Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Focus: Great Lent Week 4 - Faith

Volume 3 No. 127 February 28, 2013

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Manjinikkara Pilgrimmage 2013
Manjanikkara Pilgrimmage 2013 by Dr. Kurian Mani, Los Angeles
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

There are times we get desperate. Why isn't god answering our prayers? Why is this thing happening to me when I am a good Christian. It is good to remember in those times that God answers our prayers in his own time. Do not lose hope. Be persistent. ...

Bible Readings for This Sunday (Mar 3)

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (Canaanite woman)

Sermons for This Sunday (Mar 3)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_4th-sunday-in-lent.htm

Great Is Your Faith! Be It Done for You as You Desire

Jesus praised this woman for her faith and for her love because she made the misery of her child her own. She was willing to suffer rejection in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith - whether Jew or Gentile - was refused his help. ...

Teaching the Teacher: Letter to a Canaanite Woman

Did you teach the Teacher? I think you did. Because of you and your fierce need, God's own Son himself came to see his life's work as bigger than before. What he had not thought to look for in anyone like you, he saw: faith. He saw your tenacious conviction that he could help, and amazed, he did. ...

Meditations for Lent: Canaanite Woman, An Example of Faith

This week, as we continue the fast, let us pray that our efforts toward being open to God will lead us to a richer understanding of His nature, as we read Sacred Scripture. We can then contemplate the Life of Christ, bringing Him to the forefront of our lives. In doing so, our faith will be fed. ...

From No Faith to a Mountain-top of Meaning: Father John Nepil

(He) broke into my life and spoke the truth. I experienced the forgiveness of God and the beauty of it in confession. I saw the beauty and the goodness of (God's) presence in Eucharistic adoration. ...

The Christian Faith Is Not a Leap in the Dark

From what I've observed, both children and adults in Christian circles struggle at times with the things they are called to believe in. God seems like a distant idea. Doctrine seems far removed from day-to-day life. At times, you or someone you love may be tempted with the thought, "I wonder if God, salvation, heaven and hell is all just a made up fairy tale." ...

Stand Firm in Your Faith

Throughout the Bible, those who followed Jesus Christ endured much persecution and hardship from those who despised the Lord and His followers. But the saints of God never gave up. ...

A Planned trip to Manjanikkara and Unexpected Blessings at Manarcad

My reasoning mind took a long break, blind faith and gratitude took dominance, my heart was content and my mind quite at home without conflict. It was as if my silent prayers were not so silent and someone listened and answered. ...

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. If you had been with us last year, you will find that this year's offering has expanded. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here.

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Daily Reflections - Bible Readings, reflections and prayers for each day of the week: Week 4 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week4.htm

Nombu Kaala Chinthakal - Deepam Bible Study (Malayalam):
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Nombu-2evp.pdf

FAQs About Hormones: Are Hormones the Key to Good Health and Happiness?

A lot of the symptoms we normally associate with aging - muddied thinking, weight gain, tiring easily - are actually occurring because of diminished hormone production..

Recipe: Warm and Spicy Salad

Family Special: God Wants His Job Back

It helps to see that we need to be able to juggle a lot: home, school, family, careers, and church duties. The problem lies with our failure to know where to draw the line; to differentiate between leading and bossing; to know the difference between taking charge and taking over. ...

Humor: Sunday Service

About Malankara World

Foreword

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

We are now very near the mid point of the lent. The official halfway point is next Wednesday (March 6). Congratulations for persisting so far. It will be easy from here on.

You know, by now, that, the gospel reading for each Sunday of the Great Lent recalls one miracle performed by Jesus. Last week, we examined the healing of the paralytic. This Sunday we look at the healing of the daughter of the Canaanite woman.

Of all the healing stories we read in Great Lent, I love this story more than any one else (save perhaps the wedding at Cana). We had been comparing and contrasting these miracles with modes of prayer - direct prayer, intercessional prayer, and healing directed by God. Canaanite woman's story is definitely an example of the intercessional prayer. The daughter is not involved. The mother is doing the pleading on behalf of the daughter. In this case, I suspect that the mother is more effective than if the daughter had come directly. We will understand it as the story unfolds.

Jesus taught us how to pray. He told us that we have to be persistent in our prayers. God will eventually answer our prayers; but He may not answer right away. It is our job to "push" him or "bug" him till we get the answer to the prayer.

This point is well illustrated in this Canaanite woman's story as given in Matthew 15:21-31. Most of Jesus' travels were confined to a small area of Israel. In this case he ventures out of Israel for the first time. He travels north of Israel to the city of Tyre. (Tyre and Sidon were fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.) There he had an encounter with a Canaanite woman. Canaanites are considered foreign people; they are not Jews. They worship other Gods. Jews look down on them and treat them like "dogs" - kind of like the treatment received by the untouchables in India before the independence.

The woman was desperate. Her daughter was seriously ill. We do not know what was really her illness. The bible says that she was possessed by a devil. The medical science in those days in Palestine was not very advanced. Most of the illnesses like virus, pneumonia, epilepsy, Parkinson's, ALS, cancer etc. that do not respond to herbal remedies or bloodletting etc. were all classified as due to "possession of devils." The Canaanite woman had taken the daughter to many local witch doctors and there was no response. She was desperate. Those of us, who have our own kids, know the feeling. We may not work very hard for our own healing; but when it comes to taking care of our children we never give up. I know people who bring kids with serious heart problems from India to Cleveland Clinic for treatment because that is not available in India. And they spare no expense in doing it.

So, we know the background. The Canaanite woman has tried all the traditional channels for healing her daughter. None succeeded. Her only hope was Jesus! She heard about Jesus. She studied about him (did the market research as we call it now.) She learned that he is the son of Abraham and born in the house of David and is the messiah - the son of God. She knew that Jesus can save her daughter. So, she did the homework before coming. She had the complete faith that Jesus can do it. (Just like the paralytic last week. The people knew Jesus can do it; but how to get in touch with him was the challenge.)

The Canaanite woman faced serious barriers/obstacles. Jesus' focus was to help the lost tribes of Israel. That was his clientele. Yes, the gospel would be preached to the gentiles; but the disciples and the followers will do that after they convert a core group from within the "children of God." As I said, the Canaanite woman is a foreigner (Greek Origin), she is an outcast, and she is a woman. (In a patriarchal society like that existed at Jesus' time women had no position in the society. It is unimaginable for a person like Jesus even talking to a Canaanite woman!)

The woman runs and catches up with Jesus and pleads, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon."

What did Jesus do? He gave her the "silent treatment." He just ignored her and did not answer.

Most of us would have been disappointed with this response and would have gone back to our houses saying there is no hope; we did the best we can.

Not the Canaanite woman. If direct intercession does not work, how about asking someone else to intercede? She went to the disciples and begged them to help her. She was vocal and crying loudly. The disciples tried to get rid of her with no success. They came and begged Jesus, saying, "Master, send her away, for she is crying after us. This is not the image we want these people to have about us."

Jesus' answer was short and to the point: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

This is happening in the earshot of the Canaanite woman. What can she do now? Again, if it was us, we would have given up saying there is not anything more we can do and would have gone home.

Not this woman! She just does not take no for an answer! She came and knelt before Jesus, saying, "Lord, help me." (The symbolism of the kneeling in front of Jesus is to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus that he is God.) Now she got an answer; but not quite the answer she was seeking.

Jesus answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."

WOW! What an insult! If we had persisted to that point, we would have yelled at him, "How dare you call us dogs? And you call yourself Lord and messiah?" We would have left there in a storm and tell everyone on our path what a fake prophet Jesus is!

But this lady was very smart. She knew Jesus was her last hope. She knew He is God. She knew she does not deserve any favors from Him. She has nothing to give him in return. Her only chance is to plead for mercy and grace. Jesus does not have anything to gain. She does not deserve it. She has no right to ask him to heal her daughter. But she knew that God is merciful, compassionate and full of love.

With extreme humility, still kneeling on the ground in front of Jesus, she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Lord, I am not asking for the bread. I am only asking for the crumbs that you will throw away!

Amazing, isn't it? Sheer determination! Jesus was impressed. She passed the test with flying colors. He answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.

This story reminded me of one I read about Mother Teresa, one of my heroes. Once, there was no rice left in the mother's house. Mother would have fasted. But she had children, sick people etc. who didn't have any food for days. Mother Teresa knew that her only hope was to convince a Bengali merchant to donate a few sacks of rice. (She had no money to buy the rice.) Mother went to the Calcutta market. I had been to that market. There is one row full of merchants who sell rice, dal etc. Mother Teresa went to the first merchant and stood there with folded hands. The merchant asked her, "what do you want?" To him she appeared like a normal beggar who comes there asking for food. Mother told him that she has no rice to feed her kids. Please give me few sacks of rice.

The merchant tried to get rid of her. Mother would not go. He is losing potential customers because as long as mother is standing in front of the shop engaging the shop owner, the customers will go to the next stall. The shopkeeper was getting angry. How can he get rid of her. (Same problem Jesus and the disciples faced with the Canaanite woman.) Finally, in desperation, he spat at Mother Teresa. A big ball of spit landed on Mother's face at her eye.

You can imagine what we would have done. We would have cursed the shopkeeper, raised the voice telling everyone what a bad guy he is and urge them not to shop there etc. What did Mother Teresa do?

Mother Teresa used to wear a simple cotton white sari with a green border. Mother took the pallu of her sari, wiped the spit from the eyes, smiled at the shopkeeper and said,

"I deserve that. So, I accept it. But my kids are still hungry. I need the rice."

The Bengali shop keeper was so moved by the reaction of the mother that he cried; asked mother's forgiveness and told his assistant to deliver to mother's house whatever she needed! That is what humility and patience will get you!

That is the value of persistent prayer. But Jesus was not talking about persistence here. He was talking about her faith. Why faith?

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild in 'Sermons & Sermon - Lectionary Resources' explained it best:

"When Jesus says to her at the end of the story, 'Woman, great is your faith.'
What he means is not:
- great is your persistence
- nor great is your pushiness
- nor even - great is your need

What he means is:
- great is the reason you have for being here when your daughter is sick
- great is the hope you have in coming to me
- great is the trust that led you here and caused you to be persistent, clever, and even a bit pushy.

We often confuse faith - the faith that overcomes barriers - with action. And while faith most surely does lead to action, faith itself must be in the forefront to make those actions happen.

The woman from Canaan believed in Jesus, she had faith in him,
- she believed he could heal,
- she believed that he was her hope and he alone,
and it was this belief, this faith, that overrode all other concerns
it alone gave her the energy to persist in the face of opposition,
it alone supplied her with the courage and the audacity that she needed.

- No one will persist who does not believe that it is worth while.
- No one will face insult or injury who does not trust they are on the right path.
- No one will succeed who does have the faith that their goal can be reached.

We need to believe that God cares even when it seems God doesn't care.
We need to believe that God is life, and love and goodness
And that life is stronger than the mightiest enemy - stronger than death,
And that love is greater than the highest wall of prejudice or the most solid barrier of ignorance.
And that goodness is meant for all."

There are times we get desperate. Why isn't god answering our prayers? Why is this thing happening to me when I am a good Christian. It is good to remember in those times that God answers our prayers in his own time. Do not lose hope. Be persistent.

The answer we seek may not come instantly.
And the forces of human prejudice and ignorance may try to drive us away.
We may even think at times that we hear God telling us we are outsiders - though we would be hearing wrong -
But if we hold onto our faith,
if we persist in it
God will help us.

That is the lesson we learn from this remarkable healing story. Now you know why this story is one of my favorites!

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (Mar 3)

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (Canaanite woman)

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Sermons for This Sunday (Mar 3)
This Week's Features

"Great Is Your Faith! Be It Done for You as You Desire"

by Don Schwager

Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon." 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us." 24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." 26 And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.

Meditation:

Do you ever feel "put-off" or ignored by the Lord? This passage describes the only occasion in which Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory. (Tyre and Sidon were fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.) A Gentile woman, a foreigner who was not a member of the Jewish people, puts Jesus on the spot by pleading for his help. She addressed Jesus as Lord and Son of David. She recognized that Jesus was God's anointed one who would bring healing and salvation, not only to the people of Israel, but to the Gentiles as well. She asks Jesus to show mercy and compassion to her tormented daughter. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her, and this made his disciples feel embarrassed. Jesus does this to test the woman to awaken faith in her.

When she persisted in asking Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus answered by saying one shouldn't take food prepared for their children and throw it to the dogs. What did Jesus mean by this expression? The Jews often spoke of the Gentiles as "unclean dogs" since they worshipped idols, offered sacrifices to demons, and rejected the true God. For the Greeks, the "dog" was a symbol of dishonor and was used to describe a shameless and audacious woman. Matthew 7:6 records the expression: do not give dogs what is holy. Jesus was sent from the Father in heaven to first feed the children of Israel with the true bread of life that would bring healing, reconciliation, and lasting union with God.

This humble Canaanite woman was not put-off by Jesus' refusal to give her what she asked for. In desperation and hope for her tormented child, she pleads with Jesus to give some of the "crumbs that fall from the table" to the "little dogs".

John Chrysostom (349-407 AD), in his sermon on this passage, remarks how this woman approached Jesus with great humility, wisdom, and faith:

"See her humility as well as her faith! For he had called the Jews 'children,' but she was not satisfied with this. She even called them 'masters,' so far was she from grieving at the praises of others. She said, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table.' Behold the woman's wisdom! She did not venture so much as to say a word against anyone else. She was not stung to see others praised, nor was she indignant to be reproached. Behold her constancy. When he answered, 'It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs,' she said, 'Yes, Lord.' He called them 'children,' but she called them 'masters.' He used the name of a dog, but she described the action of a dog.

Do you see the woman's humility? ...Do you see how this woman, too, contributed not a little to the healing of her daughter? For note that Christ did not say, 'Let your little daughter be made whole,' but 'Great is your faith, be it done for you as you desire.' These words were not uttered at random, nor were they flattering words, but great was the power of her faith, and for our learning. He left the certain test and demonstration, however, to the issue of events. Her daughter accordingly was immediately healed."
[The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 52.3]

Jesus praised this woman for her faith and for her love because she made the misery of her child her own. She was willing to suffer rejection in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith - whether Jew or Gentile - was refused his help. Do you seek Jesus with expectant faith?

Prayer:

"Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and pursue you with indomitable persistence as this woman did. Increase my faith in your saving power and deliver me for all evil and harm. "

(c) 2002 - 2011 Don Schwager

Teaching the Teacher: Letter to a Canaanite Woman

by Mary Hinkle Shore

Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28

Dear Canaanite Sister,

You go girl! I've never seen anyone talk to Jesus like that. And this from someone who so clearly does not belong. No one has called anyone a Canaanite for centuries. You are a foreigner - or you would be a foreigner if it were not your home turf that Jesus had wandered into. What's more, you are a Canaanite woman in the middle of a group of Jewish men. You are so out of place and so out of time and so exactly where your daughter needs you to be.

I heard you first, before I saw you. You were screaming, crying, crying out, wailing in that Emergency Room that doubles as a road through Tyre and Sidon . So completely foreign it all was. What were you doing there? What was Jesus doing there? You would tell him what he was doing. "Have mercy on me, Son of David," you said. "My daughter… my daughter is tormented by a demon."

You were screaming when you said this, hysterical we would say. It was hard to hear, harder to watch. You followed those men, still crying after them. The disciples wondered if the demon didn't have hold of you, too. You kept shouting. They asked Jesus to dismiss you. He ignored them. But he ignored you too, and some of us who know him found his silence even more disturbing than your cries.

Then he spoke, and things got worse. "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel ," he said. At that point, had I been you, I would have gotten angry. "Sent only to Israel, huh? Then what the hell are you doing in Tyre? Need a map, Mister Omniscient Son of God?"

Did you teach the Teacher? "Lord, help me," you said, instead of fussing about just who was lost and who was out of place. To which you heard, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."

You were kneeling when he said this, existing low where it is possible to smell exactly what the Rottweiler had for lunch. Had you fallen at his feet just to stop him in his tracks? Maybe, but your kneeling looked like the posture of worship. It looked like you were praying when he said you were a dog. And heaven knows, “Lord help me!” is a prayer.

"It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." We still cannot quite believe our Jesus said this. We are so embarrassed that Jesus would call anyone a dog, and we are so nonchalant about God keeping promises to God's children - unless, of course, we are the children of God to whom the promises were made. But when Jesus spoke of the children and their bread, he was not talking about most of us any more than he was talking about you. You knelt before him, and he as much as said, “You are right where you belong, dog.”

I wonder if it was not your place below the action that told you what to say next. "Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." I'm down here, Lord, with the dogs, looking for just a little. A little… “My daughter…. Have mercy…. Crumbs."

Did you teach the Teacher? I think you did. Because of you and your fierce need, God's own Son himself came to see his life's work as bigger than before. What he had not thought to look for in anyone like you, he saw: faith. He saw your tenacious conviction that he could help, and amazed, he did.

I have thought that fear makes it impossible to imagine things. "Perfect fear casts out all imagination," I have thought. But you were afraid - you must have been afraid of the demon and of your daughter's suffering and afraid of all those foreign men and all their insults. You must have been afraid, yet you could see a new thing - healing - at the same time. “Woman,” Jesus said (choosing, finally, a better name than dog), “Great is your faith.” You imagined healing before it happened and you showed it to the Healer.

Walking by faith, crying out by faith, kneeling and talking back to God by faith like that, what might we see?

  • Can faith declare God's work for us in places where we don't belong?

  • Will faith point us, with you, to that stranger on the road - out of place himself - who certainly can help?

  • Will it break for us the loaf that is enough for children and for dogs.

  • Might your story help us grasp these things even when we're terrified?

You taught the Teacher. What will you teach us?

Source: From a sermon preached at a Luther Seminary chapel service.
Posted in Pilgrim Preaching

Meditations for Lent:
Canaanite Woman, An Example of Faith

by Fr. Jim

As we continue to meditate on Faith, the faith of the Canaanite woman from Sunday's Gospel, are we to be as bold as she was?

According to Thomas Torrance, from 'Incarnation, the Person and Life of Christ,' Faith may be defined as what happens to our reason when it encounters the nature and reality of God. We know much about the nature of God from the Early Father of the church and the theologians of the centuries that followed. The specific aspect of God's nature that Christ demonstrates in this passage is that of Mercy. God's mercy extends to those outside the Chosen People because of the faith of these folks, including the woman whose daughter has a spiritual malady.

God be merciful unto me! We have cried this in the past and may have need to cry it again! Like the woman, we know that Christ is real. We have evidence of this both in the Gospels, Sacred Writ, and in secular writings of the day. We also know the reality of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, because we have met Him in our dealings, pain, sorrow and the most joy filled days. We are to have a full relationship with Him, and through knowing Him, with His Father, our Father.

Our Lord taught us to pray: …And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… These words are for us during Lent. Our faith leads us to be able to be bold in our cry unto God because we know the nature of God and because we know the reality of Him in Christ Jesus. The more time we spend in faith, the more we become like Christ. There is purity, a single-mindedness, which becomes part of us. Our fasting and prayer during Lent is to be our meat. When we are pure, we are more open to faith, hope and love.

This week, as we continue the fast, let us pray that our efforts toward being open to God will lead us to a richer understanding of His nature, as we read Sacred Scripture. We can then contemplate the Life of Christ, bringing Him to the forefront of our lives. In doing so, our faith will be fed.

Then we can be bold, knowing that we are not getting in God's way, but instead participating in his Kingdom. May the lavishness of God fill your Lent with abundant grace.

From No Faith to a Mountain-Top of Meaning

by Roxanne King

A fast-paced suburban life focused on success had left 17-year-old John Nepil burned out and without faith when an encounter with Christ changed his life.

It was July 14, 2001. The Littleton High School junior's parents had bribed him to attend a Steubenville of the Rockies youth retreat. He despised it.

Since his freshman year he had increasingly turned to alcohol, drugs and sex to escape his overactive life, which was aimed at building a stand-out college application and included the pressures of playing multiple sports and instruments and striving to earn top grades. He had gotten into trouble and ended up at the retreat.

"I owed my parents $500 and $500 is what they paid for me to go on the retreat," he told the Denver Catholic Register. "I hated being on the retreat - every second of it - with all those Jesus freaks."

Then something miraculous happened.

"I was actually walking away from the conference and he came out after me. I didn't know him, I'd never seen him," he told OneBillionStories.com, recalling the priest who played a pivotal role in his conversion. "After about a three-hour conversation, he heard my confession."

The priest, he marveled, "left the 99 (sheep) and went after the one."

"(He) broke into my life and spoke the truth," he told the Register. "I experienced the forgiveness of God and the beauty of it in confession. I saw the beauty and the goodness of (God's) presence in eucharistic adoration."

"That day, everything changed."

The suffering teen had experienced God's love, mercy and forgiveness through the Church. No longer was Jesus Christ just a historical religious figure - and no longer was the Church simply an entity that dispensed "intellectual doctrine and moral obligation" to oppress people, but the instrument through which he had encountered the living Christ.

He had a revelation: "Jesus Christ was the answer to the question of my existence."

"The most beautiful thing," he told the Register, "is to find meaning in suffering and to find purpose in the things of my life that seem hopeless. The Cross is the glory for the Christian and death truly has been conquered."

In the months following the retreat, he realized that he wanted to give his life to Christ and serve him. So, after graduation he entered the seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood in May 2011 and now serves as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center in Boulder, where he leads a group of university students in pursuing the Catholic faith and outdoor adventures in the mountains.

"To this day (that youth retreat priest) doesn't know that that was the definitive moment of my life, July 14, 2001. He doesn't know that a year later I entered seminary and am now a Catholic priest," Father Nepil told OneBillionStories.com, which filmed him celebrating Mass Sept. 29 at the top of Quandary Peak, a 14-er near Breckenridge.

The compelling video, which includes stunning views from the summit of the 14,265-foot mountain, was launched Oct. 11, opening day of the Year of Faith called by Pope Benedict XVI.

Today, the 29-year-old Father Nepil likens the adventure he seeks in the mountains to the deeper spiritual adventure God is always calling one to.

"Now, I exist for one purpose," he told the Register, "for the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and seeking ever more to conform my life to it."

Source: Denver Catholic Register

The Christian Faith Is Not a Leap in the Dark

by Alex Crain, Editor, Christianity.com

"…we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18 NASB

We can divide the universe into two categories of reality: the material and the non-material; or that which is seen and that which is not seen. In talking about unseen reality, I'm obviously not talking about things that must be relegated to fantasy or pure imagination. Rather, I'm talking about unseen (yet real) fixed concepts which our world operates by constantly. Take, for example…

Moral absolutes

(e.g. Child abuse is wrong.)

The uniformity of nature

(e.g. We live on the assumption that planets and stars move in a predictable fashion. On this assumption we plan trips not only to grandma's house, but to the moon and beyond.)

Universal Laws of Thought

(e.g. The principle of contradiction: a maxim stated by Aristotle as: "contradictory propositions are not true simultaneously." [cf. Aristotle's Metaphysics, 1011b13-14]) Avicenna is said to have put it more colorfully, "Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.

These are all things that are real, yet are unseen. Laws of thought and moral absolutes may not be able to be weighed, measured or stored in a cupboard, but we count on them and live by them every day just the same.

From what I've observed, both children and adults in Christian circles struggle at times with the things they are called to believe in. God seems like a distant idea. Doctrine seems far removed from day-to-day life. At times, you or someone you love may be tempted with the thought, "I wonder if God, salvation, heaven and hell is all just a made up fairy tale."

At that point you should take a step back and remember that everyone has a faith in their particular view of the world. Worldviews need to be evaluated by whether or not they account for the unseen realities mentioned above. Fortunately, biblical Christianity (not to be confused with tainted, politicized, or hypocritical forms of Christianity that bear no resemblance to the life and message of Jesus Christ) is a worldview that is well able to account for these unseen realities. The biblical God (note well, not just general theism) capably undergirds all unseen moral absolutes, natural constants and universals. Other competing worldviews are weighed in the balance and found wanting.

When we are called on to believe in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:5), we should recognize that this is another unseen reality. The truths of Galatians 2:20 belong in the category of the unseen as well…

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Gal. 2:20)

Let's not gloss over the fact that we are called to believe in unseen things. But at the same time let's not jump to the wrong conclusion that Christ asks us to take an idiotic leap in the dark. We all believe in well-founded unseen things everyday.

In chapter four of Francis Schaeffer's True Spirituality, he calls our attention to this biblical view of truth by underscoring that there are "two streams, two strands of space-time reality - one in the seen, and one in the unseen…"

"[God] is not asking us merely to act on some psychological motivation, but on what really is… there is a Holy Spirit who has been given to us to make service possible.

"The Christian dead, including my loved ones, are already with Christ now, and Christ really lives in the Christian. Christ lives in me.

"Here is true Christian mysticism - not based on content-less experience, but on historic, space-time reality - on propositional truth. Christian mysticism is communion with Christ. It is Christ bringing forth fruit through me, the Christian, with no loss of personality.

"He is the Christ who has died, whose work is finished, who is raised, who is ascended, who is glorified. It is this Christ. Not simply an idea. It is the Christ who was seen after the resurrection… by Stephen, by Paul, by John."

Let's walk on today, confidently believing in these unseen realities - Christ was not raised mythically; Jesus, the apostles and the Christian martyrs were not liars; and "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).

Intersecting Faith & Life:

Are you at a loss for words when asked why you believe in unseen things? Learn how to converse with others in terms of their own beliefs in unseen things (like moral absolutes, etc.), and help them discover the worldview that is charged with the majesty and grandeur of God.

Source: Crosswalk.com Devotional

Stand Firm in Your Faith

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Paul tells us not to conform to the ways of this world (Romans 12:2). However, many times our beliefs and morals are challenged to a point beyond anything we have known. It is so easy to get caught up in a quest for more money, freedom, and material possessions.

What does nonconformity mean in today's world? It means standing firm in our faith; no matter what the cost. 2 Timothy 3:12 reminds us, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

Throughout the Bible, those who followed Jesus Christ endured much persecution and hardship from those who despised the Lord and His followers. But the saints of God never gave up.

Though it ultimately cost them their lives, their physical death meant being in the presence of God. Jesus said, "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it" (Luke 17:33).

Even in the midst of persecution, the godly will move forward, grow upward, and receive victory. When you feel overwhelmed by life's temptations, turn to the Lord. His strength will protect you so that you will be able to continue on the path He has ordained for you.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to remember that persecution for faith in you is to be expected. Your Word tells me that I will have trouble in this world, but that there is strength in the fact that you have overcome this world. May my eyes be fixed on the eternal life I have in you and may I be intentional about sharing you, Jesus, with others, no matter the cost. I pray in Your holy name. Amen.

"May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones."
(1 Thessalonians 3:13)

Source: My Devotional; © 2012 Leading The Way

A Planned trip to Manjanikkara and
Unexpected Blessings at Manarcad

by Dr. Kurian Mani, Malankara World Board Member

It was Feb 4th 2013 and time was around 11:45 AM. I had just made contacts with two of my old primary school classmates. It was time to pick up my wife Jaya and friend Valsa from Manarcad church, where they had been doing ‘Bhajana’ for two days. The routine was that they would walk to church early morning from home to reach church in time for the Holy Qurbana. They would spent time in church till noon and I would bring them home for lunch. They were preparing for the long walk to Manjanikkara couple of days later. So I was on my pickup routine. While talking to my classmate whom I had not seen in fifty or so years, we were told to hurry towards the stone cross on the west end of the church. My heart might have skipped a beat. I had stood facing the cross a couple of days ago and wished how great it would be if I could witness the flow of fragrant oil as was claimed by many witnesses prior.

I dispatched our driver to get Jaya and Valsa from church and hurried towards the stone cross. I did not have the patience to go get them myself. As I approached the cross there was the faint smell in the air all so familiar from Kattachira and earlier from Jerusalem. There was already a few people in front of the cross in various poses of prayer. The urge to rush towards the cross and touch and smell the oil was so great that I found myself stepping on the granite steps of the cross and reaching out to the granite part of the cross. The smell of oil in hand was so awe inspiring. I did not know what to do further.

I must have been so engrossed in the act of wetting my hand in the oil on the cross, that I did not hear the warning yells from another co-gatherer. I was too close to a burning wick on the layered wick holder around the cross. The yells grew loud enough to catch my attention eventually. My heart was filled with thankfulness. I repeated my usual prayers that I say while I go to Manarcad church, many times.

Manarcadu Stone Cross - site of the miraclesAfter the initial surge of gratefulness subsided a little, I settled down on the backend steps of the church facing the cross watching the rest of the believers including Jaya and Valsa gathering oil in small bottles. They had been very resourceful. They bought oil in small bottles available at the booths nearby, poured it on to the lower layers of the wick stand and used the empty bottles to collect the fragrant oil from the top layers.

After a while I could not stay away from the cross. I made another trip to the cross, collected oil and put it on my arms and face. Went back to the church steps. I might have repeated this a few times. My reasoning mind took a long break, blind faith and gratitude took dominance, my heart was content and my mind quite at home without conflict. It was as if my silent prayers were not so silent and someone listened and answered. Afterwards, back at home with my father, my hands were retaining the strong fragrance. Since I did not want to wash my hands, took some rags and wiped hard. I carried those rags back to US and they still retain that smell. The small bottles of oil we collected were handed over to St. Mary’s Church Los Angeles.

Whenever we visit shrines dedicated to the saints I would pray for intercession from that saint. Now, instead I pray ‘Please join with the Mother and intercede for me’. Manarcadu church had been a sacred place for me personally. That was the parish church for both my parents. I was baptized there so are my granddaughters. Our family grave holds the remains of my mother and hopefully in future, hold mine too. My uncle serves the church as the Vicar now. In the past, when I heard about Kattachira church, I always wondered why not Manarcad. That question is not relevant anymore.

Three days later on the 7th, as planned, we travelled by car to the Dhayara at Vallamkulam, Thiruvalla in preparation for the walk to Manjanikkara. The streets were filled with pilgrims walking. I was told that there is an unwritten rule that you do not carry umbrella. May be that is the reason every one had their head covered with clothes wrapped around. This year I found some innovative ways to cover the head as well. Someone had introduced a white hat and I saw that on many heads. May be it will catch on. Many men and women carry their bags on their head and that serves as head covering as well. I also noticed that there were visibly more people on the road than previous years.

Vallamkulam Dhayara was the designated meeting place for all those of us from Los Angeles. This was the fourth year for the LA group. The plan was to attend the evening prayer there and have supper with the 6000 ( 5000 last year) or so pilgrims and begin the walk to Manjanikkara. Our Vicar CorEpiscopos Sabu Thomas would lead the group. The resident Bishop H.G. Kuriakose mor Gregoriose recognized me from previous years and greeted me with a smile and said ‘ha Los Angeles’. One of the volunteers who had been helping to serve coffee recognized me as well, may be because of my addiction to coffee, and brought me a glass of ‘without’ coffee along with words of greeting.

Incidentally, the LA group mainly consists of women except for Sabu Achen and couple of local male friends. Men from LA for some unknown reason are unusually busy at that time and cannot make it. Walking has its own perils. Two years back my son joined the pack and had to be rescued in the middle, because of his two knees that had undergone surgery could not take it all the way. This year one of the team members suffered a fall and ended up with a cracked shoulder bone. But she wouldn’t give up and insisted on going to Manjanikkara and attending the Qurbana next morning before getting any medical attention. Myself, in tune with the rest of the LA men, play it safe and do a shorter walk.

The walk from Thiruvalla to Manjanikkara through the night is pleasant compared to the daytime walk in the burning sun. Naadan delicacies are waiting for you at various corners. Probably the only time you can have them without paying for it. There are vehicles moving at walking pace playing devotional songs and one could follow such a vehicle.

Sabu achen takes the group through a short cut that includes a river crossing in a canoe at night. He may let you take a break and stretch your legs on the ‘thinnas’ (porches) of closed shops. The group makes it to manjanikkara by about 4AM. The only thing one craves for is a spot to lie down and sleep. The soft beds back in LA is no match for those unswept hard floors around the church. One does not even care who is sleeping next. The church bells will wake you up to prepare for the morning service.

You are lucky if you can find a spot inside the church during the morning Qurbana. If you decide to stand outside, the stream of pilgrims arriving from different origins will be a challenge on your concentration. A visit to the saint’s tomb must be planned before the morning service, otherwise your mobility will be limited and often the crowd will decide where you are headed.

When the Qurbana is over it is time to head back home. On the other hand, as many do, one could plan a trip to Parumala as well. Don’t be surprised to see many of the group vehicles one noticed at Manjanikkara rolling into the parking lot of Parumala church also.

Now that I am back in LA and looking back, it had been an eventful visit to India. Jaya and I think it was uniquely a blessed one. One of the parishioners, who smelled the oil Achen had made available to, came and told me that he could sense that unique smell. I am glad I could bring it to LA so others could experience it as well.

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. If you had been with us last year, you will find that this year's offering has expanded. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Week 4 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week4.htm

Nombu Kaala Chinthakal- Deepam Bible Study (Malayalam)

Daily Meditations and Bible Reading:

Day 21 - March 3 - Fourth Sunday of the Great Lent

Day 22 - March 4 - Fourth Monday of the Great Lent

Day 23 - March 5 - Fourth Tuesday of the Great Lent

Day 24 - March 6 - Fourth Wednesday of the Great Lent (Mid Lent)

Day 25 - March 7 - Fourth Thursday of the Great Lent

Day 26 - March 8 - Fourth Friday of the Great Lent

Day 27 - March 9 - Fourth Saturday of the Great Lent

FAQs About Hormones: Are Hormones the Key to Good Health and Happiness?

Specialist Answers 4 FAQs About Hormone Replacement

Of the many truisms offered by the Ancient Greeks, the benefits of moderation and balance in life is one of the most enduring. Unfortunately, maintaining biological balance as we age beyond midlife can be almost impossible - at least, without appropriate intervention, says Dr. Steven Hotze.

"People accept that our hormones slowly diminish as we age, but it has taken the mainstream medical community a very long time to accept that our hormonal imbalances cause age-related health problems," says Dr. Hotze, founder of the Hotze Health & Wellness Center, (www.hotzehwc.com), and author of "Hormones, Health and Happiness."

"Fifteen years ago, the concept of hormone replacement therapy was widely considered almost avant-garde. Today, hormone-replacement medicine for 'Low T,' or low testosterone, is all the buzz."

But not all hormone replacement therapies are equal - or good for you, says Dr. Hotze.

Here are his answers to some frequently asked questions.

"Is hormone replacement therapy dangerous?"

We hear plenty in the media about how the therapy is linked to breast and prostate cancer, but what is not mentioned is the distinction between synthetic and bioidentical hormones. The latter have the same molecular structure as the hormones that are found naturally in the body, which means bioidentical hormone treatments cannot hurt patients. Counterfeit hormones - those that do not perfectly match the molecular structure of hormones in one's body - can be dangerous.

"I've had many tests and tried many treatments for my problems. If they were hormone-related, wouldn't have that been discovered before now?"

Physicians can't and shouldn't rely solely on lab tests for diagnoses and pharmaceutical drugs for treatment. A very thorough patient history and evaluation of symptoms, in addition to standard diagnostic tests, can reveal an underlying hormonal problem.

"My blood test indicated nothing irregular, but I suffer symptoms including fatigue, anxiety and weight gain; what's going on?"

Blood tests can lie - patients do not. If you have symptoms, but your physician tells you your blood work came back "normal," specifically regarding your thyroid, you should realize that 95 percent of people tested fall within a range considered normal. However, that doesn't mean it is normal for you! Also, remember, you can send the same blood to two different labs and get two different results.

Are women more prone to hypochondria? My physician cannot link my symptoms to a cause …

No, it's not "all in your head." Women tend to be more attentive to their body for good reason - the menstrual cycle causes women to experience different hormonal states almost on a daily basis. Women can also experience dramatic physical effects during menopause, when hormones drop significantly. The dramatic physical changes can occur at multiple points. After childbirth is increasingly common, as well.

"A lot of the symptoms we normally associate with aging - muddied thinking, weight gain, tiring easily - are actually occurring because of diminished hormone production," Hotze says.

"Hormone replacement therapy using bioidentical hormones can actually make some patients feel young again!"

About Steven F. Hotze, MD

Dr. Steven Hotze is the founder and CEO of the Hotze Health & Wellness Center in Houston, Texas. He's a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and is the former president of the Pan American Allergy Society. He earned his medical degree from the University of Texas.

Recipe: Warm and Spicy Salad
Ingredients:

1 red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
6 oz okra, trimmed and lightly pricked with a fork
1-1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1/2 cups wiped and sliced oyster mushrooms
1 tbsp freshly chopped cilantro
4 tbsp oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 chows chilies, seeded and sliced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin (adjust amount to your taste)
1/2 tsp turmeric
sour cream, to serve

Directions:

Heat the oil in a wok or large pan and stir-fry the garlic and chilies gently for 2 minutes.

Add the spices and stir-fry for a further 1 minute.

Increase the heat slightly, then add the onion and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the okra, chopped tomatoes and mushrooms and stir-fry for a further 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked but still retain a bite.

Stir in the chopped cilantro and serve on individual plates, topped with spoonfuls of sour cream.

Serves 4

Family Special: God Wants His Job Back

by Karen Ehman

"Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." Colossians 3:23 (NLT)

I have a confession to make: I crave control. You know - as in I like to be in charge; the shot-caller; the boss.

I'm pretty sure I was born ready to be in charge. As a toddler, I lined my frilly dolls and any willing playmates or siblings up in a way that suited my preferences. In elementary school, I couldn't wait to be selected for special duties, like heading up a game or putting on a play.

Yes, from birth I instinctively ordered and organized anything within my reach - objects, circumstances, and later in life, even living, breathing human beings. I didn't need a boardroom to prove that I was a natural born boss.

In my defense (and the defense of my fellow control-craving friends), this is often a much-needed skill. Being able to multi-task, identify duties and delegate is beneficial on many fronts. Just glance at my partial to-do list for the week:

Prepare meals and snacks for the week
Make appointments for the eye doctor
Do a few loads of laundry
Haul kids back and forth to sports practice
Help kids with homework

Whew, I'm worn out just writing that!

But, it helps to see that we need to be able to juggle a lot: home, school, family, careers, and church duties. The problem lies with our failure to know where to draw the line; to differentiate between leading and bossing; to know the difference between taking charge and taking over.

Competency carried to an extreme can morph into control.

I've struggled to find a balance between taking charge and ultimately taking over for most of my life. Colossians 3:23 helps me remember that managing my life and to-do list is ultimately an act of worship and service to the Lord. In it we're told, "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." (NLT)

When I work willingly as though I'm working for the Lord, I set about my tasks and navigate my relationships with a humble heart and open hands. I willingly let go of my preferences and desire to be the one in control.

When I work willingly as though I'm working for the Lord, I focus more on caring about others' feelings than controlling their opinions and resulting actions.

When I work willingly as though I'm working for the Lord, I want to please Him, not myself.

I've discovered there exists a minuscule line between being conscientious and being controlling. What I have to constantly keep in mind is the difference between being conscientious (my part) and being in control (God's part).

I'll probably always have long to-do lists and lots of activities. It's just the nature of my personality. But I'm trying to remember each day that it is God who is ultimately in charge, not me.

It's not easy for this control-craving woman to let go and let God run the show. It takes emotional effort and intentional change of my ingrained habits. But I am learning to work diligently without being controlling.

This week as we set about our tasks, lets remember just who the boss is: God. We are on His time clock. May our thoughts, actions and reactions make our Boss proud and accurately reflect His character.

Dear Lord, may I purpose to learn the difference between being conscientious and being controlling. Help me remember You are God and I am not. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

If you crave control but want to learn how to let go and trust God more with the everyday details and decisions in your life, check out Karen Ehman's new book LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith. It will empower and equip you to control what you should and trust God with what you can't.

Visit Karen's blog for more encouragement and a giveaway that includes her new book, LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith and more!

Reflect and Respond:

Think about your week ahead. What tasks must you perform? How can you go about tackling these in a way that is conscientious but not controlling?

Power Verse:

Colossians 1:10 "... walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." (ESV)

© 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
Source: Encouragement for Today Devotional; Proverbs 31 Ministries

Humor: Sunday Service
A minister was planning a wedding at the close of the Sunday morning service.

After the benediction he had planned to call the couple down to be married for a brief ceremony before the congregation.

For the life of him, he couldn't think of the names of those who were to be married.

"Will those wanting to get married please come to the front?" he requested.

Immediately, nine single ladies, three widows, four widowers, and six single men stepped to the front.

About Malankara World
With over 6000 articles and hundreds of links to outside resources covering all aspects of Syriac Orthodoxy that are of interest to Family, Malankara World is the premier source for information for Malankara Diaspora. In addition to articles on spirituality, faith, sacraments, sermons, devotionals, etc., Malankara World also has many general interest articles, health tips, Food and Cooking, Virtual Travel, and Family Specific articles. Please visit Malankara World by clicking here or cut and paste the link on your browser: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/default.htm

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