Thought for the day
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
- Matthew 7:7-8
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 40 “BURIAL OF JESUS: UNCLAIMED BODIES”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev.Sudhakar Joshua P, Presbyter, CSI Karnataka Central Diocese gives a meditation “BURIAL OF JESUS: UNCLAIMED BODIES”
Lenten Meditations- Day 40 (for 20th April 2019)
“BURIAL OF JESUS: UNCLAIMED BODIES”
Selected Text: Isaiah 53 | Hebrews 13:12-15 | St. John 19:38-42
As long as a person lives s/he is called by name. Once a person ceases to breathe, the name is dropped and people start talking about the burial/funeral of the “body.” Though the usage of the term is quite inevitable while talking about the performance of the final rites, what is quite conspicuous is the dropping of the proper noun or the ‘name’ of the person while doing so. Closely reading the “burial” episode of Jesus in all the four gospels, it is seen that Joseph of Arimathea asked for the ‘body of Jesus.’ The usage of the term “body” is inevitable, indicating clearly that Jesus was ‘dead.’ Some commentaries find this act of the burial of Jesus bearing a connection to Isaiah 53:9. The one who brought salvation by way of his death himself needed a place to be buried.
Yes! Jesus was dead. What remained was just bones and flesh, with hardly any blood within. His spirit was yielded.
We will try to talk about the ‘unclaimed’ or abandoned ‘bodies’ of human beings who end up being ‘not fortunate enough’ even to have the mortal remains cremated as is wont to be. This will be done in the light of the burial of Jesus, who was ‘left to die’ by the government authorities, family members, disciples, followers, temple authorities, and a huge fan of followers from Galilee to Judah, and beyond the then Jewish borders of geography. An attempt is being made to draw parallels between what happened to the ‘body’ of Jesus after his death and the vast number of unclaimed bodies.
The popular dailies and several news channels in India had reported a shocking incident on the 11th of January 2019, where a cop serving the Police department in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, a state in north India, allegedly burnt the unclaimed ‘body’ of an elderly person (after it was found in Sisana village), with tyres and plastic waste. This ghastly incident supposedly took place in a situation where, provisions are made available for unclaimed bodies to be given a decent and honourable cremation/ funeral. Out of the Rs.2700 allotted for carrying out the cremation, normally Rs.400 is for transporting the ‘body’ while Rs.300 is spent for the cloth/shroud. In this case the accused cop allegedly decided to burn the ‘body’ and pocket the allotted funds, much to the shame of the department and humanity itself. Videos of the ‘burning’ incident went viral over several media. This is not the only stray case of sheer apathy when it comes to ‘unclaimed bodies.’
However, there are also several other stories too, depicting the ‘other’ side of humanity where one gets to see dramatic responses from some individuals, who, in spite of taking painstaking efforts to provide a memorable burial to ‘unclaimed bodies’ go unrecognized.
Nayna Devekar, again a 37 year old ‘cop’ serving the Government Railway Police (GRP) took time to go through the list of deceased persons at Railway stations and took custody of the unclaimed bodies to perform their last rites. As reported in local media in the state of Maharashtra in the year 2015, Devekar had been performing the acts for three years from 2012. Devekar went a step ahead in trying to find the religious faith of the deceased persons who died on Railway tracks and then ensured that the rites were performed accordingly.
In a historic Roman letter written by one Brutus Mentallus, Director of the Roman Bureau of Information, in the early centuries, to Senator Stentorius Maximus, the writer penned a few lines this way- “…he (Jesus) threatened Rome. We saw him clearly as treasonable to Caesar and arranged for his arrest, and crucified him. It was best for us that he die. It had to end this way.”For Rome, Jesus was a rebel. He was no different from the other numerous ‘accused,’ sentenced to death on the cross. His ‘body’ and ‘burial’ didn’t mean much to them. While one wonders why the members of the family of Jesus didn’t find a mention in the burial episode, the plight of the other two hanging beside Jesus after their legs were broken is not recorded in the Bible. One could assume that a good Roman official like today’s merciful cop Nayna Devekar ‘claimed’ their ‘bodies’ and performed the last rites.
The Bible records the burial episodes of the Patriarchs Abraham (Gen.25), Isaac (Gen.35), Jacob (Gen.50), and that of Joseph (Gen.50 & Joshua.24), Joshua (Joshua.24) & Stephen (Acts.8). In all of these, the family/descendants/ devout humans took charge of performing the ‘burial’ of the deceased according to tradition, or wishes of the deceased. In stark contrast, the burial of Jesus is taken care of by two individuals, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both, holding a non-consanguineous bond with Jesus.The act of these two officials could be termed ‘courage-filled,’ given the situation where Jesus was just considered another ‘rebel’ and not a ‘saintly’ figure of the times. Moreover, Nicodemus, who met Jesus by night (John.3), was now out in the open to declare his regard and respect for the ‘rebel’ Jesus. He was carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes. A remarkable turn-around!
The author of the book of Hebrews appeals in the 13th chapter to ‘show hospitality to strangers.’ Joseph & Nicodemus had shown hospitality to the ‘stranger’ Jesus. Furthermore the same chapter also mentions the ‘sanctity’ brought about by the ‘suffering’ of the rebel-stranger Jesus.
Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, Nayna Devekar, and many more unsung champions have risen to the situation, acting both courageously and without expectations. This, because they were driven by their imperturbable conviction. Jesus is the grain of wheat that fell on Golgotha and died. But for his death, the lives of humans would have remained ‘unclaimed,’ and left to the mercy of the elements.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood, from Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, save me from its guilt and power
Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked come to Thee for dress, Helpless, look to Thee for grace:
Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me Saviour, or I die.
Enter the veil & go without the camp, Taste heaven’s sweetness, thus the earth forsake;
If by the Holiest I am satisfied, How can I of earth’s vanities partake?
Enter the veil & go without the camp, By heaven’s presence will the earth depart;
If heaven’s glory doth my spirit charm, How can earth’s happiness possess my heart?
Enter the veil till it exists no more, Go out the camp till all the camps are gone;
Until the heavens and the earth unite, Till God and man together dwell in one.
O Almighty God, you sent your Son, Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice on the altar where mere animals or their blood would not suffice to steer clear of the cloud of sin caused by human error. The blood of Jesus cleansed us and prepared us for a new life. Having accepted the power of the blood of your Son, Jesus, let us strive to also suffer for the cause of fellow humans, both known and unknown, and struggle without murmuring during the course of our earthly journey. Give us courage to display love upon fellow human beings to their point of death and beyond. In the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Rev. Sudhakar Joshua P
CSI Karnataka Central Diocese
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 39 Good Friday Message “THE CROSS: A NEW VISION OF GOD, FOR LIFE IN ALL ITS FULNESS”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. Dr. D. Rathnakara Sadananda, General Secretary, CSI Synod gives a meditation “THE CROSS: A NEW VISION OF GOD, FOR LIFE IN ALL ITS FULNESS”
Lenten Meditations- Day 39 Good Friday Message (for 19th April 2019)
“THE CROSS: A NEW VISION OF GOD, FOR LIFE IN ALL ITS FULNESS”
Selected Text: 1 Cor. 1:18,23
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians … but we proclaim Christ crucified.” (1 Cor. 1:18,23)
The Cross is the ultimate and unique symbol of our faith. We are the people under the shadow of the Cross. We are the ones chosen to tread the path of the Cross. Taking up the Cross and following the crucified is discipleship. But the Cross has become, or rather we have converted the cross into an ornament. The meaning and significance of the Cross are getting diluted in our teaching and life. At times we think and interpret that the pain, suffering and the problems we face are, in fact, the Cross. Maybe true, sometimes. However, we need to note that the problems we face, the pain and suffering that we often invite upon ourselves because of our own wrong doing, is not the Cross. Instead we encounter the Cross when we walk the Lord’s way, the path of education, empowerment, resistance, reconciliation, healing, justice and peace. The Cross is the goal of our life. As we are given grace to once again enter the Lenten season, we are invited to look intently on the Cross and the Crucified One and to understand the meaning, significance and relevance of the Cross in our daily life.
Cross is the vision of life in all its fulness
Paul informs us that some consider the message of the Cross as foolishness, weakness, shame and a scandalous, stumbling block, but for those who believe in Jesus, the Cross is God’s wisdom, God’s power and strength. It is the revelation of God’s glory and continues to be the hope of salvation. Therefore, as we proclaim the Christ crucified, we are invited to be part of a new vision for life.
The Cross teaches us the innate and intrinsic value of relationships. The Cross questions and critiques our relations with God, with all God’s people and with God’s world. Jesus’ words from the Cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) call us to re-think, re-define and re-claim our relationships. The Cross expresses an unquenchable thrust toward bridging, re-molding and building relationships. It calls us to enter into deeper, meaningful and strong relationships that may re-create the creational harmony. It is not a simple call to right relationship with nice, good people and the environment; the Cross calls us to build bridges of reconciliation and enter into right relationships with the world that is revolts against, rejects and denies all relations. The Cross is a challenge to build bridges with those who turn faces away, those who hate to the core and conspire to exclude, eliminate and destroy, those who spit and mock, those who renounce, damn and reprove. The Cross is a call and challenge to re-interpret, re-invent, re-live life-affirming relationships amid violent death forces that threaten to destroy and kill.
The Cross challenges us to be faithful and diligent in all the responsibilities entrusted to us: “Woman, here is your son.” “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27). The Cross does not allow us to run away from our responsibilities, it is not a path of escapism. The burden of family responsibility weighed heavily upon him. People always teased him that he was a hermit with no sense of family responsibility. They even ridiculed him saying that he had lost his mind. And when he joined the tax collectors and those they considered sinners, he was called a glutton. Allegations and accusations were heaped on him; he was branded and became a victim of profiling. Yet, the Cross is a call to take the accusations and allegations head-on instead of finding an escape route and running away. The Cross calls us to take family relationships and responsibilities seriously, and to discharge our duties towards family with faithful diligence. Many a time varied problems and difficulties, pain and sufferings become an excuse to shrug off or to get away from and to neglect our responsibilities. The Cross is a call to be faithfully committed and diligently covenanted to our family responsibilities even amid life’s bitter challenges that threaten to sap our energy and hope.
The Cross educates and empowers us to understand life’s goal. “It is finished (John 19:30). Father, I commend my Spirit into your hands” (Lk. 23:46). Jesus expresses his eagerness to reach his life’s goal. “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us” (2 Tim 1:14). Jesus moved to fulfil and complete the mission entrusted to him. The Cross did not deter him from bringing to fullness the redemption of the whole world. He had to go through a terrible struggle to the extent of praying with all earnestness and asking “My Father if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want”. And he had the humble submission in sincerely bringing his struggle before his Father. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. If this cannot pass, unless I drink it, your will be done (Matt 26:39-42).
The Cross is a call to move towards life’s goal with single-minded determination and fullest commitment and dedication. It is a call to take each step steadily towards the goal. Because Jesus walked steadfastly towards the goal, he had to face the Cross. Whoever lives out the faith commitment and covenantal obligations without a compromise and moves with single-minded dedication will have to face the Cross. It was not easy; there were people who mocked at him, accused him, and deserted him and fled. There were also people who wept for him. Yet there were people who stood in silence and unmoved as spectators. Moving towards the goal of life amid all these people and circumstances is difficult; yet amid such defeating circumstances, the Cross calls us to understand, interpret, express, and fulfil life’s goal.
During times when the institution of marriage is being challenged; when relationships in multi-cultural and multi-religious neighbourhoods and communities suffer as faith related sentiments polarise, exploiting lack of genuine trust and commitment; when the relationships to the environ becomes crucial for the very survival of the planet; when emerging cultural values tempt people to become individualistic and conveniently forget the responsibility towards the common good and commitment for sharing and celebrating life together, the Cross beckons us for a critical re-think of values and goals.
In teaching and empowering people to live out intrinsically-woven relationships, in educating and equipping people to discharge responsibilities diligently with committed faithfulness and in enabling and inspiring people to walk steadfastly towards the goal of life, the Cross gives a new vision of life in all its fullness.
Cross is the vision of God
The Cross is often a sign of forsakenness, abandonment, wretchedness, exclusion and elimination. Often, we, in our hopelessness, amid suffering, pain, sorrow and doubt, question: Has God forsaken us? If God were there, how could this happen? Even Jesus cried on the cross, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46). On the Cross, God forsakenness was a real experience for Jesus. When the dark clouds of terrible abandonment cover and encircle, the Cross is considered foolish and scandalous by many. But exactly at that point, the Cross becomes the altar of God’s vision, the sacred moment of the revelation of God’s wisdom, power and strength. We need to listen intently to the prayers of Jesus on the Cross - Father, my God, my God - all proclaim the surety of the real presence of God. God is with us each and every moment. Especially when we pass through the valley of darkness, pain, sorrow, suffering and distress, God walks with us very closely, as a faithful companion. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed that though we know the ideal, we cannot reach it, though we know the right, we cannot do it, though we do recognise our duty, we cannot perform it, though we know the truth, we cannot reach it, though we know the path, we cannot walk through it, though help is at hand we cannot recognise it, though God accompanies us, we cannot see and comprehend.
In the narrative of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac, in obedience to the word of the Lord, a perplexed father is confronted by the question, “Father! The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). When Abraham built an altar and laid the wood in order, he bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. When he was ready to give his son in sacrifice, he experienced Jehovah Jireh - the Lord will provide. When he gave, he did see and find. He not only understood the secret of being provided for, but that those who hold on to life, will lose it, those who lose it will find it. The Cross is the place and the space wherein we are given grace to behold God’s wisdom, power and authority, the self-revelation of God in that which is despised, stricken, afflicted, oppressed and slaughtered.
The victims of the empire, trafficked and exploited women and children who cannot even cry and narrate, bonded laborers who do not dare to dream, the victims of abuse and violence who, in their silence speak volumes, the migrants and the refugees who are told that they are no people, the victims of war and terror who are terrified and maimed, the abandoned elderly who have lost all perspective in life, all in their own way help us to experience the abandonment and dereliction of Jesus on the Cross and God’s abiding presence and accompaniment even in distress and absolute pain. We hear simultaneously God’s liberating command: “Let my people go!” as well as his agony: “Where will my people go?”
The Cross assures us that though we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh (II Cor 4:8-12). In the Cross, we have the experience of the embrace of God’s love, we are inspired by the soft, comforting and consoling touch of God. In the Cross, we are safe in the palm of God’s hands, and we discover a new space of liberation and freedom.
Indeed, being afflicted, persecuted and slaughtered is a terrible, fearful experience. The plant world teaches us that exactly where the plant is cut and pruned, a new sprout emerges, and we see new life. Even in medical science, sometimes healing processes demand or require cutting open or an operation to initiate a healing processes, to sustain and affirm life. When we are crushed, trampled, violated, brutalized, we lose ourselves and experience abandonment. But in our distress and elimination, God stands by us. In our affliction we see and behold God, who will make us sprout again with fuller life.
As we journey with the crucified One during this Lenten season, may God give us the grace to envision life anew with a new creative imagination of relationships, covenantal faithfulness and commitment in every responsibility, and in steadfast pilgrimage towards life’s goal. May God in His loving kindness enable us to behold God’s face, wisdom, power, and strength even in our foolishness and weakness, in our own forsaken experience, and in every crucified people and community.
Rev. Dr. D. Rathnakara Sadananda
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 38 “WITNESS OF THE CENTURION: WITNESS OF THE WORLD”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. Dr. D. Sam Christopher, Presbyter, CSI Kanyakumari Diocese gives a meditation “WITNESS OF THE CENTURION: WITNESS OF THE WORLD”
Lenten Meditations- Day 38 (for 18th April 2019)
“WITNESS OF THE CENTURION: WITNESS OF THE WORLD”
Selected Texts: 15:39-40 | 2 Sam. 7:4-16 | 2 Cor. 6:3-10
My Sweet Lord is the title given to the chocolate sculpture carved by Cosimo Cavallaro in 2007. It is in the form of either a chocolate relief or a sculpture and used as sweets in exhibition and shops. It is produced for reputation and commercial purposes.
In the crucifixion scenario, the centurion who was watching the death of Jesus declared Jesus as, “Truly this man was God’s Son.” (Mk 15:39). This declaration at the foot of the cross is not for reputation or for any commodity. It was the time of tribulation for the followers of Jesus. At the same time, it was the victory of the opponents of Jesus and the Roman government that their menace is ended. In order to comprehend the message of the centurion’s declaration, we need to contemplate, how does a man who labour under the Roman government express his view against the Emperor? And, what was his perception about both Jesus and the Emperor?
It is the witness of the centurion, which he had drawn as a conclusion from his observation of the happenings of the cross: the prayers of the crucified Jesus, his attitudes towards his enemies, his conversation with the criminal, and the manner of his brave death. The centurion had seen many deaths on the cross. But the difference in Jesus’ death against others’ is the sufferings of Jesus among the mockeries, and the kind of life giving words amidst his pain. The crucified Jesus was mocked and titled as the King of the Jews. These observations have caused the centurion to think over in a different way. He could see godliness in the sufferings of the dying Jesus.
The centurion’s words of witness, “God’s Son” was used to refer to the Emperor in those days. It has a political nuance in using the same title of the Emperor to Jesus. It juxtaposes the crucified Jesus and the Roman Emperor. But, it raises an issue; can a servant under the Emperor do like this? However, his perception at the cross by seeing a powerless, mocked King, even at the time of his death proved himself as a King rather than the powerful Emperor who rules by the sword.
Besides, in 2 Sam. 7:14 and Ps. 2:5, “God’s Son” is a title adopted by a Davidic King. At the very outset of the Gospel, Mark uses this title to Jesus as a messianic one (Mk. 1:1). The evangelist, Luke also points out Jesus from the beginning of his Gospel as the Son of God. In Lk. 1: 32-35, Jesus is declared as the Messiah, the Son of God and David’s royal descendent. In line with these, we may be able to think that the centurion witnesses Jesus as the Messiah, God’s Son by watching his violent death on the Cross.
In the parallel text, the evangelist Luke, in 23:47 records the centurion’s declaration as, “Certainly this man was innocent.” It gives more significance to the messianic work of Jesus. The Greek term, dikaios, used here gives not only the meaning of “just” and “righteous”, but also the meaning of “the one who does the will of God.” Centurion’s witness indicates that Jesus as the one who accomplished the salvation work according to the will of God through his suffering and sacrifice. It is the true witness of a man of other faiths and a man under Roman power. In other words, the centurion perceived the risking Jesus on behalf of others and witnessed him as “God’s Son,” the Messiah.
Today, the Church as the embodiment of the Crucified Jesus and as Christians, while we continue the salvific work of Jesus Christ, do we risk ourselves in accomplishing the will of God? As we live among the multi-faith people, how we the Christians and the Church are perceived by others? How exemplary is our life amidst the people of other faiths? As the happenings of the Cross evoked the centurion to witness the crucified Jesus as “God’s Son,” let our sufferings for the sake of others evoke the world to witness Christ and the Church. Mt. 27:54 says that they were terrified and said that truly he is God’s Son. The voice of the Church for the voiceless and the prayer of the Church for the liberation of the bonded people should terrify the rulers as well the officers under them. It must be the witness of the Church in the world. Let the Church as the body of Christ risks for the sake of others. Each and every work of the Church and a Christian should affirm who Jesus is; and follow what He did.
Paul gives his own experience as the paradigm for the witnessing church in 2 Cor. 4:10, “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” And also in chapter 6:4-10, “but as the servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand for the left; in honour and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown and yet are well known; as dying, and see- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
So, the Church must always think that there is a world around us to look upon us like the centurion. The witness of the centurion is a pointer to lead us for a better Christian life in this world.
From the cross uplifted high
Where the Saviour deigns to die
What melodious sounds we hear
Bursting on the ravishe’d ear!
Love’s redeeming work is done
Come and welcome sinner come
Loving God, help us to understand you in your sufferings and show you to the world by our sufferings for others. Amen.
Rev. Dr. D. Sam Christopher
CSI Kanyakumari Diocese
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 37 “HAPPENINGS AT JESUS’ DEATH”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. Vinolin Caleb, Presbyter, CSI Madurai Ramnad Diocese gives a meditation “HAPPENINGS AT JESUS’ DEATH”
Lenten Meditations- Day 37 (for 17th April 2019)
“HAPPENINGS AT JESUS’ DEATH”
Selected Texts: Matthew 27: 51-53 | Leviticus 16:3-13 | Hebrews 10:19-22
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split
When Jesus died with a loud voice, the veil of the temple which separates the holy of holies from holy place was torn from top to bottom. The Jewish temple was divided into three parts. First one is the outer court where all can come; the second one is holy place where the alter was set up and the daily routine like prayer was done by the priests, the third one is the Holy of Holies, where only the high priest can have an access once in a year. (Refer Exodus 26:33, Leviticus 16)
Gill’s exposition on the bible evidences;"R. Simeon ben Gamaliel said, on account of R. Simeon, the son of the Sagan, the thickness of the veil is an hand's breadth, and it is woven of seventy two threads, and every thread has twenty four threads in it: it is forty cubits long, and twenty broad, and is made of eighty two myriads; (which is either the number of the threads in it, or the sum of the golden pence it cost. Some copies read, is made by eighty two virgins (x);) two are made every year; and three hundred priests wash it”. The veil was torn at the time of death of Jesus and it is recorded in the synoptic gospels. The gospel writers emphasized on this fact to convey the significance of not only the veil but veil in comparison with the Jesus’ death and the impact of Jesus’ death. The temple played an important role in the Jewish people’s life. They believed that, God’s presence existed always and that God is a holy and the only God. No one can reach God easily. The veil separated God from ordinary people. Only for the religious traditional practices the high priest could enter into the holy of holies, only once in a year, otherwise the place was left silent. In my opinion, the so called place of God is left silent, so God has to be alone, but at the event of Jesus’ death, the veil tore; the tearing of the Rent veil is to be pondered upon at this time of lent, to understand the deeper significance of the experience in the temple.
The torn rent veil assured the imminence of God in our living space
Here we have to remember God Immanuel; now God is with people, no veil and nothing can separate God from people and people from God. This was witnessed in the death of Jesus. This is the happiness that we see in the martyrdom of Jesus. God is everywhere, which has become the universal truth after the death of Jesus. All people can feel the presence of God at all places; neither the holy of the holy nor the priest can stop people from feeling the presence of God. The omnipresence of God eliminates the possibility of preferential option of the rich and the might in the temple; ordinary people needing the help of the authoritarian priests and high priests to reach God came to an end. So the priests are considering themselves as special.
The torn rent Veil challenges religiosity
The temple was a place that sustained unnecessary religious sentiments and several ritual practices. In Jesus’ words the then existing temple had become the ‘den of robbers’. In the Jewish religion, the temple and its rituals burdened the simple people and had kept away people from relating with God, the rituals sanctioned these ideas, but the death of Jesus announces a slogan ‘no more ritual to reach God’, because God is the creator of all beings. For centuries the Indian churches are struggling with caste system, we the Christians are dreaming of life in heaven or paradise, We the Christians are saying to others we are the only ones who are saved by God, undermining the value of the torn rent veil, we are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus with tearing the veils of caste. Now there are too many veils in the name of class, gender and so on, how can we celebrate the death of Jesus which tore the veil? This is the real challenge. How are we going to tear the veil?
Rent veil assured the imminence of God with people, Rent Veil assured the presence of God everywhere; Rent Veil disqualified the category of Special People, and the rent Veil is the symbol of eliminating the unnecessary religious customs. The Death of Jesus has fulfilled its task and gave happiness to us. Are we ready to accept?
Let’s pray to God to empower us to face this challenge and fulfill God’s vision and Mission.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Our loving God, we thank you so much for the relationship you have with us. Help us never to categorize ourselves as special. Though we are your children, we are divided among ourselves. We know this is sin against you. Empower us to overcome this veil from our day today life. Empower us through the death of Jesus, your son and our Lord. We ask in His name. Amen
Rev. Vinolin Caleb
CSI Madurai Ramnad Diocese
Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 36 “SEVENTH WORD ON THE CROSS: FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT ”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. C. George Vinod, Presbyter, CSI Karnataka Southern Diocese gives a meditation “SEVENTH WORD ON THE CROSS: FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT”
Lenten Meditations- Day 36 (for 16th April 2019)
“SEVENTH WORD ON THE CROSS: FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT”
Selected Text : Luke 23: 46
Human life is always a grateful event towards God for it is the gift of God. Since both life and death are inevitably rooted in God, life finds its meaning and fulfilment in God himself. Therefore, one should understand that the purpose of life is to fulfill God’s will and to our desires. It is our calling to be more conscious about the meaning and purpose of our life in the light of God’s plans for our life and be committed to live worthy of our calling. Jesus Christ, our Lord had exhibited a radical commitment towards God when he denied himself to take human form and offered himself to bear the cross and shame for our redemption. While all the words of dying persons are full of interest, there is special importance attached to the last of them. This being the Last Word of Jesus on the cross it claims particular attention, and offers a message to emulate.
God is the source of life
The final word of the dying Saviour was a prayer. Not all the words from the cross were prayers. One was addressed to the penitent thief, another to his mother and his favourite disciple, and a third to the soldiers who were crucifying him; but prayer was distinctly the language of his dying hours. It was not by chance that his very last word was a prayer; but it was the expression his radical commitment. In this act of prayer and committal of his spirit, Jesus re-affirmed that God is the source of life; it emanates from him and divulge in him. Every Jewish parent used to teach their children that God is the source as well as the sustainer of life. Teachings of the synagogues too were to prepare every Jewish child to affirm this belief until death (Psalm 31: 5). This teaching had a deep influence on Jesus. Moreover, Jesus had a clear vision of Life and the mission for which he was sent. Hence, amidst all challenges Jesus never compromised with his mission. Unless we have respect and commitment towards life graced by God, we can be tempted to fulfill worldly desires in accordance with the vested interests. Polluted mind can pollute the world we live in and the creation of God thereby destroying the purposes of God.
Death is a symbolic status of contentment of life and its commitment
‘Life is to die’, is a popular statement. Though life is an inevitable journey towards death, it is the most precious gift given by God. Jesus had exemplified through his life that death is only temporal; challenges and hardships are indispensable part of life. He knew that his missiological commitment was stronger than the fear of death (“Father, if you are willing, take away this cup from me. Yet not my will, but yours” Luke 22:42). For Jesus, death was just a status rather than a burden for he viewed death as a reward. The writer of the Hebrews says in Chapter 12, verse 2 that Jesus, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. When Jesus handed over his spirit into the hands of the Father, one can see his radical commitment and at the same time the contentment for fulfilling the will of the Father. Jesus’s life becomes an inspiration not only to live but also to die by entrusting our lives into the hands of God.
Accepting death is a sign of belief in Resurrection
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" his speaks of his confidence in God, his Father. He found security in his Father’s hands and in so doing pointed the way to all who die believing. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, left this life with the same security. "Lord Jesus" he said, "receive my spirit." This statement of radical commitment has been used by countless believers in Christ ever since. This is the security that comes from knowing "him whom we have believed and are persuaded that he is able to keep that which we have committed unto Him." Yes, there is eternal security in the Cross. In addition, Christian faith is based on Resurrection that is made known to us in and through Jesus Christ. By the power of Resurrection, Jesus encountered the abuse and conspiracy of his enemies. Even though Jesus had foreseen the horrible experience of his death he knew the purpose of his passion and death.
On the cross, death is completely defeated and a new community of understanding, affirming and living of God’s Purpose is sprouted (Luke 23:47). This is a call to understand the incarnation of God’s life in our living. Very importantly, this consciousness is a persistent call to introspect our commitment to celebrate the fruits of life graced by God with the fellowship of Resurrected Christ. May Our Lord Jesus Christ be our help and succor to understand the purpose of life and death and be committed to live a life worthy of our calling. Amen.
Eternal God, enable us to understand the life that we have in your son, Jesus Christ and help us to learn to fulfill and celebrate your purposes. Anoint us with Your Holy Spirit to accept death as your son did and bless us to participate in the celebration of Resurrection graced in Jesus Christ. Amen
Rev. C. George Vinod
CSI Karnataka Southern Diocese