Merry Christmas! I have Tidings of Great Joy

January 26, 2014 at 10:48 am

Call it a belated Christmas message.   We did not get around to sending out Christmas cards this year.  Yes I said Christmas.  How politically incorrect.

Over here in India, people do not care about that.  They wish me Happy (Whatever the Festival Day Is) with eyes filled with great joy.  And believe me it seems like there is a festival every week here.  Recently they had a festival similar to our Thanksgiving that was based on the rice harvest.  One of the expats from Spain with whom I golf told me it was one of the few that he understood.  He also said that in his research ( his wife works and he plays golf daily, Face books  and apparently researches cultural items) that he found out that there are 60 Indian holidays.  Companies are required to provide 8 holidays for the festivals.  That does not stop our employees from taking time off for the others.

Today is Republic Day.   India has been a republic for 60 years.    A different Indian  golf mate  ( who lived in the US for years and  runs the  back office of Diebold here) shared with me that India is a modern concept borne out of the independence movement.  He said that India is similar to Europe.   Historically it is a region of hundreds of kingdoms.  The British were the first ones to consolidate the subcontinent which also included Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka.   ( I generally golf once a week despite creating an impression it is otherwise).

My favorite Jesuit this morning celebrated India’s diversity and what a great gift India is from God.  He highlighted how India is the only country in the subcontinent that has not devolved into a military dictatorship like the other countries mentioned above and the Philippines.  Unlike China, where political malcontents are jailed and human rights are nonexistent, a recent anti-corruption political reformer was swept into office as the governor of the state that includes Delhi.  Fr. Raj  focused on the variety of languages, customs and traditional dances.  He said  that India is unique by  harnessing such diversity.   ( He is always  mindful of my presence in the pews and mentioned how the US has also successfully managed diversity making a home for the Irish, Italians, Germans and more recently the Hispanics.)

He tied Republic Day backed to the readings of the day.  In particular,  Isaiah spoke of rod of the oppressor being thrown off and of those sitting in darkness seeing a great light in the land of Galilee.  He also referenced an ancient Vedic text which he said that they all would know.  He quoted a text about the spiritual journey from darkness to light.  He then stated that the constitution embodies a movement from darkness to light and how the fathers of India dreamed of establishing a classless, cooperative, free and happy society.  He then quoted Gandhi saying that it would not be a free country until a woman could walk safely through the streets at night alone.    (Rather sobering given weekly if not daily reports of women being gang raped here.)  The message was one of optimism, hope and a movement from darkness to light for all of us as followers of Jesus.

In his opening prayer and in his homily he also invoked JFK’s  “Ask not what your country do for you , but ask what you can do for your country.”    It is amazing how the Kennedy’s brief moment made such an impression.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Indian pride in their country.  It is pretty amazing.   A country of  1.2 billion people that definitely has it challenges but has successfully cultivated the fragile flower of democracy for 60 years.  Just feeding all these people successfully is an accomplishment.  Walking down our street you can see beautiful fruit displays for sale.

But I digress…I do have specific tidings of great joy.    This news also ties into today’s readings where Jesus told James and John to leave their boats and fishing nets.  “Follow Me.”

After Christmas, Patrick and Martin returned with us to visit Dubai and India as you will see elsewhere on my blog.  The evening before their departure we had another birthday dinner to celebrate Patrick turning 36 the next day.  At that dinner, Patrick said that he will be returning to the US after 5 years in China in August.  Not only that.  He has decided to enter Mundelein seminary outside Chicago to study to become a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago.  Kathleen and I choked up as he announced the news.

As my mom said,  “Deep down don’t you know that it is right?”  Indeed.   Mark Ricketts said “God has touched his heart.”

As the hart in the desert pants for water, may we share Patrick’s thirst for God and see rivers of water break out in the desert.  Keep him in your prayers as he responds to God’s call to leave all and Follow Jesus.