"He will be great in the sight of the Lord," Luke 1:15.
Zacharias." is forerunner to Christmas, even as St John the Baptist was
forerunner to our Lord. Faithful knows as poet says, "If winter comes, can
spring be far behind?", that Christmas is only eight weeks away.
Zacharias and Elizabeth are model spouses; "Both were righteous before
God, walking in all commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," v6.
Model spouses only could make model parents. They are role models of parents
because they brought up their child in Lord's discipline. I wrote an article
on this subject, "They were both righteous." So this time I would discuss
another aspect of today's reading, the angel's prediction as to who would be
the offspring, verse 1:15.
Zachariah was still confused and trembling at the sudden sight of angel. Did
this message comfort him? In John the Baptist these words were actualized.
Jesus said; John was the greatest among those born of women, Luke 7:28. We
live in a society where leaders award 'chevaliers' and 'commanders' not for
good reasons but for buttering them and people obsessed with the idea of
obtaining titles by hook or by crook. Is there anything greater than a good
certificate from Jesus? And missing that would be terrible!
Wealth, high influence, leadership, admiration from others, etc are signs of
greatness and everyone's dream. Pharisees bore a bad label on them as lovers
of power, position and craving for honors from public. Jesus called them
hypocrites and taught the disciples not to imitate them, Luke 14:7. But were
disciples different? Even when Jesus was talking about his final ordeals on
earth the disciples were preoccupied with a dispute as to who was greatest
among them, Luke 9:46; who was greatest in the Kingdom of God, Mat 18:1-5.
Jesus showed them a little child and said, unless converted and become like
a child they will not enter in the kingdom. The disciples were drenched in
worldly thought, not spiritual. Jesus showed the child because children are
free from ambitions. They are teachable, humble, simple, lowly and
dependant. Mother of Zebedee's sons wanted Jesus to grant her children sit
at his right and left, Mat 20:21. Jesus enlightened her ignorance and told
the hard way, that is, it was not He, but the Father who decides to whom it
be granted. Being great is great ambition, nothing wrong, if guided by noble
intentions, pursued in the right direction and stuck to righteous means;
contrariwise, nothing else would be deadlier.
It is indeed a matter of great joy and comfort if one knows beforehand what
his/her child would become. Unpredictability of children's future is great
concern for many parents. Parents wish that their children should grow up
healthy, intelligent, courteous and blameless. With this end in view they
afford them the best possible living conditions, education and
opportunities. Ironically, only a few come out with flying colors. Parents
never get the answer why their child did not fare well despite best
opportunities. There are too many instances when parents are meek and gentle
but children are unruly; parents are very religious but children are
irreligious or even atheists, parents are morally upright but children opt
to live in immoral way of life. Some people very actively manage church
affairs for many years in various capacities, spending lion-share of their
time, energy and money for the growth of church and community and yet they
are helpless and unhappy that their children do not follow their foot-steps.
Many 'church leaders' told me "My children go to English, Protestant
denominational groups." They neither come to our church nor marry from our
faith/community. Many parents live in perennial regret, generalize, pretend
smile and wonder why their child went wrong. Some children brought shame on
the parents. Parents take advantage where children are obedient, fail to
credit their sentiments; guided by false pride, take them to Kerala and
force them into marriage and ruin the whole life. Some youth told me, they
hate the church because parents are fighting in it. Some others said they
lost self-esteem for their parents led shameful life; bad
in-house-relationship drove them out of community. But all are too quick to
blame the church instead of introspection into their own follies in the
church and the household. There are too many contradictions in life; who
could discern all the mysteries!
I assert by the authority of the word of God, parents' basic responsibility
is to bring up children in Lord's discipline; if they fail in that they fail
in all other aspects. How shall I expect my children behave great when I
live in drunken revelry, addiction, infidelity and debauchery? People seldom
distinguish greatness in the sight of the Lord and in the sight of the
world. People posit high value to saints; they conduct pilgrimages, feasts,
give offerings in the name of Saints, plead for intercession, etc. Good, all
these are essential to spiritual growth. How many of them have avowed, "My
child must become a saint like Parumala thirumeni," nurtured them to be so?
We honor saints for their strong faith, prayer life, missionary zeal,
blameless conduct and leading others in faith. Chief aim is to emulate their
worthy examples. Parents ought to be role-models; good conduct, punctual in
church and regular partakers of the holy mysteries, etc. Managing churches
and communities are secondary, not primary duty. Home ought to be a
miniature church where prayer, hymn, bible reading, virtuous conduct;
compassion, charity and kindness are a routine. Many are yet to discern that
things great in the eye of society; high-end job, high income, mansions,
club-membership, social drinking, etc are not so great in God's sight.
What then will be great in the sight of God? To the Jews Jacob was great
because he had divine revelation; ladder touching earth and heaven.
Samaritan woman asked Jesus, "Are you greater than our father Jacob?" John
4:12. Constant contact with God is sign of true greatness. Righteous and
blameless is great. According to rabbinical teaching, "A Jew who has no wife
or a wife who has no child is outcast in God's eye." Thus Zachariah was free
to divorce Elizabeth. But they were both blameless and righteous before God,
Luke 1:6. St Paul gives a list of 'great' in the sight of God and the true
nature of greatness. "By faith Moses refused to be called the son of
Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of
God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of
Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt," Heb 11:24-26. "Of whom
the world was not worthy," Heb 11:38. 2 Maccabees 7:1-42, describe the
ordeal of a mother and her seven children for her faith in God by the
persecutors. Martyrs are great for they received imperishable crown in the
Kingdom of God.
Nehemiah, a captive Jew was cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes. It was a high
position in the palace. But he was unhappy because "The walls of Jerusalem
were in ruins." He wept, mourned and prayed for days, Neh 1:4. The king
favored him. He reached Jerusalem and built the walls of Jerusalem.
Sanballat, Tobia and Geshem plotted to kill Nehemiah. But Nehemiah sent word
to them, "I am doing a great work, Neh 4:19, 6:3." He who does great thing
for God is great.
Jesus taught enough about who is great in heaven; one who is poor in spirit,
suffering, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart,
peacemaker, persecuted for the sake of righteousness and falsely accused is
great, Mat 5:3-12; teach and obey the Law properly will be great in heaven,
Mat 5:19; love the enemies, do good to those who hate, bless those who
curse, pray for those who are spiteful, do not retaliate to those who do
evil, do not expect rewards, do not judge, do not condemn but forgive, avoid
hypocrisy is great, Luke chapter 6; who humbles himself is great, Mat 18:4.
Referring to self-justification Jesus said what is highly esteemed among men
is abomination before God, Luke 16:15. In short, one who obeys God is great.
He who discerns great things and does them is great indeed. Jesus said not
to worry about life but rather completely trust God, life is more important
than food and body more important than clothing, Mat 6:25. He who admits
that God is greater than all other things is great, John 10:29. But today's
man obsessed in his scientific and technological expertise claims he is
greater than God! He is yet to acknowledge he has no skill before Tsunami!
Yuri Gagarin, first astronaut, went round space in "Sputnik," on return he
said, 'I did not find God anywhere.' Such was the proud of the Communist
Russia which converted "St Peter's Square" into museum and avowed 'to efface
God from the face of earth'. Look at the tragic demise of Communist Russia.
Religion now thrives there more than ever before. But Kerala politicians are
still in denial. "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God. They are
corrupt and have done abominable iniquity," Ps 53:1. Those who lead
abominable way of life or inclined to live in self-denial deny God.
Unknowingly they are on the path of destruction. St Mary exulted, "My soul
magnifies the Lord. For He who is mighty has done great things for me," Luke
1:49. Great is the one who is thankful to God. David who was thankful
reminds us, "Forget not all His benefits," Ps 103:2. Are we thankful to God?
Christianity is in crisis. As never before, Church is plagued by heresies,
desertion, lack of faith, spiritual lethargy, disunity, strife, hatred,
litigation, erosion of values, immorality, visionless selfish leadership,
foreign yoke, etc. Should we not bitterly weep for the Mother-church? We
need to pray, "Lord, we went far from you, help us return, come quickly;
restore your beautiful bride to its original glory." Let this Christmas be a
time of dedication. Let our spiritual fervor inflame so to rejuvenate the
lost glory of the Church; it will certainly be great in the sight of God.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon
you and be gracious unto you; May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you
and give you peace," Num 6:24-26.
Christmas and the Visit of
The birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem was an epoch making chapter in
the history of mankind. It happened to be the appearance of spiritual
truth which shed light to the whole world. Jesus Christ came to this
world as an embodiment of divine light that enlightens all those who
fumble in darkness of evil. He came as the love that eradicates hatred
and the energy that enables people to live a better life.
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