Lent: God’s Call to Repentance and Reconciliation
From the beginning of human history, we come across the reality of sin in human life. In all of us there are inordinate desires. These desires when executed, they result in sins. The fruit of such sinful deeds is a momentary pleasure, but later we are often weighed down by guilt feelings, unhappiness, slavery and division, lack of peace, physical and spiritual illness and moral death. In the Bible the sinful state is diagnosed as an alienation from God. It is a definitive turning away from God. God is the one who enters into relationship with us. Sin is the breaking of that relationship. The word ‘sin’ means “missing the mark”, “abandoning the straight road”, it also means “turn aside or become lost.” It also means “an open rebellion against God, one another and oneself. Thus our sins alienate us from God, one another and ourselves.
This is well depicted in the periscope on the illustration on the creation of the first humans, Adam and Eve. We are told of the initial goodness, harmony and tranquillity in creation; yet there is an attraction towards sin, as an apparent good, despite of God’s providential care. The effect of sin in the first parents is alienation from God who was their creator and father, alienation from one another even though once man had acknowledged his woman as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, now he accuses her of leading him to temptation and sin. There is also an alienation from nature and environment, as it figuratively depicted in the enmity between the woman and the serpent, the pain and the toil. Furthermore, sin exposes them to the new awareness of themselves as naked; and it exposes them their physical self, as it brings shame on them. Consequently, they had to hide from God and one another. They were ashamed of their nakedness that was realised only after committing sin. Yet, God does not abandon them in a state of sin, rather offers them his mercy and love. He covers their shame with his merciful hands. He prepares leather clothes for them. The author clearly indicates to us the reality of sin in human life, its hurting effects; and he also offers hope for God’s mercy.
In the Old Testament, God reveals himself as the merciful Father, who cares for his people, yet, punishes all their offences. In the book of Exodus Moses speaks of God, who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness who loves his people for a thousand generations” (Ex 34:6-7). The psalmist sings the mercies of God: “The Lord is gracious merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps 145). The psalmist exalts the mercies of God in various images. God’s mercy and steadfast love is as great as the heaven. God’s goodness is manifested in concrete actions of forgiveness, of healing, of assistance. The psalmist says, “God who forgives all your iniquity who heals all your diseases. Who redeems your life for the past. Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” (Ps 103:3-4).
The prophets too recount God’s care for his people in the images of father and mother. Isaiah’s conviction is that as a mother comforts her child, even more than this will our God, who is our father will comfort us. “Can a woman forget her nursing child …even these may forget, yet, I will not forget you. As a mother comforts her child so will I comfort you” (Is 49:15; 66:13). Hosea compares God’s care for his people to that of an affectionate parent toward a little child: “When Israel was a child I loved him and out of Egypt I called my sons, taught them to walk, held them in my arms, and healed them with human kindness and with hands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks; I bent down to them and fed them.” (Hos 11:1-8).
In the Gospel of John ‘sin’ is used often in the singular. In John, sin implies lack of faith in God or definitive turning away from God in disbelief. The individual sinful acts result from this basic state of sin, which is lack of faith. God does not take pleasure in the death of the sinner; rather turn from his evil ways and live. Therefore most intimate need in every individual is reconciliation with oneself, with one another and God. The season of lent offers us this opportunity every year, making us aware of the need for repentance and reconciliation, reminding us of the steadfast love of God manifested out through the Christ-event. Therefore in order to experience the fullness of life and the new life that Christ offers in this Easter season we need to renew our faith commitment to God, turning away from our sinful desires and action. Lent is a time to ponder on the mercy and forgiving love of God, extended to us through Jesus, reconciling the whole world in his bosom.
The greatest block to experience God’s merciful love and forgiveness is lack of the sense of sin. In the midst of growing consumerism and materialism, the scientific mind has lost the sense of God, religion and sin. The scientific mind seems to overlook the ethic and morality of human actions, so as to reduce personal culpability. Therefore as a first step to receive pardon from God we need to accept the reality of sin in our life. Likewise, King David was very comfortable after having committed grave sin of adultery Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah. Prophet Nathan confronts him and makes him realise the gravity of his sin. At this the king is sorrowful and repents with the words “I have sinned against the Lord.” Only when he accepts his sinful state and then repents and confesses his sins before the Lord, that Nathan assures him of God’s mercy and announces the forgiveness of God.
Thus the sacrament of reconciliation is a healing remedy. It makes us realise the depth of God’s love, mercy and compassion towards us, despite of our unfaithfulness. In order to experience the healing touch of God, extended to us through his only son Jesus Christ, we should not focus our attention merely on human weakness, sins, failures and guilt. Rather look at the face of the Merciful Father, who waits for the return of his sons and daughters. At our repentance and return to God, he forgives us without counting and enumerating our sins. St. Thomas Aquinas considers ‘mercy’ as being the proper nature of God. In our relationship with God we need to ponder on God’s care and mercy as pointed out by the prophets. Despite the violation of such a relationship due to our sins, God continues to be our father who teaches us to walk holding our hands, lifts us up when we are weighted down by our own guilt. He holds us close to his heart giving us his own breath, the Holy Spirit and feeds with Jesus, the bread of life.
Repentance is a basic requirement on the part of human to receive the new life in Christ. The very first words of Jesus according to Mark are “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk 1:15; cf. also, Mt 4:17). Repentance comes from Greek word METANOIA means a simple change in one’s thinking, change of heart. The change of heart has been the constant call of God from the prophets. “Let each of you leave his perverse ways and be converted from the evil of his works.” (Jer. 25:5). “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mt 4:17). God has reconciled us by sending his son and establishing his kingdom in our midst; but we must be reconciled to God, accepting the kingdom with repentant heart and faith in the Gospel of Christ. The way to the kingdom is metanoia. We must “bring forth fruit that is worthy of repentance” (Mt. 3:8). The abandoning of the wrong road and the resolution of taking of the right road is the demand that is expected of the one who wants to enter the kingdom. Repentance is thus not only a pointer to the kingdom but it already makes one ready to enter into kingdom.” The “being at hand” of the kingdom virtually means “God is near” (Is 59:20). “God is coming. He is standing at the door, indeed he is already there, be reconciled.” (Mic 1:3)
Jesus demands conversion as a basic requirement for entering into the kingdom of God. God’s definitive revelation in his son demands a radical and a complete turn-about, a total and definite turning from evil and a turning to God, an unconditional surrender. This is once for all a decision. This is true reconciliation, the founding of a new personal relation of human to God. The Good News of eternal life in Christ is proclaimed with the promise of the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God, the supreme gift of the messianic age. The parables like lost son, lost sheep and lost coin portray the Messianic joy, when sinners repent and reconcile with God, which is the concrete expression of God’s mercy revealed in Jesus Christ (Lk 15; Mt 21:23; Lk 7:41-43,18:9). The tax collectors and sinners are admitted into the kingdom of God. The spiritually dad are brought back to new life; the estranged ones reconciled, the lost are returning home.
In the call to repentance, conversion to receive the kingdom of God, there is a great urgency: “Time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk 1:15). Furthermore, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 3: 17). In the initial proclamation of Jesus, kingdom and reconciliation are related as cause and effect and vice versa. Not only is it true that the kingdom demands reconciliation but also that the presence of the kingdom works out this reconciliation. The kingdom is the reward promised to the reconciled. It is nothing less than eternal life. It is to share in this life that all are called. The call to reconciliation is given to all people the people of good will. One who accepts this call will enter into the Reign of God to experience the fullness of life in Jesus Christ, our Lord and God.
Rev. Dr. Albert Noronha, OP
(Professor, Dogmatic Theology, St. Charles’ Seminary, Nagpur.)
News From the Diocese
St. Joseph’s School, Golmuri
On the 4th March, 2011, some of the students of St. Joseph’s School, Golmuri, during a special Holy Eucharist, which was celebrated by Rev. Fr. Amatus Kujur, by taking promise joined the Crus Veer movement. Through his homily, Fr. Amatus Kujur exhorted the students to follow Christ more closely and to live a witnessing life. Sr. Silvi had specially prepared the students for this. We congratulate Sr. Silvi and the students.
On the 6th March, Most Rev. Felix Toppo, SJ blessed and dedicated a newly built grotto of Our Lady, at St. Antony’s Church, Mango. A large number of parishioners were present for the function. The celebration began with a concelebrated Holy Eucharist, which was presided over by Most Rev. Felix Toppo, SJ. During his homily Bishop spoke about the place of Mary in the history of salvation and in our daily life. After the Holy Mass, Bishop blessed newly built Grotto. Rev. Fr. Anand thanked the people for the generous contribution and the collective work that they rendered for the dream work. He said that each and every family had contributed for the cause, starting from Rs 21 to Rs 10000/-
For the Missing Girls of India
On the 6th March, 2011, the Mahila Sangh of the Diocese of Jamshedpur has joined thousands of people across the globe to protest against the gender discrimination that is prevalent in India. Most Rev. Felix Toppo, SJ, addressed the gathering and also flagged-Off the walk, which was organized by the Mahila Sangh. After the walk, Ms. Dilith Castleton spoke on the subject. The youth presented a one act play on the subject. Then all the members took a pledge to work against this great evil.
The Global Walk for India’s Missing Girls is an annual peaceful march to protest against the female feticide and infanticide in India and to remember the victims of the “gendercide”. In the last century over 50 million Indian girls have been murdered before or after they were born. 7000 baby girls are eliminated daily by their parents in India. In some regions the male to female ratio is too low, as low as 100:50. And there is an increase in violence against woman due to this gender imbalance. Even in 2011 baby girls are unwanted or considered a burden.
On 13th March under the banner of Loyola Health Centre, Chaira, had conducted a health camp in one of the Villages namely, Mohlisol. A government doctor came for the check up. There were about 70 patients came for the treatment. It was a good venture to promote the health awareness among the village people. The center provided free Medicines to the patients who came for the checkup. The Loyola Health Centre will be conducting another health camp at the Health Centre on 10th April, with the help of Fr. George Manna.
Meeting of BIJHAN Diocesan Priests Council
A meeting of the BIJHAN Diocesan Priests Council was held on 15th March, 2011, at Bishop’s House Golmuri. Representative of almost all the Diocese of BIJHAN Region were present for the meeting. During the meeting the priests discussed on various mattes that pertains to their ministry and life. The priest enjoyed the hospitality and stay at Bishop’s House.
Junior Priests Gathering
On the 21st March, 2011, the junior priests of the diocese came together for a day of recollection and motivation section, at Bishop’s House, Golmuri. Fr. S. Tony, SJ, guided the junior priests in to prayer and then to an evaluation. The participants benefited from the one day programme.
St. Joseph’s Church, Charbandia
Charbandia is booming with life in all aspects. The Pastor, Fr. Raphael and his associates are busy in conducting ‘Ayo-Abba’ seminars (Seminar for Couples) in all the Mandalies, besides the usual area masses. The seminar tour began in the month of February and has not yet concluded. This is in view of the Platinum Jubilee of the Parish. Youth of Charbandia had their Monthly meeting with the Diocesan Youth Director, Fr. Leo D’Souza and the former assistant Parish Priest, Fr. Raju Felix Crasta on 20th of March, 2011. Fr. Leo guided them for a better future. Fr. Leo is organizing a three days youth seminar cum camp in the month of May in Anandpur for the youth of Charbandia and Omra parishes. The arrangements are being made.
On the occasion of the Feast of St. Joseph on 19th of March, a fellowship meal was arranged by the Parish Priest. Priests and nuns from Omra and Anandpur were present. To add the flavour to this, Fr. Camil Hembrom, the dean along with sisters from Chaibasa and CKP too were present. On the following day, the dean along with sisters, Srs. Nirmala DSA and Michael OSU met the Crus Veer children and motivated them for a better cause.
There was an unexpected guest on 20th evening. When all were fast asleep, an elephant broke open the lock of entrance gate and entered the campus. First it smashed the rice goodown, ate the rice, and spilled some bags before it came to see the children who were fast asleep on the ground. But thanks to God, no harm was made. But the children out of fear, while running for a safer place, got injured. Two were rushed to the dispensary and given treatment. Br. Johnson had to call a doctor to attend one boy since he was frightened too much. Due to fear, the children are sleeping in the school verandah in these days.
St. Barbara’s Church, Mosaboni
St. Barbara’s Church celebrated the feast Annunciation on 25th March with great joy. The joy was doubled due to the Silver Jubilee celebration of Sr. Geromina MC. She is the local vocation for the Congregation of Missionaries of Charity. Fr. Casimir Vas helped her to realize her vocation. Rev. Fr. Amatus Kujur, Dean of Jamshedpur deanery was the main celebrant of the concelebrated Holy Eucharist. Frs. Casimir Vas, Raju F Crasta, David Vincent, Vijay Kacchap and Fathers from Chaira were present. In his homily, Fr. Amatus urged the people, specially youth and children to follow the footsteps of Sr. Geromina to become priests and nuns for the kingdom of God. After the Mass, a short felicitation programme was arranged. At the end, meal was served to all.
Parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish, Adra, were enriched by the retreat which Rev. Fr. Bipin Pani preached. The three-day retreat became very useful for the people to understand more deeply about the love of God. This has helped them to prepare in a better way to celebrate the salvific events, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord.
On the 26th & 27th of March, Dominican Fathers guided the Youth and Children of the parish by preaching a retreat. 78 children and 22 youth benefited from this.
St. Mary’s, Omra
Fr. Junas spends most of his time in the village, attending to the spiritual needs of the parishioners since Deacon Bipin Barla is very much present in the parish and school. Acute water scarcity is a worrying factor in Omra. The tube-well which was dug last year has already dried up. Even for a glass of drinking water, they were depending on neighbors. Thanks to Catholic Charity, for helping the parish to dig new deep boring in the campus. With this we can see a sigh of relief, at the face of Fr. Junas. Now he is looking for some one who can help him to get the tools to draw water from the deep boring.
The new Session of the Accademic Year 2011 – 2012 began with lot of colours. 7th March was a day filled with lot of enthusiasm and energy for both students and teachers. The students came in new uniform, with new books, and with new determinations and resolutions. A very meaningful and solemn Prayer Service was conducted. Once again the Loyolians were reminded of the school motto ‘Light Ever Shines’.
The final term Report Cards were given on 25th Feb to the Junior section and on 26th Feb to the Senior section. The Principal himself was present while giving the reports to the Class XI students and spoke to every parent who came along.
A special seminar was arranged by the Principal for the teachers on 10th & 11th March, 2011, between 8am to 3pm. EFFATAH – a group from Delhi, had come for this. The theme and focus was A Life Training Programme for Teaching Staff. Mr Wilson and Mr Joshi conducted the two day workshop, which was filled with activities and full of fun. (Rita Sen)
Jeevan Jyothi, Telco
On the 26th March, 2011, was a great day for the staff and students of Jeevan Jyothi School of Nursing, Telco, as they held the Graduation ceremony for the 20th batch of Students. Mr. P.K. Chobe, the Plant Head, Tata Motors was the Chief Gust and Rev. Fr. Kuruvilla, V.,SJ, the Principal of Loyola College of Education, Telco, was the Guest of Honour. We congratulate the students who have successfully completed the trining.
St. Xavier’s School, Purulia
The new building for the Primary Section of St. Xavier’s School, Purulia, was blessed and inaugurated on the 28th March, 2011, at 8.00 a.m., by Most Rev. Felix Toppo, SJ. Mr. Jayant S.T.S. Purulia too was present for the function. In his message Bishop spoke about the four pillars of Education, and Mr. Jayant spoke about the need of swimming against the current, by receiving good values that are given through education, to become responsible and good citizens. We congratulate Rev. Fr. Augustine Topno, the Principal of the School and Fr. John Ottaplakal, the Parish Priest and Secretary of the School, for this great achievement.
New Telephone Numbers:
Vianney Niwas: 0657-2318130
CMC Sisters, Jinkpani: 9572829569
Loyola English School, Kumardhubi, (Fax): 06540-273724
Mr. Raphael Jojo, elder brother of Rev. Fr. Michael Jojo, Parish Priest of Bl. Mother Teresa Parish, Siadih, has passed away on 19th March, 2011. We express our heartfelt condolences to Rev. Fr. Michael Jojo and to the bereaved family members.
Leaving for Bhubaneswar
Installation of Archbishop John Barwa
Return to JSR
Clergy Meeting / Chrism Mass
Meeting with SDB Provincial and Team
The Lord’s Supper: Evening Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral
Solemn Liturgy of Our Lord’s Passion and Death at St. Anthony’s Church
Easter Vigil Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral
Priestly Ordination: Deacon Sonu Hansda
Priestly Ordination: Deacon Bipin K. Barla
Blessing of the New Floor of St. Xavier’s English School