Bishop's Message

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Mar George Rajendran SDB

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For the well being of the society the diocese of Thuckalay conducted Jericho Procession at Pilankalai Church on 5 August 2017

Christmas is fast approaching! The season of Annunciation has just begun. The birth of Jesus is at hand! On 1 December we begin the 25 days fast. It is a time for looking both backward and forward. We look backward as we prepare to celebrate the historical birth of Jesus. At the same time, we look forward to his Second Coming as we prepare ourselves to welcome him into all the areas of our lives during this season. The season of annunciation culminates with the celebration of the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. It is a moment when God comes to humanity in a tangible manner by taking upon himself our flesh in order to bestow upon us the divinity that we lost with the sin of Adam. The evangelists who narrate the infancy of Jesus emphasises the fact that his birth took place quite unnoticed.

He was born in a manger. However, the ordinary people beheld him. Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, Simeon and Anna were unassuming people. The only exception is the Magi, who were considered both rich and wise. But then, all these individuals had childlike simplicity and humility to recognise the child Jesus born in the manger. We too can appreciate the birth of Jesus and spiritually profit from it if we are willing to accept him in humility acknowledging our unworthiness. Jesus was not only born in the manger at Bethlehem but he continues to be born in the hearts of people who are willing to confess his Lordship. There are a number of spiritual exercises in the Catholic Church where Jesus continues to be present proffering his graces. The Eucharist is one such act. A devout celebration of the Holy Mass at Christmas can be a wonderful means for us to come face to face with the child Jesus. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is still another moment when Jesus can truly take his abode in our lives. Needless to say, I earnestly, invite you to make use of these spiritual exercises to make the celebration of Christmas meaningful and religious for our people in your respective parishes.

Christmas is also a feast of sharing. God, taking the initiative, shared his divinity with the humans and He deigned to accept our humanity in order to make us heavenly. During this festival season, it is important that we too share our God-given gifts with the less fortunate brothers and sisters, who may be living side by side with us. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7). Let us encourage our people to cheerfully part with whatever they can spare in order to share in the generosity of God and to receive His blessings. Explain to them the life of St. Teresa of Kolkata, who can become for them an inspiration and a model. Although there will be occasions when we can personally wish one another, still let me, through this letter, wish you, dear Fathers, a Merry Christmas and a God-filled New Year 2017. May you have a faith experience of the Babe of Bethlehem as you prepare to celebrate Christmas! With the assurance of my prayers and blessings,

Yours in Christ Jesus,

+George Rajendran SDB Bishop of Thuckalay

Annual Exams are over for many of our children and vacation is here. It is time for Vacation Bible School. Vacation is a time the children are given to relax, refresh, and restart their academic duties. Then VBS is going to be another class? Nay, it is not that routine that we should begin again to send our children into classes of boredom. Two of the disciples who had harrowing experience of the crucifixion of their master were musing over the events, talking to each other and were walking towards Emmaus. Jesus had failed. He had failed them also. What to do next? It was as if the final test and final exam had failure as the result. It was a moment of gloom and of desperation. It was here Jesus rightly intervenes and catechises them. Just an afternoon of catechism class their eyes were opened, they saw the truth, and they recognised him. VBS is just the same: a moment of catechesis, a moment of walking with Jesus, a moment of revelation, a moment of recognition, and moments filled with hearts burning with love for Jesus. VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL (VBS) As you are well aware, Vacation Bible School is a specialized form of religious education for children, and in our case, it is a time to teach the Sacred Scriptures to them. Churches, irrespective of their denominations, usually hold the weeklong events during the summer vacation to deepen the religious faith of the children. This year we shall organize Vacation Bible School from 3rd May 2015 to 15th May 2015 (any one week). The origins of Vacation Bible School can be traced back to Hopedale, Illinois in 1894. Mrs D. T. Miles, a Sunday School teacher who also was a public school teacher, felt she was limited by time constraints in teaching the Bible to children. So, she started a daily Bible school to teach children during the summer. The first Bible school enrolled forty students and lasted four weeks. A local school was used for classes, while an adjoining park was used for recess. Later, this practice spread to other parts of the USA. Today, many Churches run their own Vacation Bible School programmes. Modern Vacation Bible School usually consists of a weeklong programme of religious education, which may employ Bible stories, religious songs, arts and crafts, skits or puppet shows which cater toward elementary school-aged children. Our Diocese, like the other Syro-Malabar Dioceses of Kerala, has been organizing the Vacation Bible School for the past many years. Our children will spend in the Parish one week and they will be with us every day from 9.00 am to 3. 00 pm. Everyday our programme begins with the Holy Eucharist. Children are then taught the Bible and matters related to church. To make the VBS classes more interesting and profitable for the children, from this year on wards the Catechetical department of our diocese has prepared special Text books which are followed by Changanassery diocese. In the afternoon, it is time for other activities such as Bible storytelling, learning religious hymns, staging Bible skits and other entertaining programmes through which we help our children to learn the Bible. The weeklong programme normally concludes with a picnic for the children. I am writing extensively about the Vacation Bible School, dear Fathers, not only to remind you about it but also to exhort to take a proactive role in making it meaningful and useful for our children. With the help of our Sisters and other lay volunteers, you can make this event something unique for the children. The entire programme must be attractive and appealing to them. Only then will they come willingly and happily to take part and benefit from it. Kindly do not leave the organization and execution of the programme entirely into the hands of the Sisters or other lay leaders. I request you to take the initiative and lead from the front in making it successful. I am hopeful that with your love for the Sacred Scriptures and the knowledge that you gained from your study of theology, you will be able to organize it in a creative way for the children so that they learn much from this weeklong programme. St Jerome, who spent himself many years learning, studying and translating the Sacred Scriptures, tells us so aptly that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Jesus Christ. May our children who have been entrusted to our care may not become ignorant of Jesus Christ due to our neglect in teaching the Sacred Scriptures! May Our Blessed Mother, who pondered over the Word of God and brought forth Jesus into the world, intercede for each one of us in instilling in our children a genuine love for the Word of God, which will nourish and sustain them in moments of doubts and anxieties that crisscross their lives!

A Very Happy Easter and Blessings of the Risen Lord! Jesus is risen from the dead! This is the truth we celebrate during Easter because, we believe in it. We are actually celebrating the crux of our faith. As St. Paul teaches us, if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (1 Cor 15:14). We are celebrating the resurrection of Christ. It is a miracle. But it is not simply a miracle that is alien to our existence, something that probably happened to someone two thousand years ago. Christ Our Hope of Rising from the Dead We are personally bound to the Risen Christ. As Pope Francis says, our faith in the resurrection is bound to the person of Jesus Christ, who himself said I am the resurrection and the life. This personal bonding with Christ basically should be the reason why we celebrate Easter. We usually celebrate something that personally give us joy and fulfilment of our own existence and that which gives us sense of purpose. The noted writer Hilaire Belloc tells us, We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfilment. We spoke of Lenten Journey, and differentiated it from wandering in the wilderness. What Christ achieves for us in resurrection is the attainment of the journey of Lent, and the end of our journey of life. If life becomes a mere wandering, its destiny is merely death. Life then will give us no joy. Life becomes a hopeless endeavour. It has no purpose, and never can one ever think of a life of love. If Christ is risen, we too who have died with him will rise. St. Paul affirms, we were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Rom 6:4). Christ the One who suffers in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria or India Today we are witnesses to Christians, our brothers and sisters, who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ. We see the imprint of early Christian martyrs in them. Pope Francis calls them saints. The early Christians celebrated their new life in Christ. Their celebrating life included joyful proclamation and witness. They proclaimed which they had seen with their eyes, which they had looked at and which their hands had touched (cf. 1Jn 1:1). Saul, before he became Paul could not bear to see untrue things being proclaimed. He had not seen, nor touched, nor experienced the Truth of Jesus Christ. But Christ touched him. Christ made him new. Once Paul was converted, his whole desire was to know Christ[...], to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philip 3:10). Christ experience made him declare, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20). Experience of resurrection makes one, not just part of the body of Christ, but of Christ living in oneself. The early Christians experienced it; St. Paul experienced it. Those who suffer with Christ and those who suffer for Christ experience it. Today, there are those in different countries who undergo the experience of suffering and crucifixion, as did the early Christians, and as did Paul. Today we are witnesses to numerous Christians who daringly lay down their lives having been gripped by the Risen Christ. We have heard of the massacre and torture of Christians in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, India, and in other places. That day Christ asked Saul, Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me (Acts 9:4). Today too, Christ continues to experience the suffering, death, and crucifixion, in the members of His Body. So, we can continue to believe without losing hope that Christ asks that same question to our persecutors. In turn those persecutors and those who witness this persecution will come to believe in Christ our saviour. God turns evil into good. God turns evil intentioned people into his apostles. Tertullian was inspired to say, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." Let no persecution make us discouraged or make us lose our faith. Resurrection gives us hope that no persecution, or suffering, or crucifixion can stand in the way of believing in Christ. Let us as we celebrate this Easter, pray in a special way for our brothers and sisters, who are persecuted for their faith in Christ.