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Jesus the Exorcist, the Healer, …


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Jesus and Beelzebul – Luke 11:14-23

Jesus was driving out a demon [that was] mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.

Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.”

Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.

But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.

And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.

If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out?

Therefore they will be your judges.

But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.

When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

The Jews of Jesus’ period believed that in addition to God and his material creation, there existed a world of spirits, some good and some evil, who interacted with human beings; and that the evil spirits harm human beings and also lead them astray into disobeying God and his commandments.

Banishing Satan and the allied spirits under his control from the world, and the destruction of his rule over human beings becomes part of Jewish Eschatology. In continuity with the eschatological prophecies of the prophets, there were two distinguished periods of human history. It asserts that the present period of history is under the control of Satan, or a synonymous eponym, but will end with the approach of the time of eschatological salvation.

In Jewish understanding, human beings are capable of having some limited control over Satan and his allied spirits and have the ability in certain instances to counteract or reverse their malevolent influence by having extensive knowledge about them and using the proper skills or rituals to expel and control them. Jesus, a Jew, accepts this idea and sees his own period in history as the period in which the Kingdom of God would replace the Kingdom of Satan.

Jesus was known not only as a healer but also to a certain extent as an exorcist. These two categories – healing and exorcism – overlap to some extent because possession by a demon can often manifest itself as physical ailments in such persons. In many instances, a person who has been exorcised is said to be healed.

In the Synoptic Gospels, we see a lot of instances of exorcism by Jesus. Here, I cite a few:

1. Luke 11:14-23 = Matthew 12:22-30: In Matthew and Luke, the Beelzebul controversy is precipitated by Jesus’ driving out a demon from a man.

2. Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:31-37: At the synagogue in Capernaum, the evil spirit possessing a man recognizes Jesus and cries out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”  Jesus drives out the evil spirit saying “Quiet! Come out of him!.” Before departing with a loud cry, the unclean spirit shakes the man violently. The witnesses to this event are amazed that Jesus has authority over evil spirits.

3. Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39, and Matthew 8:28-34: Jesus heals a demoniac man (two men in Matthew) in the territory of Gadarenes (Gerasenes).

Jesus’ exorcism begins even before he actually meets the demonized. When Jesus does come face to face with the possessed man, the demon(s) within him is agitated and cries out in alarm “What have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me!” (Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28). For he had ordered the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (It had taken hold of him many times, and he used to be bound with chains and shackles as a restraint, but he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into deserted places.) (Luke 8:29)

The demon possessing the man is called “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. The demons plead with Jesus to allow them to enter into a herd of swine that was feeding there on the hillside. Jesus lets them, and the possessed herd of swine rush down the steep bank into the Sea of Galilee and are drowned.

4. Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43a and Matthew 17:14-20: An evil spirit possessing a boy causes him to be deaf and dumb and sometimes tries to harm him by throwing him into fire or water. Jesus exorcises the boy after his disciples tried unsuccessfully to do so.  Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. (Mark 9:26-27)

Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:19-20)

5. Matt 9:32-34: Jesus heals a dumb demoniac; and when the demon was driven out the mute person spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.  But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.”

6. Luke 13:10-17: In a synagogue, on a Sabbath day, Jesus heals a crippled woman who was there for eighteen years. She was bent over by the evil spirit and was completely incapable of standing erect.

7. Mark 7:24-30, Matthew 15:21-28: The daughter of a woman who was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth (a Canaanite in Matthew) is possessed by an unclean spirit. Jesus heals the girl, but reluctantly, and says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” meaning that he has come to bring deliverance to the Jews, insofar as the benefits of the Kingdom of God belong to them – “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

8. Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2: Out of the women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary Magdalene is one out of whom Jesus cast seven demons.

9. Mark 3:20-22: Jesus himself is accused of being possessed. The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

The saying about the ‘plundering of the strong man’ comes in the context of Jesus’ self-defence against the accusation that he casts out demons by the power of Beelzebul.  There are two different versions of the same tradition, quite dissimilar to each other: Mark 3:27 = Matt 12:29; Luke 11:21-22.

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Matt 12:29
How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and steal his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.
Mark 3:27
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house.
Luke 11:21-22
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.

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The Gospel of Thomas has a shorter version of this saying: “Jesus said, ‘One cannot enter a strong person’s house and take it by force without tying his hands. Then one can loot his house’.” (35)

So, all these different versions boil down to this: In order to plunder the house of a strong man one must be stronger than he is; only then can one carry away his goods.

Here, Jesus is speaking allegorically: the strong man is Satan and the house is his kingdom or sphere of influence. Jesus is telling that an entity stronger than Satan has come and is in the process of plundering his kingdom, which is an ambagious reference to himself. The booty taken by the stronger man represents those who were demonized but whom Jesus freed from Satan’s influence.

To recap, by the power Jesus has over demons, the reign of Satan is in the process of being replaced by the Kingdom of God.

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Jim Reeves » Satan can’t hold me

When the trumpet has sounded and at judgement, we stand
And the Lord, up in heaven, takes you by the hand
If for things I’ve done wrong I am sent down below
Satan can’t hold me this much I know

Satan can’t hold me, nobody can
Angel or devil, spirit or man
Through the valleys of darkness, I’ll come to your side
Your love, my beacon, my love, my guide

I will climb over mountains, fly up in the blue
I’ll swim every river that keeps me from you
Till that wonderful day, we’re together again
Satan can’t hold me, true love must win

Satan can’t hold me, nobody can
Angel or devil, spirit or man
Through the valleys of darkness, I’ll come to your side
Your love, my beacon, my love, my guide

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I Am the Good Shepherd…


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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i-am-the-good-shepherd

John, Chapter 10: 1-5

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.

The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”

i-am-the-good-shepherd-2

John, Chapter 10: 11-14

I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.d

This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, …

Note: I have used the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Bible – John, Chapter 10

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The Reliquary of Saint Teresa of Calcutta


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Statue of Saint Teresa in the National Shrine, Washington DC (Photo: T. V. Antony Raj)
Statue of Saint Teresa in the National Shrine, Washington DC (Photo: T. V. Antony Raj)

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At every canonization ceremony in the Catholic Church, people connected to the new saint carry to the altar a relic in a reliquary which is often an ornate work of art in gold or silver.

A relic is a keepsake, a tangible reminder that the new saint was human yet heroically lived a life of holiness.

The relic may be the purported or actual physical remains of saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with saints or other religious figures. The authenticity of any given relic is often a matter of debate; for that reason, some churches require documentation of the relic’s provenance.

In the Catholic Church, a reliquary, also known as a shrine or by the French term châsse is used as a container for relics.

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The reliquary containing the relic of Saint Teresa
The reliquary containing the relic of Saint Teresa

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The relic presented at the Mass for St. Teresa of Calcutta was a few drops of her blood contained in a phial embedded within the centre of a wooden reliquary in the form of a simple cross reflecting her life and values.

The back of the cross-shaped reliquary is made from Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libani), a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region, known as a symbol of nobility and spiritual greatness.

The front of the large cross is made of wood taken from places associated with Mother Teresa’s works of mercy: The first home for the dying she established in Calcutta, a home for those with Hansen’s disease, an immigrants’ boat, a Gypsy shack, and wood from the kneeler of a confessional because Mother Teresa believed the “Sacrament of Penance” also known as “Confession” or “Reconciliation” was the greatest expression of God’s mercy.

In the centre of the cross,  the phial of Mother Teresa’s blood is sealed in a glass orb in the shape of a water drop as a symbol of her vow to quench the thirst of those literally without water and those dying in the aridness of being unloved.

A roughly sculpted wrinkled hand supports the glass to symbolize that it carries this drop of water, full of love, in response to the cry of Jesus “I thirst” on the cross echoed by millions of people around the world.

The religious dress of the Missionaries of Charity bears special significance. The white colour of their sari stands for truth and purity and the three blue borders each signify the vows that the nuns of the Order take: the first thin band represents “Poverty”, the second thin band represents “Obedience”, and the third broad band represents the vows of “Chastity” and of “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor”.

The water drop on the reliquary is framed by a heart of three sweeping bands of blue on the left and a white band on the right to symbolize the sari St. Teresa adopted as a habit for her sisters of Missionaries of Charity as well as to express devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The three sweeping bands of blue on the left side of the heart are curved and bent to represent St. Teresa’s own curved form bent in prayer. The white band on the right side of the heart displays the words, “I thirst in gold, reproduced in St. Teresa’s handwriting.

The base of the reliquary is made of battered iron to represent how society always sees the poor people whom Mother Teresa loved with her whole heart.

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The Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Vatican City


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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At the end of life, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
– Saint Teresa of Calcutta

 

Mother Teresa - A painting by Mark Sanislo
Mother Teresa – A painting by Mark Sanislo

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Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the “nun of the gutters”, a champion for the poor, the dying and the unborn died on September 5, 1997.

Scarcely two years after her death Monsignor Henry D’Souza, the then Archbishop of Calcutta, requested Pope John Paul II to dispense with the five-year waiting period required before beginning the process of beatifying and canonizing Mother Teresa.

As a fitting climax to a process that stretched on for almost 19 years, Pope Francis on Sunday, September 4, 2016, a day before Mother Teresa’s 19th death anniversary, formally declared  Mother Teresa, as the newest saint of the Catholic Church at a ceremony that drew 100,000 pilgrims from around the world to St Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

For the honour of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta be saint and we enroll her among the saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Holy Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis, however, acknowledged that despite the fact she now has a formal title as “Saint Teresa of Calcutta“, she will always remain “Mother Teresa” to the world. The pontiff said:

“We may have some difficulty in calling her ‘Saint’ Teresa, her holiness is so near to us, so tender and so fruitful that we continue to spontaneously call her “Mother”. She made her voice heard before the powers of this world so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes of poverty they created.”

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The Road to Sainthood of Mother Teresa of Calcutta


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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“If I ever become a Saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness’. I will continually be absent from Heaven —to (light) the light of those in darkness on earth.”
– Prophetic words of Mother Teresa

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Born Agnes Bojaxhiu to an Albanian family in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, Mother Teresa became world-famous for her devotion to the destitute and dying. The religious congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, she established in 1950, has more than 4,500 religious sisters around the world.

In 1979, Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize for her lifetime of service to humanity.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta died on September 5, 1997.

Scarcely two years after her death Monsignor Henry D’Souza, the then Archbishop of Calcutta, requested Pope John Paul II to dispense with the five-year waiting period required before beginning the process of beatifying and canonizing her.

Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., one of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, was appointed on March 9, 1999, as postulator (a person who presents a case for the canonization or beatification) of Mother Teresa’s cause.

The first session of the process of beatification leading to canonization took place at St. Mary Parish, in Rippon Lane, Calcutta, close to the Missionaries of Charity’s motherhouse.

As soon as the first stage of the process concluded on August 15, 2001, the second stage began in Rome.

Thirty-five thousand pages of documentation called the “Position” were collected in 2001 and 2002.

In the Catholic Church, humanitarian work alone is not sufficient enough for canonization as a saint. It is mandatory that a candidate for sainthood must be associated with at least two miracles to demonstrate that he or she, worthy of sainthood, must be in heaven, interceding with God on behalf of those in need of healing.

Robert Emmet Barron is an American prelate of the Catholic Church, author, theologian and evangelist, known for his Word on Fire ministry. As a frequent commentator on Catholicism and spirituality, he says:

“A saint is someone who has lived a life of great virtue, whom we look to and admire. But if that’s all we emphasize, we flatten out sanctity. The saint is also someone who’s now in heaven, living in this fullness of life with God. And the miracle, to put it bluntly, is the proof of it.”

In 2002, the Vatican officially recognised a miracle Mother Teresa was said to have carried out after her death in 1998. This miracle became the first milestone to sainthood of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Born and raised in Calcutta and a resident of the city during the period of Mother Teresa’s activity there, Aroup Chatterjee, a physician working in England authored the book Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict.

In the book Chatterjee challenges the widespread regard of Mother Teresa as a symbol of philanthropy and selflessness, accuses her of unfairly damaging the city’s reputation, that she exaggerated the work she did among the poor, that she failed to use the very large amount of money donated to her on helping the poor, and claims that the medical care given to people in homes run by Missionaries of Charity was grossly inadequate.

Channel 4, a British television channel aired a documentary named “Hell’s Angel” inspired by Chatterjee’s criticism. Christopher Hitchens, an Anglo-American author, social critic, journalist, and a well-known critic of Mother Teresa wrote and co-produced it with Tariq Ali.

In 2003, Aroup Chatterjee and Christopher Hitchens testified as two official hostile witnesses against the late nun as a so-called devil’s advocate to Church procedures for the beatification of Mother Teresa.

The miracle of curing the Bengali tribal woman was the first milestone to sainthood of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

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The First Miracle

Monica Besra at her village in West Bengal (Photo: Kallol Majumder-HT Photo)
Monica Besra at her village in West Bengal (Photo: Kallol Majumder-HT Photo)

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Monica Besra hails from a tribal community in Nakor village, in Dakshin Dinajpur district, 280 miles north of Kolkata in eastern India. Now she is 50 years old and a mother of five children.

About 15 to 17 years back she developed an abdominal tumour. She was taken to the nearby government hospital. The treatment for her ailment was expensive and her family had to mortgage their land. Even after undergoing a lengthy medication process she was so sick she could barely walk.

In 1998, when everything else failed, Monica’s sister took her to the then-recently-opened Missionaries of Charity centre near their village.

She was so ill she couldn’t eat anything. If she ate, she would immediately throw up.

The Sisters of Missionaries of Charity took her to a doctor in Siliguri who said that she might not regain consciousness if operated upon.

On September 4, 1998, a day before Mother Teresa’s first death anniversary, the Sisters of Missionaries of Charity took Monica to a small church in the premises to pray. As Monica was too ill to move, two Sisters supported her. There was a photograph of Mother Teresa there.

When she entered the Church a blinding light that emanated from Mother’s photo enveloped her. She did not know what was happening. The sisters prayed. Manica was too ill to sit for long and was soon brought back to her bed.

That night one of the Sisters after saying a prayer to Mother Teresa to help Monica get well soon tied a medallion of Mother Teresa on Monica’s abdomen.

After that, Monica who had trouble sleeping due to pain, fell asleep immediately. At about 1 AM she woke up to go to the bathroom. She was surprised to see her stomach was flat and the tumour was gone. She did not feel any pain. She went to the bathroom without help from anyone. When she returned from the bathroom, she woke up the woman sleeping in the adjacent bed and told her what had happened to her tumour.

In the morning MonicaI told the Sisters. and they took her to a doctor for a checkup. The doctor confirmed that she was cured of the tumour.

Back in 1998, Monica Besra’s claim of the miraculous cure by the intercession of the late Mother Teresa was, however, not without its detractors. The ‘miracle’ was hotly contested by doctors and rationalists alike. The doctors who had attended to her at the district hospital claimed that Monica was in fact cured because her tumour was detected at an early stage and by the medicines they gave her

Kolkata-based Prabir Ghosh, president of the Science and Rationalist Association of India, also challenged the miracle claims and the Canonization. He said:

“If people want to revere Mother Teresa for her social work, I have no problem. But these miracles are unreasonable. I challenge the Pope to cure every poor person in India who cannot afford medical care, by praying to Mother.”

Nonetheless, Monica Besra, her family members, and many others in her community firmly believe in the miracle and attend the local church regularly.

A board of medical specialists worked with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to study the alleged miracle. After combing the records and interviewing the medical staff involved, the committee determined that the healing was medically inexplicable.

As a first step towards sainthood, Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II approved the miraculous cancer cure that occurred on the first anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, in a fast-tracked process on December 20, 2002, barely five years after Teresa’s death. About 300,000 pilgrims attended the beatification ceremony at St. Peter Square on October 19, 2003 (World Missions Day).

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The Second Miracle

Marcilio Haddad Andrino (Source: boqnews.com)
Marcilio Haddad Andrino (Source: boqnews.com)

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The second miracle that took place in December 2008 involves Marcilio Haddad Andrino, a now-42-year-old mechanical engineer from Santos, Brazil.

In 2008, the recently married 35-year-old Andrino was affected by a bacterial infection in the brain which caused severe brain abscesses and agonizing head pain.

A priest, a friend of his told Andrino and his wife, Fernanda Nascimento Rocha, to pray to Mother Teresa for help cure his ailment.

Andrino underwent medical treatment. When the treatments failed, he slipped into a coma. While Rocha prayed to Blessed Teresa, he was taken in for a last-ditch surgery.

When the surgeon entered the operating room, he found Andrino fully awake asking him what was going on.

Andrino made a full recovery. Now, the couple has two children. Even though it was deemed a near medical impossibility by doctors, Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., the postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause, referred to their children as a second miracle.

In December 2015, in an interview with the press, Father Kolodiejchuk explained why there was a delay between 2008 and 2015 in reporting the second miracle.

According to Father Kolodiejchuk, the miracle happened in 2008, but he became aware of it only in 2013.

The neurosurgeon who attended on Andrino was not a Catholic. Somehow, after the visit of Pope Francis to Brazil, something prompted him to tell one of the priests of Santos. This news eventually made its way to Father Kolodiejchuk and the postulation office and started the chain of events.

A board of medical specialists worked with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to study the alleged miracle in Brazil. In September 2015, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints accepted the findings of the medical commission and presented the report to Pope Francis for his final approval. On December 17, 2015, the Holy Father officially recognized the second miracle that was needed for Mother Teresa to be canonized.

The Vatican scheduled September 4, 2016, the day before her 19th death anniversary, as the canonization date for Blessed Mother Teresa, who thereafter will be known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

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“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods…” – Epicurus


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Rogue pastors and patients in hospitals

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Why don’t pastors perform “healing” in hospitals?

An excellent question!

The answer is that all these faith healers are just preying humbugs who are just keen on swindling innocent people who place their faith in an unseen god sketched out by these conscienceless rogues.

This act of placing one’s trust in God or god by the gullible is not a recent phenomenon. Even before the time of Jesus Christ people prayed to gods.

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Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher
Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher

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The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BC) the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism wisely said:

It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.

Also, keep in mind what Jesus said (Mathew 6:5-8):

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.

Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

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It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”


Myself 

 By T.V. Antony Raj

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Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum, New York City)
Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum, New York City)

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Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.

He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterward, he was hungry.

The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

Jesus said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’

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Here, the tempter tries to utilize the cravings of the flesh, namely hunger as Jesus was starving.

For the Roman Catholics, the definition of Lent varies according to different documents.

The official document on the Lenten season, Paschales Solemnitatis, says: “the first Sunday of Lent marks the beginning of the annual Lenten observance” – representing a period of 40 days.

The Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar say: “The forty days of Lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive“, representing a period of 44 days.

Both the above-mentioned sources agree that Lent ends on the evening of Holy Thursday, before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Historically, the season of Lent has varied from a week to three weeks to the present configuration of 46 days when we count all the days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday. The Sundays of Lent are certainly part of the “Time of Lent”, but to reconcile this with the phrase “forty days of fasting“, they are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence. It would be more accurate if we say “forty days fast within Lent.

In the traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality, a constituent part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to God, includes some form of penance. The Catholic Church has specified certain forms of penance to ensure that the Catholic will do something as required by divine law while making it easy for them to fulfill the obligation. Thus, the 1983 Code of Canon Law specifies the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics.

Canon 1250: All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.

Canon 1251: Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Canon 1252: All who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence. All adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

Canon 1253: It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

Thus, the Church has two forms of official penitential practices – three if the Eucharistic fast before Communion is included.

Abstinence

The law of abstinence requires all Catholics who are 14 years old and older to be bound by the law of abstinence until death to abstain from eating meat on all Fridays that are not Solemnities in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday.

Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl and moral theologians have traditionally forbidden the consumption of soups or gravies made from them.

Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal-derived products such as gelatin, butter, cheese, and eggs that do not have any taste of meat.

When solemnities, such as the Annunciation, Assumption, All Saints etc. fall on a Friday, Catholics do not abstain or fast.

During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory, and is considered a sin not to observe this discipline without a serious reason such as physical labor, pregnancy, sickness etc.

Fasting

The practice of fasting before Easter developed gradually, and with considerable diversity of practice regarding duration. In the latter part of the second century, there were differing opinions not only regarding the manner of the paschal fast, but also the proper time for keeping Easter.

In 331, St. Athanasius urged his flock to follow a period of forty days of fasting preliminary to, but not inclusive of, the stricter fast of Holy Week.

In 339, after having traveled to Rome and over the greater part of Europe, St. Athanasius wrote in the strongest terms to urge this observance of fasting upon the people of Alexandria as one that was universally practiced, “to the end that while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should not become a laughing-stock as the only people who do not fast but take our pleasure in those days”.

During the time of Gregory the Great (590–604), there were apparently at Rome six weeks of six days each, making thirty-six fast days in all. St. Gregory describes the thirty-six fast as the spiritual tithing of the year, since thirty-six days being approximately the tenth part of three hundred and sixty-five. At a later date the wish to realize the exact number of forty days led to the practice of beginning Lent on Ash Wednesday.

The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this reduction in intake of food as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity.

Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by consuming drinks which could be considered food.

People excused from fast or abstinence

Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

Aside from these minimum penitential requirements, Catholics are encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other times. It could be modeled after abstinence and fasting. For example, a person could multiply the number of days they abstain. Some people give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to those who give it up for health or other motives).

Some religious orders, as a penance, never eat meat.

The early Church had a practice of a Wednesday and Saturday fast. This fast could be the same as the Church’s law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter, even bread and water. Such freely chosen fasting could also consist in giving up something one enjoys such as chocolates, candy, soft drinks, smoking, the cocktail before supper, and so on. This is left to the discretion of the individual.

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I Wish You “A Happy New Year!”


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Happy New Year 2014

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The earlier Julian calendar, as well as the modern Gregorian calendar, have January 1 as the first day of the year.

At present, most countries use the Gregorian calendar as their de facto calendar and observe January 1 as the New Year’s Day which is probably the most celebrated public holiday in the world. As the new year starts at the stroke of midnight in each time zone, people invariably greet the New Year’s Day it with fireworks. Globally, New Years’ Day traditions include making new resolutions and meeting the members of one’s family and friends.

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The Roman god Janus is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past (Source: storify.com)
The Roman god Janus is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past (Source: storify.com)

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In pre-Christian Rome, the Julian calendar dedicates the first day of the year to Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions. The Romans venerated Janus as the god of gates, doors, doorways, passages and beginnings, and named the first month of the year in his honour. This implies that the New Year’s Day celebrations follow pagan traditions.

Since 45 BC, the Roman Empire used the Julian calendar and had January 1 as the first day of the year. The Gregorian calendar created in 1582 also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar was a refined version of the Julian calendar and it too had January 1 as the first day of the year.

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Detail of Circumcision of Jesus Christ by Pellegrino da San Daniele (Photograph: Elio Ciol/Corbis)
Detail of Circumcision of Jesus Christ by Pellegrino da San Daniele (Photograph: Elio Ciol/Corbis)

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In the Gregorian calendar of Christendom, the New Year’s Day liturgically marked the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus. The Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church still observe the day as such.

The circumcision of Jesus is an event from the life of Jesus. Verse 2:21 in the Gospel of Luke states:

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The Jewish law holds that all males have to undergo circumcision eight days after birth during a Brit milah ceremony, at which they are also given their name. So, according to Jewish tradition, Jesus born on December 25 underwent circumcision on the eighth day of his life on January 1 and named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before Mary conceived him. Hence, liturgically January 1, the New Year’s Day, marked the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus in the Gregorian calendar of Christendom.

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the event on January 1 as the Feast of the Circumcision. Likewise, the Anglican and Lutheran churches celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus on January 1.

Roman Catholics for long celebrated the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on January 1. Now, the Roman Catholic Church considers New Year’s Day as a Holy Day of Obligation and celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on this day.

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Add this anywhere

“End of the Beginning” by David Phelps


Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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“Forget what you have heard about Jesus if it doesn’t begin and end with love.” – Davis Phelps

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David Phelps
David Phelps

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David Norris Phelps, an American Christian music vocalist, songwriter and vocal arranger is best known for singing tenor in the Gaither Vocal Band (GVB), an American southern gospel vocal group, named after its founder and leader Bill Gaither.

The GVB emerged in the early 1980s recording contemporary Christian music. Later it became known for its southern gospel. Bill Gaither leads the group with passion and his genuine desire to bring meaning to the music which the group sings.

The lineup of the GVB changes often. Besides Bill Gaither, singers with the longest tenure in the band include  Michael English (1985–94, 2009–13), Mark Lowry (1988–2001, 2009–13), Guy Penrod (1995–2008), David Phelps (1997-2004, 2009-present) and Wes Hampton (2005-present).

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Adam Crabb, Todd Suttles, David Phelps, Bill Gaither, and Wes Hampton (Source: gaither.com)
Adam Crabb, Todd Suttles, David Phelps, Bill Gaither, and Wes Hampton (Source: gaither.com)

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As of February 2014, the lineup consists of Bill Gaither, David Phelps, Wes Hampton, Adam Crabb, and Todd Suttles.

All the members of GVB are all talented artists and are authentic men of faith. Known worldwide for their vocal power, innovative harmonies, they are instruments of God to carry the message of hope, grace and redemption.

Today, with over 30 years of history, the GVB, has an award-winning legacy of excellence for the harmony of those male voices: vocals, baritone, bass, and tenor.

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David Phelps (Source: david-phelps.blogspot.in)
David Phelps (Source: david-phelps.blogspot.in)

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David Phelps started his professional career at GVB in 1996. He remained at GVB as a tenor for eight years from 1996 to 2004. In 2004, he left the group to realize the biggest dream of his life: to develop his solo career. In early 2009, after recording seven albums, he returned to the GVB.

In 2002, Gaither Homecoming Video featured David Phelps in God Bless America, which featured his solo “End of the Beginning“.

A top reviewer declared: “You can’t go wrong with a Phelps piece!!

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End Of The Beginning
Words & music by David Phelps

I was taking a trip on a plane the other day, just wishin’ that I could get out.
When the man next to me saw the book in my hand and asked me what it was about.
So I settled back in my seat. “A best-seller,” I said, “a hist’ry and a myst’ry in one.”
Then I opened up the book and began to read from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John…

He was born of a virgin one holy night in the little town of Bethlehem.
Angels gathered ’round Him underneath the star singing praises to the great I AM.

He walked on the water, healed The lame, and made the blind to see again.
And for the first time here on earth we learned that God could be a friend.
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong, the angry crowd chose Him.
And then He walked down the road and died on the cross and that was the end…of the beginning.”

“That’s not a new book, that’s a Bible,” he said, “And I’ve heard it all before.
I’ve tried religion, it’s shame and guilt, and I don’t need it anymore.
It’s superstation, made-up tales, just to help the weak to survive.”
“Let me read it again,” I said, “But listen closely. This is gonna change your life.”

“He was born of a virgin one holy night in the little town of Bethlehem.
Angels gathered ’round Him underneath the star singing praises to the great I AM.

He walked on the water, healed the lame, and made the blind to see again.
And for the first time here on earth we learned that God could be a friend.
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong, the angry crowd chose Him. And then He walked down the road and died on the cross and that was the end…of the beginning.”

“The end of the beginning?” he said with a smile. “What more
could there be? He’s dead. You said they hung Him, put nails in
His hands and a crown of thorns on His head.” I said, “I’ll read it
again, but this time there’s more.

And I believe that this is true: His death wasn’t the end but the beginning of life that’s completed in you.
Don’t you see, He did all this for you…”

“He was born of a virgin one holy night in the little town of Bethlehem. All the angels singing praises to the great I AM.
He walked on the water, healed the lame, and made the blind to see.
And for the first time here on earth, did you know that God could be a friend?
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong, He was the one the crowd chose.
And then He walked and He died, but three days later, three days later, three days later…
He rose! Three days later He rose!

You see, He came, He lived, and He died, but that was the end of the beginning.

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A European in the Orient: Part 1 – The Adventures of Marco Polo


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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A 13th-century travelogue titled Livre des Merveilles du Monde (Book of the Marvels of the World) or Devisement du Monde (Description of the World) introduced Europeans to the geography of the Orient and the ethnic customs of its indigenous peoples.

The book described the travels of the Italian merchant traveler Marco Polo between 1276 and 1291, through Asia: Persia, China, Indonesia, Burma, Tibet, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and India, and his experiences at the court of Kublai Khan, the fifth Khagan (Great Khan) of the Mongol Empire. The book described Cathay (present-day China) in great detail and its abundance of riches. Though Marco Polo was not the first European to have visited the Far East, he still became famous after the publication of the book.

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Marco Polo (Credit: Leemage/UIG via Getty Images)
Marco Polo (Credit: Leemage/UIG via Getty Images)

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Marco Polo was born in Venice on September 15, 1254 to a wealthy Venetian merchant named Niccolò Polo. Marco’s father and his uncle Maffeo Polo being merchants had established trading posts in Constantinople, Sudak in Crimea, and in a western part of the Mongol Empire in Asia.

In 1264, the Polo brothers joined up with a diplomatic mission sent by  Hulagu, the ruler of Il-khanate to his brother Kublai Khan, both grandsons of Gengis Khan. They reached the seat of Kublai Khan, the leader of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, in Dadu (present day Beijing, China) in 1266.

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Kublai Khan, Emperor of China. The 5th Khagan of the Mongol Empire. The First Emperor of the Yuan dynasty.
Kublai Khan, Emperor of China. The 5th Khagan of the Mongol Empire. The First Emperor of the Yuan dynasty.

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Kublai Khan, the Mongol Emperor, received the Polos well and expressed his interest in Christianity. He then sent them back to Italy with a Mongol named Koeketei as an ambassador to Pope Clement IV. They carried a letter from the emperor requesting the Pope to send 100 educated people to teach Christianity and western customs to his people. He also requested oil from the lamp of the Holy Sepulcher. The emperor also gave them  the paiza, a golden tablet a foot long and 3 inches (7.6 cm) wide, to signify certain privileges and authority, allowing them to acquire lodging, horses and food throughout  his dominion.

Koeketei left in the middle of the journey, leaving the Polos to travel alone to Ayas in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. From that port city, the Polos sailed to Saint Jean d’Acre, capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Pope Clement IV died on November 29, 1268. The long sede vacante between the death of Pope Clement IV, and the election of a new pope delayed the Polos from fulfilling Kublai Khan’s request.

In 1269 or 1270, Teobaldo Visconti, then papal legate for the realm of Egypt suggested that the brothers return to Venice and wait for the nomination of the new Pope.

Niccolò Polo once again saw his son Marco, now a teenager, who had been living with his aunt and another uncle in Venice since the death of his mother at a young age.

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Niccolò Polo and Matteo Polo remitting a letter from Kublai Khan to Pope Gregory X in 1271.
Niccolò Polo and Matteo Polo remitting a letter from Kublai Khan to Pope Gregory X in 1271.

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In 1271, Theobald Visconti was elected as Pope Gregory X. He received the letter from Kublai Khan brought by the Polo brothers.

The Polo brothers left Venice on their second voyage to the Orient along with a 17-year-old Marco. Unable to recruit the 100 people that Kublai Khan had requested to teach his people, the Polos left with only two Dominican friars:  Niccolò de Vicence and Guillaume de Tripoli. They set sail to Acre.

At Acre they joined a caravan of merchants travelling to the Persian port of Hormuz. Soon, bandits attacked their caravan using the cover of a sandstorm to ambush them. The marauding bandits killed many members of the caravan and enslaved the rest, but the Polos managed to escape to a nearby town.

Marco reveled in the adventure, but the two monks after getting a taste of the hard journey ahead of them, soon turned back for home.

When they reached Hormuz they wanted to sail straight to China, but the ships in Hormuz were not seaworthy, so they continued overland through the Silk Road.

The journey was challenging and at times they had to traverse harsh terrain. In what is now Afghanistan, Marco fell ill. He had to retreat to the mountains to recuperate from the illness.

Crossing the Gobi desert, proved long and, at times, arduous. Marco told later: “This desert is reported to be so long that it would take a year to go from end to end. And at the narrowest point it takes a month to cross it. It consists entirely of mountains and sands and valleys. There is nothing at all to eat.

In 1274, three and a half years after leaving Venice, when Marco was about 21 years old, the Polos reached Kanbaliq or Dadu, the capital of the Yuan dynasty (present day Beijing). Kublai Khan who welcomed them into his summer palace known as Xanadu, a grand marble architectural wonder. The Polos presented the sacred oil from Jerusalem and the papal letters to the Mongol Emperor.

The Polos spent the next 17 years in China under the patronage of Kublai Khan. Niccolo and Maffeo were granted important positions in Kublai Khan’s Court. The Mongol Emperor took a liking to Marco, an engaging storyteller. Marco’s immersed himself into the Chinese culture and mastered four languages. He served as an official in the salt administration and made trips through the provinces of Yunnan and Fukien. At one stage, he was the tax inspector in the city of Yanzhou.

Marco Polo marveled at the use of paper money in the Mongol empire, an idea that had not reached Europe at that time.

Kublai Khan employed Marco Polo as a special envoy.  He sent Marco to Burma, India, Tibet and other far-flung areas hitherto never explored by Europeans. Marco was promoted again and again for his work. He served as governor of a Chinese city. Later, Kublai Khan appointed him as an official of the Privy Council.

The Polos asked permission on many occasions to return to Europe, but Kublai Khan liked them so much that he would not agree to their departure.

In 1291, Kublai Khan entrusted the Polos with their last duty. It was to escort the Mongol princess Koekecin to her betrothed, the Il-khan Arghun of the breakaway state of the Mongol Empire in Persia, ruled by the Mongol House of Hulagu.

The Polos departed from the southern port city of Quanzhou with a caravan of several hundred passengers and sailors. They sailed to Sumatra, Ceylon and India. They visited Mylapore, Madurai and Alleppey in India. Marco Polo nicknamed Alleppey as the “Venice of the East.”

The journey was harrowing due to storms and disease. Many perished. By the time they reached Il-khanate in Persia in 1293 or 1294, only 18 people, including the princess and the Polos, were still alive.  They came to know that Il-khan Arghun to whom the princess was betrothed had died. They left the Mongol princess Koekecin with the new Il-khan Gaykhatu. The Polos then moved to Trebizond . From there they sailed to Constantinople and then reached Venice in 1295. They had travelled almost 15,000 miles (24,000 km).  The Polos returned to Venice with thier fortune converted in gemstones. In Venice, the Polos struggled to converse in their native tongue. Above all, they were unfamiliar to their family.

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Marco Polo's Route (Source: httpdepts.washington.edu)
Marco Polo’s Route (Source: httpdepts.washington.edu)

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Next → Part 2 – The Book “The Travels of Marco Polo”

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