Family and Youth Conference 2013 - Final Day

OUR CHALLENGE: BE THE FACES THAT REFLECT THE LIFE OF CHRIST By: Fr. Paulose T. Peter

In his final keynote address on the Conference theme, Rev. Fr. Dr. Baby Varghese stated that his intention in the course of two sessions was simply to kindle a spark in the minds of the listeners rather than ignite a full scale fire to bring about radical changes to the way we think on the subject theme.

St. Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians gives a litany of things for us to follow in order to lead a well pleasing life before God, he said. For us Christians, presenting our lives as a well pleasing sacrifice to God must become rather a way of life than a one-time event. God does not expect from us a life of solitude but a life of community.

Common prayer as opposed to individual prayer makes us feel a part of the community and bonds our relationship with it. As members of a community we are endowed with a mission with responsibilities by which we need to reach out and touch others. Prayer should be sensitive to the needs of others, always being ready to extend a helping hand. Such a help does not have to be in terms of finance but by way of Fellowship with others. It can take the form of admonishing those who commit offences or giving a consoling presence of God in order to instill in them a feeling of confidence that being in God’s hands means living free of anxieties and uncertainties. Orthodox worship is corporate worship in which family life is a big witness. We may be able to hire a servant for menial household duties but we will never be able to hire someone either to love us or to share our confidence. It is from the family and the community that we obtain such love and care. A family is God’s design and it was God who decided that “Man should not be alone”.

Based on the exhortation to Thessalonians, Varghese Achen emphasized the need to pray constantly and he elaborated on the different aspects of prayer. Praying is a courageous act, he said. Repetition of canonical prayers is not enough. Since prayer is an expression of our love to God, it should be extended to include others who are in various types of needs whether for healing, consolation, peace of mind or any other. It is worth noting that the book of Psalms does not contain a single prayer for material gains. Though the church has designated praying seven times a day (Ps. 119:164), Paul insists on incessant prayer. What distinguishes the Monks who practices asceticism from those who have families is not the fact that they are not married but that they have a strong prayer life. A family man may feel more solitary than a Monk who enjoys the Fellowship of other Monks and spends more time in prayer in the company of God.

Achen encouraged his listeners to find more quality time to spend in meditation instead of wasting time engaging in gossips to discredit others and to tear their reputations apart. Baby Varghese Achen refused to buy the argument that people are too busy to find time to pray because of the demands placed on them by their career or their family. Citing the lame excuses made by Lazarus’ sister Martha for not being able to spend time with Jesus due to the heavy workload in the kitchen thereby missing what was most essential, he said that we must find time to read the Word of God prayerfully and carefully. In prayer quality is more important than quantity. We are often swayed and led astray by a materialistic world but it is high time we woke up and smelled the coffee, realizing that many of the values upheld by the world are plain wrong.

Life should not be seen as an “unending weekend with lots of fun”, said Fr. Varghese. It is instead a continued daily realization of the presence of God. Baby Varghese Achen further pointed out that God’s granting of forgiveness comes very cheap. Even the compassionate offer of a small cup of water to a needy one or a little humane act to alleviate the pain of others shall be big enough to open the floodgates of God’s abundant grace to flow without any reservation. Fr. Varghese ended his scholarly keynote discourse on the conference theme in these words. In a world where many tend to hold dear to their hearts wrong and distorted values, “Our challenge is to be the faces that reflect the life of Christ”.

 


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