prayer : Rev. Thomas Merton
Photo Location: Pookodu Lake, Waynad, Kerala

Wednesday, March 18


'We are all in the gutter , but some of us are looking at the stars.'
....Oscar Wild
in Lady Windermere's Fan
Photo Location: Clouds over Pookodu Lake, Waynad

Sunday, March 15

...words to the ends of the world.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19: 1 - 4
Photo Location: Western Ghats, Waynad, Kerala

Saturday, March 14

My way home...

“One of the most radical demands for you and me is the discovery of our lives as a series of movements or passages”
Rev. Henri J.M. Nouwen

Photo location: Near Tippu's Lodge at Nadi Hills, Bangalore

Friday, March 13

little prayer...

give us vision
to see a little further...
give us strength
to try a little harder...
give us faith
to reach a little higher,
to become a little better...
and then a little more!

Prayer: Alice Joyce Davidson.
Photo Location: Near Tippu's Lodge at Nandi Hills, Bangalore.


Wednesday, March 11

Searching the quietness

One of the most challenging aspects of city living is to find the quietness I am searching for. I search for quietness and find none. Determined to keep away from noises, I drive distant palaces to keep myself off from a rumbling city. This effort has developed a very special love for quietness and silence in my life.

In quietness I find a direction in my listening to the stillness and silence all around me. “Busyness” is a common word. Nevertheless, I block out my time and place. Thus, I am not available to “busyness”. One simple method is to drop the cell phone at home and drive to the freedom of quietness. (Many cannot do that I know.) Yesterday I did exactly that. Coming home, I found a dozen ‘missed calls’ notifications. Busyness lost...quietness prevailed!

It is sometime since I have been experimenting the spirituality of a city life. It is interesting to note that today’s city life is so full of contradictions. For example, we have city apartments where nothing is really apart! These are just concrete jungles where people are packed. The spirituality of a city life too is a contradiction. I live in it.

Sometime ago, I remember reading the story ‘The Voice of the City’ by O Henry. Today I go back to that same story. Here, the author struggles to find a distinct and unique ‘voice’ for the city. He says that we can only find the ‘voice of agglomerated mankind’.... and he goes on to say that the voice is the ‘composite vocal message of massed humanity’. The author asks, ‘But who can comprehend the meaning of the voice of the city?’ Of course, this brilliant short story goes beyond the search for the voice or its meaning. The story settles down to the romantic overtures of a young man to his woman. In a moon lit night, by a stoop, as the little cloud tilted at the drifted moon, the meaning to the voice of the city emerged.

This Lent, as I search for quietness around me, there is a question that I ask myself, “Can I be quiet?”, Can I be still”.... I cannot ask if the city be quiet! I only wish if I were quiet. When the world around me is so noisy, can I find quietness within me? Is quietness only something high up in the hills or in the mountains? Can I find it all within me?

“Lord, let me find my own quiet hermitage to listen to your voice.
It is difficult Lord as the uproar of the world keeps calling me...
it is difficult as a million noises ring aloud into me...
And Lord, I am afraid to search for the meaning of all those voices...
as my search for the quietness ends... it ends within me.
Produce in me the gift of pious listening...
In the core of those noises,
produce in me the docility to remain where You have planted.
And let me make my heart a hermitage to listen... to listen to your voice

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalms 46:10

Monday, March 9

Prayer of Saint Augustine

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy.



Thursday, March 5

Miniature called life...

In the world of philately, I was surprised to find out that there was a category of collectables called miniature sheets. Having seen one, I have always been a miniature collector.

Looking at a miniature sheet gives us the total picture of the postage stamp. The one who is designing the stamps, design the miniature. Then the stamp is carved out of it. In fact, the artwork of the stamp is a subset of the miniature. In miniature, we find the full picture... the full nature of the artwork. And often, the miniature is much more beautiful than the stamp. Looking at a stamp in its isolation, we can never guess the beautiful miniature from which it has come. In miniature, we can also find all the freedom that the artist has enjoyed. He stretches his imagination to draw or paint the events around the story of the stamp he is designing. In miniature, he uses peripheral events that have shaped the story of the stamp he is designing. I collect a miniature to go beyond the stamp... and to walk a while into its story.

Looking at a day in our life is like looking at a stamp. In isolation, a day may not be meaning full... a day may not be significant... a day may be mundane and boring. But, in a miniature called life, a day indeed bring a lot of colour...a lot of meaning and a lot of joys and sorrows.

I think I must look at life the way I look at a miniature sheet. Life must be looked in totality. Then the beauty emerges. But the trick God has played is that, HE never shows us the full picture of our life before it is led! ... we only knows about it as and when it is acted. After a full act, the meaning emerges...the beauty emerges... the colour and resilience emerges.

God is the master craftsman and our total life is the miniature sheet he is working at. May the work of his hands find beauty in our life and joy in our world.


Sunday, March 1

Tea with love and smile....

Lord...thanks for the joy of tea. You are in my thoughts as I prepare my tea and pray. Wash the tea pot ideally with piping hot water. Thank you Lord for the people who made it... for the soil and the water...for the sun and the rain... for wind and the warmth,... for the days that matured the leaves and for the hands that plucked it. You are the Master of all that and more. Add one teaspoon of tea leaves per cup. You allowed me to wait till the bright sun glowed and the darkness brought the coolness on the hills of this tea garden... Pour freshly boiled water over the leaves and cover with lid. And Lord, as I make this tea, give me the taste and the punch...the colour and the fragrance,...it means so much for us! Allow infusion for 3 to 5 minutes and then pour the tea out through a strainer into china cups. Lord, thanks for the morning of this day. May my cup of tea give me all the liveliness and freshness to go out into the world...and. help me Lord be just as I am... Tea served with love and smile taste best!!