Archbishop's Message

NO HALF MEASURES

The mystery of the Incarnation reveals the great truth of our salvation: God gave himself totally to us by assuming our human nature so that our human nature could be freed from the corruption of sin and participate fully in the divine nature. The total self-giving we witness in the manger of Bethlehem will be completed on the Cross at Calvary when Our Lord would shed the last drop of his blood for our salvation, and uttering the words “it is finished” would surrender his spirit into the hands of his Father.
What marks this great mystery of the Incarnation is the ‘totality’ of love whereby God has loved us, not in half measure but in its fullness –which is indeed infinite. Unless God’s love was total we would never have been saved; but God’s love translated into mercy, kindness, compassion and all that belongs to the Holy Spirit is always total and it cannot but be so.
It is not without reason, therefore, that the Gospel of salvation places accent entirely on ‘totality’ as demanded by Christ himself. There is no salvation in half measures.
Recently on October 10, 2020 a very young boy of 15, Carlo Acutis, was declared ‘blessed’ in Assisi, Italy – the town of St. Francis of Assisi. He was born in England on 03.05.1991 but of Italian descent. He died at Monza in Italy on 12.10 2006 of acute promyelocytic leukemia and was buried in Assisi at his own request because of his love for St. Francis of Assisi. Before his death he had told his mother that he was offering all his sufferings to the Lord for Pope Bendict XVI and for the Church. He was a normal fun-loving boy, very handsome and intellectually gifted. He also had the biggest heart and loved everyone he knew; but most of all he loved Christ, although his parents were not practicing Catholics at all. His mother became one only after Carlo was born and began seeking the sacraments for himself at a very young age. When he was seven he convinced his mother to take him to Mass and the priest declared him ready for his First Holy Communion. After that, he attended Mass every day without ever missing one and went to Confession weekly. At the age of eleven, Carlo received Confirmation, and this is when he began his mission to spread the word about the Eucharist.
One quality of Carlo that no other saint has ever been known to possess in the history of the Church is that he was a computer wizard who used his computer mastery not to become a video game legend but to create a website (http://www.miracolieucaristici.org/en/Liste/list.html) that showcased Eucharistic miracles from all over the world, which he researched himself. Through this website, which was accessible from anywhere in the world, he spread God’s love, and he was able to convert people to the faith in a new and unconventional way.
During the Mass at the opening of his tomb on 01.10.2020, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, the Archbishop of Assisi, spoke about Carlo Acutis and the way he was able to reach out to people from anywhere: “The computer…has become a way of going through the streets of the world, like the first disciples of Jesus, to bring to hearts and homes the announcement of true peace.”
Carlo Acutis was only in his teens when he devoted his life entirely to God. It was astonishing that, at such a young age, he had a clear purpose in life which he fulfilled in one fifth of average life span. His constant faith in God was always clear in his mind and his faith wasn’t once shaken, even on his death bed. His mother recounted some words of Carlo himself: “When we face the sun we get a tan… but when we stand before Jesus in the Eucharist we become saints.”
He is a teen techie saint of the millennial generation of the 21st century, a model for all digital savvy young people who are called to learn from him how to channelize their talents in the service of the Gospel with complete devotion to God; and to all of us, whether young or old, he is a model of faith, love and generosity of heart in the midst of manifold struggles and sufferings.
The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ is exactly this: a 100% ‘yes’ to God with an undivided heart. The call of the first disciples illustrates the integrity demanded of the Christian calling. As soon as Jesus called them to follow him, immediately they left their nets, their boat, their parents, their profession, their livelihood, indeed everything and followed him (cf. Mt. 4: 18-22; Lk. 5: 1-11). Jesus would illustrate it further in many sayings such as: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of heaven” (Lk. 9: 62); “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14: 26-27).
The challenge that the Lord put to the rich young man who came asking for the key to eternal life was to go and sell everything he had and give it to the poor if he wished to be ‘perfect’ and then come and follow the Lord; but the Gospel says he went away sorrowful for he had great possessions and he didn’t want to part with them.
What the Lord is asking from us is not mediocrity but perfection. Total detachment not only from material possessions and human relations but also from our ‘ego’ is the way to perfection. Perfection is to hold the Lord as the ONE and ONLY good above every other good and the ONE pearl of the highest value above which there is no other value. In other words total detachment is the way to eternal life. It is certainly a difficult way but not impossible as the Lord assures the disciples (cf. Mt. 19: 26). The challenge of the Gospel is very clear: “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:33). The accent is on ‘all’.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read how the Holy Spirit led the early Christians to complete selflessness so as to be able to have “all things in common” (Acts 2: 44) and how Ananias and Sapphira were punished for their insincerity (cf. Acts 5: 1-11).
This applies to everything that constitutes the new life in Christ beginning from ‘repentance’ (cf. Mt. 4:17). The original Greek word ‘metanoia’ for repentance refers to a complete change of heart, a round-about turn in life’s direction. The Lord does not brook mediocrity. If repentance is reluctant, selective and half-hearted it cannot be repentance at all. We may be fooling ourselves, but we cannot fool God because he sees the heart. The lost son returned in poverty and misery to the prodigal father (cf. Lk. 15) in utter humility and complete surrender to the mercy of his father; and that total self-emptying of his pride and ego in repentance won him the compassion of his prodigal father in a measure he had never imagined – he wanted to be a servant only but was reinstated in honour as the son. The mercy that flows from the prodigal father is unlimited and ‘total’. This is the image of the Heavenly Father that Jesus always tried to place before the people, both those who followed him and those who opposed him – the image of the Father who loves and forgives without measure. During the ‘Year of Mercy’ (December 8, 2015-November 20, 2016) we reflected on the theme “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk. 6:36) which also translates as “Your therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5: 48). This is the daily Christian spirituality to which the Lord has called us in baptism. The Holy Spirit helps us grow on this path until we reach the fullness of life in eternity.
At the summit of his life the Lord has given us the command of love which sums up the whole Gospel (cf. Jn. 13: 34; Jn. 15:13-14). This is not a good ‘advice’ which we can accept or reject or a beautiful ‘suggestion’ worth trying if we wish to, but a ‘command’ from the Lord which, if broken, will seriously jeopardize our salvation and our witness, because the Lord has clearly stated: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (J. 13: 35). Love is no love at all if it’s half-hearted, lukewarm, and worse still, cold. Coldness of love is one of the signs of the ‘end of the age’ (cf. Mt. 24: 3-14).
When the Lord asks us to forgive, it is not seven times but seventy times seven i.e. always (cf. Mt. 18: 21-22). He states the truth very clearly without mincing words: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Mt. 18:35).
We cannot celebrate the Holy Mass worthily and still hold hatred, resentments, anger, ill-will and enmity in our hearts against our brother or sister. Our celebration will be hypocritical and we will be either making a mockery of the Mass or devaluing what we celebrate. Forgiveness has to be ‘total’ and not in half measures. Hence St. Paul clearly lays down the rule for Christian life: “do not let the sun go down on your anger… Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:26-32).
Our generosity, if it has to be generosity at all, should flow from a complete trust in God, in other words ‘total’. The model for us is the poor widow who, out of her poverty, put in two small copper coins in the offering box as against the rich people who put in large sums out of their abundance. Our Lord says “she put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mk. 12: 41 -44). The evangelical way of life is to be ready, without grumbling and self-pity, to offer the other cheek, to give the cloak as well, to go two miles (cf. Mt. 5: 38-42), to generously and courageously offer all to God for love.
Our Lord abhors ‘lukewarmness’. The Church in Laodicea is strongly reprimanded in the Book of Revelation: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16).
We pray that Our Lord Jesus Christ may not spit us out of his mouth but, on the contrary, we may open the door to him when we hear his knock (cf. Rev. 3: 20-22). He wants to share a meal with us – the most beautiful imagery of intimacy and fellowship. That’s not all – he wants to make us conquerors with him over sin and death like Blessed Carlo Acutis, so that we can be seated with him on his throne just as he sat with the Father on his throne!
This is the meaning of Advent and Christmas – welcoming Jesus into our hearts as we await his Second Coming in power and glory to judge heaven and earth and to establish his kingdom here forever.


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