From the Desk of Fr. Bala
Fr. Bala's column will resume again in February.
February 18, 2024
There is a story about a bird that saw a cat carrying a can of worms. The worm made the bird’s mouth water, so he asked the cat how much each worm cost. The cat said that it was very cheap, only a feather per worm. So, the bird plucked one feather and gave it to the cat. A little later, he again craved for a worm, so plucked another feather and bought another worm. His cravings were not satisfied, so he kept on buying worms with his feathers. He never realized that he was losing his feathers, and when he saw the cat about to prey on him, he could not fly away to escape the cat anymore.
The point is clear that temptation is a fact of life. it is everywhere. Nobody is really strong in the face of temptation. We know that the first humans failed the test. Like the monkeys and flies, we are lured by the scent of the sweet. It whispers to us, “It’s ok, don’t worry!” “Try it just once. It’s not that bad anyway.” “Come on, everybody is doing it.” “Nobody will know.” Temptation is tasty because it is always sugar-coated with a promise of pleasure. but we must be careful and vigilant to check where it is leading us, lest we suffer what happened to the bird in our story.
St. Augustine said that we do not know ourselves except by trial or temptation. A person can have a self-image of being strong, self-controlled, brave, gentle, loving, but when a temptation comes along, they can find out something different.
Whenever we give temptation, it takes power from us, but when we resist a temptation, we take power from it. The devil wants to take power from us, to make us impotent, but when we resist him, we gain strength.
Our temptations teach us how weak we are, how foolish it is to rely on our strength. But there is someone we can rely upon. If we unite ourselves to Jesus, we can achieve true happiness by giving ourselves to God through him.
Think of these things during this lent and leave from here with the knowledge that while temptation is there, you can recognize it and turn it around as fuel for your faith-journey.
December 31, 2023
Home, Sweet Home
In a happy home, we experience joy and peace. But our happiness, peace and joy are not full and complete, and no wonder. For the best of homes can only be but an antechamber to heaven, where our happiness will be full. But we can make our homes vestibules to heaven. It is the duty of every family member. Our first and foremost duty is to love, and love means to care. A home where members love and care for one another is a happy home.
Jesus was born into a family. He grew in wisdom and grace before God and man in the family. He was obedient to his parents. He was their source of joy and their crown of bliss. As simple, humble people, Jesus, Mary and Joseph must have cherished mutual love, a feeling of oneness, respect of family life. Theirs was a holy family and the Church presents it as the most ideal family.
“The Christian family, which springs from marriage as reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church, and as a participation in the covenant, will manifest to all human the Savior’s living presence in the world and genuine nature of the Church” Vatican II, the Church today
The church can be compared to a honey comb, wonderfully built up of many cells. If the wax-cells are broken, the honey they contain gets lost. All that is left there is just a handful of wax. If Christian families are broken, Christian communities too cannot exist.
In God’s marvelous plan, the human family is precious for a twofold reason: on it depends the bringing of children in the world and, to a good extent, the work of leading them to salvation. Dangers to family affect not only society but also the Church in different ways.
It is necessary to go back to the family as the sanctuary of life, the family is indeed sacred: it is the place in which the gift of life can be properly welcomed and protected against so many dangers. The family is the heart of the culture of life. John Paul II
May the Lord enable us to make our homes sweet homes.
December 25, 2023
Gift of Peace and Joy
Long ago, there ruled in Persia a wise and good king who loved his people. He wanted to know how they lived and wanted particularly to know about at heir hardships. Disguised and dressed in the cloths of a worker or a beggar, he used to visit the homes of the poor. No one whom he visited ever guessed, he was their ruler.
Once he visited a very poor man who lived in cellar. He ate the coarse food, the poor man ate and he spoke cheerful, kind words to him and left. Later when he visited the poor man again, he disclosed his identity saying, “I am your king!”. The king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he did not. Instead, the poor man said, “You left you palace and your glory to visit me in this dark, deary place. You ate the coarse food I ate. You brought gladness to my heart. To others you have given your rich gifts. To me you have given yourself.
This is the true meaning of Christmas. God could not give us a better and greater gift than himself, i.e., Jesus Christ. Jesus testifies that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him (John 14:10). The apostle Paul refers to Christ as the indescribable gift of God.
The birth of Jesus is a reminder that God has not forgotten us. It is a token of how much God loves us. “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life” (John 3: 16). Thus, Christmas is essentially the greatest sacrifice of God. There is no sacrifice without love. The divine motive for the incarnation is the unfathomable love of God for us.
The ideal way to celebrate Christmas is to make room for the Savior in this world and in our lives. Angelus Silesius states, “Even if Christ is born a thousand times in Bethlehem, it is unless if He is not born in our hearts.” For this, we should let our whole world-view, our whole way of thinking, speaking and acting be permeated by the spirit of Jesus.
Christmas is not a time or season, but a state of mind. To have the real spirit of Christmas is to love, share and be at peace with God and others. When we open our hearts to the lonely, the frustrated and extend a helping hand to the poor and the sick, we will have the spirit of Christmas and experience the words of the angels who sang, “Peace to all of goodwill”.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and continued Christ the Child blessing to you and all your family members.
There is One Among You
We hear people saying to us, “we must put God in our lives” but God is already here! Our business is to recognize him. “The is one among you, whom you do not recognize” (John 1: 26), said St. John the Baptist, pointing to then physical presence of Christ. The same Lord is now present in our minds in a mysterious way. it is his continued presence, through invisible, that gladdens our hearts, even amidst our shady sadness. The sweet mark of a Christian is not faith, not even love, butt joy, because we are all strings in the concert of his joy. Did not the angel announce at the birth of Jesus, “I bring you glad tidings of great joy”. Hence St. Paul asks us to “Rejoice always” (1 Thess 5: 16) and Isaiah shouts out, “I rejoice heartly in the Lord, the joy of my soul” (Is 61:10). Joy is never within our power in the same way that pleasure is. Only Christ can fill us with joy. Joy is the flag which is flown from the castle of the heart when is resident there.
Jesus, ever-present, enters into our hearts in the silence of prayer, provided we do not resist him by hiding behind layers of distraction, drowning his voice with noise from television sets and stereos. He comes to us through his words in the scriptures. He comes to us through the sacraments, which are those intense moments of grace and ‘peak’ experience of God. There are many other ways in which the Lord comes into our lives. His ways are always behind the scenes, but he moves all the scenes, he is behind.
But we need to “make straight the way of the Lord’ (Jn 1: 23), not that we must strew reses, roses all the way, but at least we must not throw thorns and thistles and so block his way.
Advent calls us to straighten up those rough and rugged spots in our lives so that Jesus can have easy entrance; and get in tune with all the mysterious ways of Christ so that when he comes, we can recognize him. We obtain salvation not through action, nor through meditation but through recognition.
December 10, 2023
Repent and Believe
There’s a Spanish tale of a father and son who had become estrange after years of bitter strife. The son finally ran away. Finding that his son was missing, the father became heartbroken and set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort, the father placed an ad in the city newspaper. The ad read:
Meet me in front of the bell tower in the plaza at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.
That Saturday eight hundred pacos – men and boys – showed up in plaza, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
God, our Father, loves all of us unconditionally. The prophets are the adds that often called to return to this loving Father. Now, John the Baptist, the last of all the Old Testament prophets has come with the same message.
This prophet is a unique personality, his birth, life in the wilderness, his power packed message inviting to report and his heroic death for the cause of truth are unique and exemplary. Thus, the church makes an exception in celebrating his birthday.
It is interesting to note that in her liturgy, the Church only celebrates three birthdays; that of our Lord, our Blessed Mother and St. John the Baptist. Ordinarily the death is commemorated as feat of saints, their birth of heaven.
There is a special reason for celebrating the birth of St. John the Baptist for St. John was born without original sin on his soul. Shortly after the Annunciation, Mary went to visit he cousin Elizabeth. Scripture tells us that “the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Thus St. John, the Baptist along with Christ and Mary, was born without the stain of original sin on his soul. Hence the date of his birth is celebrated as a feast day in the church.
December 3, 2023
At the out-set, I wish you a Happy New Year. For today is the first Sunday of the Advent, the beginning of the ecclesiastical or Church year.
A great amount of attention is paid to the beginning of a new calendar year, but too little to the beginning of the church year. The change is noted, though, in the church’s liturgy. The green vestments of the ordinary season have been put away, and the purple ones of the penitential season of Advent are now being worn.
The church aims to create a new atmosphere, a new disposition in our souls. She creates a mood of expectancy, of waiting and of preparation. She gives the indication that something great is at hand. The very word “Advent” means coming. The coming that is so eagerly awaited is the coming of the Christ Child.
In advent the church lives again through a period of hope and expectation. She employs her liturgy to sharpen our desire to mold our thoughts and spiritually prepare us for the coming of Christ. It is one’s spiritual advantage to prepare well for Ais coming.
Advent is the countdown time for the celebration of Christmas. But Christmas is only pointer to constant coming of Christ in our lives. when we do Christmas shopping and buy gifts suited to each friend, Jesus comes in the respect we show to the uniqueness of each individual: when we send Christmas cards with the messages of love, Jesus comes through the warmth and affection we express to others; when we decorate our homes and lanes for Christmas, Jesus come through our desire to bring beauty into other people’s lives; when we prepare our Christmas family meal, Jesus comes through our readiness to make peace with all and form one human family. The Lord who is willing to come as light is willing to flood a room but we have to wait for him with our minds and hearts open and vigilant. God’s love is pressing round us on all sides like air.
Submitted Pieces and Reflections