Archbishop's Message

My dear brothers & sisters,


Fr Marcelino Iragui OCD was an exponent par excellence of the charismatic renewal movement in India in the 1980’s. In his little but very profound book Here Comes Jesus (Mumbai: Charismatic Renewal Services, 1987) he has a chapter “God Loves You” which begins with a story: “I had been called to pray over a sick baby. As I began praying I felt a bit confused, wondering whether I should ask Jesus to heal him or her. My problem was solved when a friend of mine laid hands over the baby and prayed: ‘Thank you, Lord, for this bundle of love’. “
It is does not matter whether it’s a girl or a boy; every person comes into this world as a ‘bundle of love’. We are brought into existence by an act of divine love, with a perfect plan and purpose, but often this gift of God is pressed down by fear, anxiety, mistrust and tensions very soon! This is then followed by anger, resentment, hate, jealousy, guilt and despair until it is difficult to identify the original contents of the bundle. This is the story of humankind from the beginning of creation. Once Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and let go into the hands of the Evil One sin began to rule their lives and it spread to the whole human race. Cain kills Abel his brother out of hatred born of jealousy and it has not ended there … But Christ Our Lord has defeated the Evil One and the power of sin and given us the right to become the “children of God” (Jn. 1: 12; 1Jn. 3:1-3). As children of God we know that “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn. 4: 16). “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1Jn. 3:15) but to love is to pass from death to life (cf. 1 Jn. 3: 14). This is the truth Christ has opened for us because he has lived it first.
All through the Christmas season we have reflected on the mystery of God’s infinite love for humanity both individually and collectively: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God... In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jn. 4: 7-12). All the more on the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord we have heard the words whereby Jesus is ‘affirmed’ as the ‘beloved one’ in whom the Father is ‘well pleased’. His consciousness of his eternal divine ‘belovedness’ enabled Jesus to walk the path of self-emptying love and win for us the treasures of eternal life. Expressions such as “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10: 30); “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn. 14:11) clearly point to the infinite Trinitarian love of the Father, Son and Spirit that human sin in the form of bitter opposition to Jesus could never overcome. The sufferings and pain inflicted on him were unimaginable but God’s incarnate love was greater and it conquered sin. Hatred can never defeat love.
We are born a ‘bundle of love’ but often the environment in which we have grown up causes us ‘wounds’ and pain that do not allow us to be wholesome personalities who bring about love in this world. Wounded ourselves we wound others; unaffirmed ourselves we cannot affirm others; unloved and unaccepted ourselves we cannot love and accept others; not being forgiven we cannot forgive others. We want to dominate, control, exercise power, put down others because we think that is the way we can ‘affirm’ ourselves and boost up our poor self-esteem. We allow ourselves to be ruled by selfishness, hatred, resentment, anger, hurt feelings, jealousy that more often than not lead to breakdown in communication and rupture of relationships. These are clear signs of inner wounds that need to be healed. Here Our Lord Jesus Christ comes to our rescue to save us from this miserable situation when he tells us , ‘you are beloved of God’; ‘you are a child of God’; ‘God loves you with an infinite love; ‘ your self-image does not depend on extrinsic causes but on the love of God for you for he has created you in his own image and likeness’; because God loves you, you can accept yourself as you are and treat and accept others as they are’. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives – to console us, affirm us, comfort us, renew us and heal us. When we pray in silence to the Holy Spirit centering our hearts on God’s love that surpasses all understanding the peace of God descends on our souls in torrents and we become people who can love others selflessly without attention on ourselves and on our ‘ego’, as Christ has taught us. Our Lord invites us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11: 28).
Fr. Marcelino Iragui narrates another incident in that chapter: “While preaching a retreat I shared this incident about the bundle of love. The next day one of the retreatants testified: “I used to be very unhappy and embarrassed with myself because of my obesity. Last night, as I was sitting in the chapel, this prayer came spontaneously from my heart: ‘Thank you, Lord, for making me a bundle of love. And look at the size of it’. And I thought I could hear Our Lord chuckling along with me. I never felt so good in all my life.”
When we look deep into every human person we see the amazing beauty of God despite all the brokenness of the human situation, because God has made us in his own image and likeness. When broken by other human beings we go into despair and bitterness; but when we are broken by the Holy Spirit we become better, are renewed and filled with new hope.
Robert J. Wicks, the author of Seeds of Sensitivity (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1995) begins the introduction to his book with a story:
Once upon a time there was a country ruled by a king. The country was invaded and the king was killed but his children were rescued by servants and hidden away. The smallest, an infant daughter, was reared by a peasant family. They didn’t know she was the king’s daughter. She had become the peasant’s daughter and she dug potatoes and lived in poverty.
One day an old woman came out of the forest and approached the young woman who was digging potatoes. The old woman asked her: ‘Do you know who you are?’ And the young woman said, ‘Yes, I’m the farmer’s daughter and a potato digger.‘ The old woman said, ‘No, no, you are the daughter of the king.’ And the potato digger said, ‘I’m the daughter of the king?’ ‘Yes, that’s who you are!’ And the old woman disappeared back into the forest.
After the old woman left, the young woman still dug potatoes but she dug them differently. It was the way she held her shoulders and it was the light in her eyes because she knew who she was. She knew she was the daughter of the king.
Christ came into this world precisely to tell every human person that he/she is a child of God; therefore he taught us to call God ‘Abba’ (Father) – the prayer that is so dear to everyone. This is also the mission of the Church – to affirm the dignity of every human person as created in the image and likeness of God himself, and this dignity transcends all man-made distinctions of colour, caste, class, culture, language, ethnicity, creed and gender. These distinctions are often used to de-humanize people by considering them ‘inferior’ and of a lower grade than others who are ‘superior’ and of a higher grade in society. The vision Christ has imparted to us leads us to ask this question always: ‘Do you know who you are?’ Consequently each one has to ask oneself: ‘Do I know who I am?’ Christ has clearly stated that in the eyes of God no such distinctions exist, on the contrary “the last will be first, and the first last” (Mt. 20:16). In other words those who are despised and looked down upon will be the first to enter the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt. 21:31). The Church always stands for this justice, righteousness and freedom of the Kingdom of God based on the dignity of the human person.
Ultimately the Gospel calls for genuine self-appreciation, healthy self-esteem, true self-love contained in the great commandment “You shall love the Lord with all your heart …You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt. 22:37). Without a healthy self-love and consciousness of our self-worth we cannot love God and our neighbour. Self-hatred leads to all kinds of unhealthy behaviour but true self-love in the recognition of one’s belovedness before God as a child of God engenders mature, loving and truly human relationships as Christ has taught us in his Gospel. We then live our essential human nature as ‘bundle of love’ that each human person is called to be.
After the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord on February 2 where the Cross looms large, the month glitters with the commemoration of so many saints and martyrs among whom are Indian SS. John de Britto (Feb 5) and Gonsalo Garcia (Feb 7). All these stalwarts of God would not have attained the eternal crown if they had not realized first and foremost that they were ‘children of God’. From that realization came their courage to witness to Christ even to the shedding of their blood. They were least bothered about their own safety and security.
Very soon, on February 26, we will enter the Season of Lent. This sacred time will afford us many opportunities to reflect on the word of God and be healed through repentance that opens the door to new life.

Yours sincerely in the Lord,
+ Anil J. T. Couto
  Archbishop of Delhi