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Spiritual Blindness

According to the World Health Organization, there as many as 39 million people globally who are totally blind, and another 253 million people who have low or impaired vision. These are staggering numbers by themselves, but a disturbing piece of statistics is that one-third of the world’s total blind population is found in India. Considering that in 80 per cent of cases, blindness is preventable and even curable, it is imperative to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment, and with that aim, World Sight Day is being observed on 11 October 2018 internationally.

The prophet Isaiah had foretold about Jesus Christ that he would be the one “to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:7) This prophecy was fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus. (Matthew 11:2-6) Restoring sight to the blind was indeed an important element of his work as recorded in the various New Testament accounts. (Mark 8:22-26, 9:27-31, 10:46-52, John 9:1-7) But Jesus’ healing ministry was not confined to curing eye diseases but covered spiritual blindness as well. That is what Jesus had meant when he said: “I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

While it is important to address the issue of physical blindness, it has become necessary in today’s world to think equally seriously about the problem of spiritual blindness. Today we see all over an upsurge of spirituality and a growing tendency towards fundamentalism. Massive public participation in religious events and festivals is becoming common. Devotees are visiting shrines in huge numbers, expecting and perhaps even obtaining material blessings in return.

There has also been a parallel increase in the number of spiritual experts who can give advice about things such as whom to marry, when to do what, how to build a house, and so on. The advice is available on TV channels and online on the net. It is often made to sound very persuasive and authentic by using scientific terminology like energy, vibrations, field, space, cosmos, and so on.

Perhaps the World Sight Day may be an appropriate occasion to also go into the causes of the spread of spiritual blindness among people and find the means for its prevention and cure.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Day of Non-violence

“There are many causes I would die for. There is not a single cause I would kill for,” wrote Mahatma Gandhi in “The Story of My Experiments with Truth” in 1927. To commemorate the birth of this apostle of non-violence, the United Nations decided in 2007 to observe the International Day of Non-violence every year on 2 October. It coincides with Gandhi Jayanti which is celebrated in India, in remembrance of the father of the nation. As a philosophy, non-violence has been an age-old concept. What Mahatma Gandhi did was to use it as a novel strategy for the Indian independence movement and he eventually succeeded.

Through the media, we continue to watch, hear and read every day about war, terror, explosions, shootouts, murders, and so many other kinds of violence all over the world. People are assembling in huge numbers demanding justice. Mobs are fighting on the streets seeking vengeance. It is not therefore insignificant that the world has found at least one day in a year to think about non-violence!

What exactly is non-violence? Gandhiji had explained that it did not mean inaction, that he even preferred violence to cowardice. He said that non-violence was the road to truth. He also said that non-violence was impossible without a living faith in God. A non-violent man can do nothing save by the power and grace of God, without which he will not have the courage for it. (Ref: http://www.mkgandhi.org)

The International Day of Non-violence can be an occasion to ponder upon the teachings of another person, Jesus the son of God himself, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also….You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:38-45) For Jesus, non-violence was not just a topic for his sermon, he practised it. When he was dying on the cross, he had prayed for his tormentors, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

A Day for the Elderly

Since 1991 every year on 1 October, the International Day for Older Persons is being observed globally under the auspices of the United Nations. Its objective is to highlight the problems of the elderly and stress the need for society to address them.

Almost 700 million people in our present day world are over the age of 60. This number is expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030 and 2 billion by 2050. Older people have particular needs and face many challenges to which the society at large needs to pay attention. It is equally important to recognize that the majority of older men and women can continue to make important contributions even if they retire from active jobs.

However, older people are often treated as second class citizens. They are not considered for employment, they are denied proper life or health insurance, they do not get special facilities in offices, banks or other places which they have to visit frequently. In this world of speed, the young outrun the elderly all the time.

Even weather and climate affect old people more harshly than others. Heat waves, cold waves, air pollution and such other factors are adding to their woes through a greater incidence of heat strokes, asthma attacks or arthritis.  While young people can take a dip in swimming pools or have a holiday at a hill station, the older persons are often left to fend for themselves and they are clueless about what they should do.

However, not everybody is careless about the elderly. God is solidly behind them. The Bible has this prayer, “Do not cast me away when I am old. Do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” (Psalm 71:9) But it also has God’s answer to that prayer, “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you.” (Isaiah 46:4)

Whether they are written off by a youthful society as old people, or respected as senior citizens, God surely takes care of them.

All Your Heart

According to the World Health Organization, heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in the global population. In just one year 2016, they took the life of over fifteen million people. In order to create awareness about these diseases among the public, World Heart Day is observed on 29 September every year. The message of World Heart Day is that at least 80 percent of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided if the main risk factors are controlled. These are high blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, and obesity.

While keeping the heart in a good working condition may help increase our longevity, it is equally important to look after our heart in a more holistic manner. It should be healthy, but it should be pure too. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

The heart is the origin of all evil thoughts that lead to murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. (Matthew 15:19) The heart is the seat of lust. Jesus said, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) He also said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

The heart is the seat of all emotions. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Matthew 12:34) Our thoughts flow out from the heart through the mouth.

The heart is where we worry. That’s why Jesus has told us, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in me.” (John 14:1)

The heart is a kind of writing pad on which we should write God’s commandments so that we are constantly reminded of what God wants us to do. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) But Jesus has reminded us of God’s commandment which says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) God does not want us to have only a healthy heart or a pure heart or a calm heart. God wants us to give him our whole heart.

 

 

 

Adultery, Crime and Sin

India is changing fast. The right to privacy is now regarded as highly sacrosanct. Gay sex is no longer a crime. Adultery has been decriminalized. People are celebrating this quick march towards a more inclusive and highly permissive society.

Adultery, in fact, had been decriminalized two thousand years ago by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself. The Bible (John 8:1-11) narrates an incident that had occurred one day in the temple of Jerusalem. Jesus had arrived at the temple very early in the morning. Even at that hour, people gathered around him and he sat down to explain the scriptures to them. While he was teaching, a group of aggressive people barged into the place along with a woman. The self-styled judges introduced the woman to Jesus as one who they had caught in adultery, red-handed. They told Jesus that the prevailing law required that she be stoned. “But”, they demanded of Jesus, “What do you have to say?”

Jesus tried to ignore them at first, but their questioning persisted. Jesus finally got up and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” After this ruling, Jesus sat down again and did not bother to intervene further. What happened was that the people felt convicted by their own conscience, and left the place one by one, leaving the woman alone.

When it was quiet again, Jesus asked her, “Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” “No, Lord”, she said, “Not one.” Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.” He allowed her to go, but added, “Sin no more.”

Even if adultery is not a crime, it continues to be a sin. Even if adultery is not illegal, it continues to be immoral. Of the ten commandments that the God of the Bible gave to his people, the seventh was that “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) God’s laws are eternal and they cannot be struck down.

In the Bible, adultery has often had a wider meaning. Many times, Jesus addressed his audience as a wicked, sinful and adulterous generation of people. (Matthew 16:4, Mark 8:38) Adultery means being unfaithful and disloyal to anyone, God included. Cheating on one’s spouse may not be considered a criminal deed. But infidelity towards God remains a sin and will invoke consequences.