Monday, July 10, 2017

The miracle of the little cauliflower plant

     Having enjoyed gardening this summer, here is the miracle of the cauliflower plant. Its interesting that the Bible starts with GOD creating man and a woman in the garden of Eden. And just before Jesus is captured, he spends time in the garden of Gethsamane. And he tells a number of parables regarding the seeds, trees, the farmers, etc. Its safe to assume that garden is a place where one may find GOD and his deeds. For real? I did.
     Nearly 45 days ago, I visited the Home Depot garden center looking for plants for our garden. And I decided to test out the cauliflower plants. So, I picked out a set of 6 plants with 4 leaves each. A couple of days later, I prepared pots and started transferring them into 6 pots. Then, I realized that one of them was broken right at the tip. All that was left of it was the roots and a single leaf.  I could well have thrown it away and been happy with 5 cauliflowers this year. But, then I would have missed out on a lifetime miracle. So, I planted the broken plant thinking that in a few days it would just rot and I would just put in another plant. Days passed and the other 5 plants grew bigger. The 4 little leaves wilted and dried as they had bigger and newer leaves and I waited for the cauliflowers. A week ago I saw the little cauliflower in all the 5 good plants. I felt great. Then, I looked for the little cauliflower plant and I still found that one leaf standing firm. That plant had lived for nearly 40 days and I continued to water and care for it the same way I did for others. Many a time, I did think about throwing it away. I knew that there was no hope for any cauliflower. The tip had broken. There was no chance for this plant. But, somehow, I never got down to pulling it out and throwing it away. And the plant with that little leaf just refused to die away on its own either.
     Well, July 9th was approaching. Little Claire’s birthday was close. And we were also celebrating my dad’s secret 75th birthday. We had planned a little party and I had to welcome guests. I needed a theme for my welcome. I was not getting it. So, on July 7th, I walked around in the garden and I was rearranging my pots. And I came to the little plant in the pot. Before I saw it, I planned to throw away everything that was not good because I wanted the garden to look pretty for the party. So, this time I was determined that this little plant should go. And then I looked into the pot. And there I found my miracle.

     What I found were 4 little cauliflower plants emerging out from the soil. There was no chance this could have happened. I am a botanist by the way. So, I know my science too. A cauliflower plant can only have one cauliflower. And it grows from the tip. I was so ecstatic. I showed my little kids and they were amazed. And we talked about what it meant. That’s when I realized the beauty of the miracle and the gardens in the bible. I drew many conclusions. The one I used in the party was that the little leaf represented my father. His 75 yrs, where many a time he was a lonely leaf. But, he had hung on. And then his perseverance had taken fruit. And we were now celebrating his 75th birthday with his lovely grand kids.
     But, I want to go beyond it. The little plant represented our faiths too sometimes. They are tiny and shaky, sometimes completely insignificant. But, if we hang on, look how GOD, the gardener tends to us. He gives fruits aplenty. This little plant also represents each of our lives too. Sometimes, we are the leaf and somebody else is the gardener who tends to us, keeps us alive. Sometimes, we need to be the gardener for somebody else who is hanging on.  Frankly, its been 3 days since I realized this miracle in my garden. But, there is one reality that I just can’t stop admiring. That little leaf. It kept that plant going. It didn’t fade away, no matter what. This story will live on forever in me. But, I want to share it with as many people I can. Because we all need miracles. And we don’t realize many a time that they don’t happen anymore. They do. They are probably right out there in the garden. And I am looking for the next one. Are you?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The sacrifice Jesus would love

          The lent was over last weekend. It had been an interesting 40 days. Personally, it was filled with anxiety, despair, anger and otherwise busy. So, now that Jesus was risen from the dead, it was probably time to relax. But, the emotions remained the same because living circumstances never changed. So, I just happened to ask my 5 yr old Claire, this Friday afternoon if she knew what sacrifice was.  She said “Yes Daddy”.  I asked her to tell me an example in her own words so that I could understand what she had understood about sacrifice. She fumbled to put her thoughts together. So, she asked me to give her an example. I told her to imagine that if I was driving near a mall on a Friday afternoon with $10 in my pocket and the theater was playing a movie I loved to see. I had 2 choices. One, to watch the movie with the 10 dollars. On the other hand, those 10$ could buy 3 cans of milk for my kids. And given the uncertainties of our jobs, that would mean those 10$ could mean 3 weeks of milk supply. And as a parent that would be a kind of sacrifice I needed to do consistently.  My 2 yr old Noah was playing around and he kept asking what we were talking about. I explained to him and moved on with Claire because she was ready with her answer. She said that if she would see a pizza and wanted to have it, she would sacrifice it. I challenged her a little further. I told her that it was more of resisting a temptation rather than a deep sacrifice. “Think of another example”. And immediately she said “If I were to see a very nice art kit in the mall and would want to pick it up. But, I won’t. Because we have so much art supplies lying around at home. So, I would wait till I had used all the art supplies at home before looking out for one”. I immediately took the opportunity to tell her that she had got the point very well. I told her that’s what businesses do all the time. That’s their job. Keep tempting us into buying things we probably don't need. And we need to think of those who are not as privileged and see what we could do for them. And then I was all happy with this conversation thinking that in spite of the amazing strife in my mind, I was able to talk about an important subject calmly to my 5 yr old. My 2 yr old was playing around and I thought he must have had no idea of what we were talking about.  And then we moved on with our day. And I had no idea of what was to come.
                The next day, which was a Saturday, I settled down after a cup of tea to get on with my project. And then in a little while both my kids came to me. The 2 yr old had a 1$ note in his hand and the 5 yr old had a 5$ note. They had been saving money in their piggy bank whenever they did an excellent job. And they are amazing. My 2 yr old gave me the 1$ and said “Here dad. We have lot of money in the piggy bank. This is for you.” The 5yr old quipped “ Daddy, you buy so many things for us. The next time you buy something, use that 1$”. And then she went to mommy who was busy getting breakfast ready and said that she was putting the 5 dollars in the box where she was saving some of her money for poor children.
                 First of all, I was all teared up. And then what had started out as a lesson for the kids had turned out to be a lesson for me. Grown-ups have a lot of moral stories to tell in theory. But when it comes to putting them in practice, we wait for the next chance to execute. What my little ones did this Saturday morning was exactly put the WORD into action. And the risen Lord Jesus must have been absolutely proud. No doubt why Jesus loved kids.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Blessed Christmas

     Everywhere its lights and decorations; its Santa's and his reindeer; of course, how can I forget the snowman; and many many plans to a wonderful fantasy world lies in wait. Yes, there is no denying that X’mas is here for many. It’s time to relax, de-stress and fun before getting back to the routines. It’s also time for gifts and plenty of them. It’s also important time for the many resolutions to make. A question keeps getting asked as if it’s just part of X’mas as to what would make this season wonderful and meaningful. And then we move on because we already have a long list of desires to keep. But, something bothers me and I keep hearing this question over and over again. “How do you want your Christmas to be?” And I have realized over the years that there is a big difference between X’mas and Christmas. And I have forever wanted to only celebrate Christmas. And each year I have learnt exactly how to bring merry Christmas to heart. Little by little and now I am looking forward for my 2016 Christmas, just a few days ahead.   
The story of learning about the real meaning of Christmas has been a long one. Well, for a long long time, it has meant to prepare for that midnight mass, to find some special clothes to dazzle, bring out  that wonderful smile to literally stick on my lips no matter how grave the situation is and then it’s all done for the night with the many hugs and kisses to everybody around, known and unknown. The next stop is the amazing five course meal on the 25th, with all the guests coming in and having an awesome time. And then, it’s all over. It’s time for fun and relaxation.
     All that changed a few years ago, when I was all alone at Christmas. I did invite a lot of people and everybody had a place to go but mine. All I could do was call family and friends back home and then wait for the next day to come. This continued even after marriage when my wife and I would have that empty feeling on Christmas day. Empty roads and silence filled our Christmas day. And luckily for us the fantasy world did not appeal. So, we did not make it to the malls or any other place where some fantasy would fill our Christmas day.
     Then, it changed. We had our little baby. We were under pressure now as parents to introduce Christmas to our little girl. That first Christmas of hers, we started to make a plan a month in advance. It was a desperate plan because we could not fail on this one. And for starters, we started making a nativity from scratch and it filled the entire room by the time Christmas arrived. And she would sit in awe in front of it and learn about each tiny blade of grass. Most importantly, through her learning, I recognized the power of a babe in a manger. Every day from Christmas day onward, we would invite a family or friend for either supper or lunch and spend time with our little one. And the ones who would accept to come home were someone who had nobody to go to that day. And we were so glad that we shared that beautiful day with them. And this tradition has carried on and we have been very proud that what started as simple act of making it a lively Christmas for our little ones has turned out to be a tradition of laying out the best for that “Babe in the manger” and sharing that joy with someone else. But, in all that happiness, I still had that question, “Have you done enough this Christmas?” And I could not put my finger on a satisfactory answer until 2015.
     2015 was an amazing year. I am not being sarcastic because I still needed to find a job after almost 2 yrs. But, I had two wonderful kids and an ever loving wife. I also had wonderful wishes from family back home in India. I also loved being the family dad running around doing errands for my kids and family rather than being the grumpy stressed out, ‘leave me alone’ head of the house. I also enjoyed the wonderful mass at St. Jerome where I was part of an amazing choir and my little angelic daughter was in the Christmas pageant playing Angel. And then my Christmas got more amazing than ever because of a homeless man across our street, sitting in the park all alone no matter what the weather was. My Christmas became the most amazing because our family shared our Christmas hot meal with Kevin, a homeless person right across the street, sitting on the bench, cold and frozen, looking at empty roads with nobody driving around. We had seen him since May. I had even gone and sat down with him and tried to find him a shelter to stay. But, he refused and frustrated me. He had a wonderful home and a decent job until one fine day he along with his two brothers was thrown out of the home as it foreclosed. His brothers had found a shelter where they could stay at night, but Kevin refused. And he said the reason was that he did not want to mix with the character of people that came there. He wanted to stay along as pure as he could as long as he could hang on. I was amazed by his single minded dedication to do it day in and day out. And he never wanted anything. He even refused when we put together a set of things that we thought he may need. It hurt me when he refused. He was the homeless and had nothing. And he still had the audacity to refuse. And he always said something that has stuck with me. He always said that he had no doubt he would survive because there were many good, wonderful people around. One day, I was rushing to give him some breakfast. And I saw a truck stop by. There was this mechanic who got down and walked up to Kevin with a couple of cups of Coffee and bagels and some sandwich. He offered all to Kevin. And it was cold that morning. And Kevin smilingly refused everything except a little sandwich. And I wished that mechanic as I was fighting tears in my eyes at the scene that was unfolding. Kevin later told me that many many people stopped by and therefore he was always full. And he had no place to keep. So, he had to refuse. What amazed me was that the only thing he probably needed was a shelter. And interestingly enough, he was refusing that too. He was not tempted with anything. We, as a family were desperate. We made a few calls to see if somebody could help. Everybody had a suggestion and it seemed he could get into a shelter in no time. But, something kept Kevin out with nature. I offered to drive him to the shelter and ensure he was safe and all his concerns had been met. Still, with a very simple smile, he told me that he did not want it right now. I started wondering if I was bothering him and was worried he would leave his safe haven in that park because of me. So, I stopped bothering him until that Christmas day although I kept looking out for him. Days he wasn’t there filled me with fear as well as hope. I feared something bad had happened, yet, I hope he had made up his mind and gone to a shelter. But, then he would return back to his old spot. My 4 yr old angel kept reminding us when we were planning for our Christmas week as to what would happen to Kevin grandpa. She literally helped us plan that we would all go together and offer our first meal to him. And nothing else has made me so fulfilled at Christmas, ever. And blessed, I should add. For I kept thinking about the “Babe in the manger”.
       That year of 2015 helped me learn how fake we have made our world. We know that Christ comes to us in the homeless and the needy. However, we like to satisfy ourselves by doing that little bit and then going ahead with our plans. Kevin’s homelessness and that smile when we went together offering him the meal that Christmas afternoon had taught a lesson that we always knew, but never executed. And from then on to this day, the question has been “What does Christ want of me this Christmas?”
     As I look at my nativity scene to understand what it means, I learn a number of beautiful messages. First of all, He was born in the manger. He was born among the cattle that are used and ignored. He had connected with Genesis where GOD had so lovingly made everything so beautiful and offered it to Adam and Eve. He was born into a family to the most awesome of parents who never doubted GOD’s direction in spite of not understanding the logic of it. And they would do anything to obey HIS command. And then his very first guests were the shepherds, not royalty. And even if the three kings arrived right after birth, they were unique in spite of being royalty. They, even in their royalty, looked out to GOD’s direction and word and followed. And for their obedience, they had the honor to meet their King, born in a manger. It was loud and clear to me. If I was looking for the true meaning of Christmas, I had to find something between the manger and the cross. And with few days to go for Christmas, I am eager to see how I can be blessed again this Christmas like last year. And I wish a beautiful blessed Christmas to all of you.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Joseph's who make Christmas possible

      When I walked into this month’s prayer meeting, little did I know that I would find another Joseph? And I had wanted to write about this for so long. But, maybe I needed to be inspired by another Joseph in order to adore the one who made Christmas possible. Yes, dad of Jesus, which the world never gave its due. Infact, it struck me profoundly last year when multiple times in the homilies, he wasn’t even considered to be Jesus’ dad. So, this one is to the millions of Joseph’s around the world who have never been recognized.
But, here is the story that inspired me to write this. 
        I saw Raj, right up near the altar at the prayer meeting. So, I wondered if Veena, his wife had returned because I knew that she had travelled to India to be with her father who had been diagnosed with brain tumor and was operated upon. And they have a wonderful daughter in Ivana. And Raj looked in his elements. Therefore, I thought everything must have been amazingly fine. Nevertheless, when the prayer session ended, I stopped by for a chat. And quickly I realized that Veena had not yet returned for more than 2 months now. So, how did Raj manage with Ivana? I knew he was a programmer who worked from home. I guess that made it very easy. Nope. It was tough. He had to ensure that his work didn’t suffer as he tried to ensure that Ivana’s hectic schedule was on the spot each and every day. And he had to make sure that his 7 yr old would not miss her mom in any way. Now, that’s tough at that age, especially, when one is talking about an Indian mom. Dad has no chance most of the times. But, what struck me was when he said that his daughter never complained. I agree that she is a sweet heart. But, I want to give it to Raj today. Its not possible to maintain that over 2 months. Especially, when one has not done it before. And when it has been an emergency and the child has not had any time to prepare mentally. That’s where the conversation turned to a very poignant moment. That through adversity, God had given an opportunity to Raj and he had taken it whole heartedly and done his best. It was GOD’s way of highlighting how wonderfully gifted father, Raj was. Not just to others, but to himself.  And when we brought this point up, we thought about someone else. The one and only Joseph. The one who made Christmas possible. And while we know how hard it was for Mary and she is the center for all Christians, we don’t know anything about Joseph. Except, that when the angel appeared to him and asked him to do exactly as told, without hesitation he just did it. While we know that Mary moved around on a mule, all we know of the carpenter Joseph was that he walked. And he walked quite some miles, sometimes even crossed countries just to ensure that Jesus and Mary were safe.  And then when the word was fulfilled, just disappeared into wilderness. Never someone who wanted any spotlight on himself. He was happy that Jesus and sometimes Mary had it on them. Its amazing that the Church has never given this amazing dad any recognition. But, maybe that's the Joseph, God wanted us to know and follow.
           Every wonderful dad I have known has been a Joseph including my very own. And I deeply wanted to ensure, for once this Christmas, I could bring it to everybody's attention. Because, without the Joseph's, Christmas is not possible.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Questions to the canvassing Catholics

Almost everybody has had their say on the US elections. I also have shared my thoughts with a couple of people and to say the least I have been blamed for not being blessed by the Holy Spirit. I am not a political person and I definitely would not be impacted a lot by who became the President of the USA. But, I also need to voice a few thoughts because for the first time I have realized that many will actually be adversely impacted by who eventually became the president of USA. Trump, no doubt snatched victory and I am sure he really worked hard for it. And from his point of view, he deserved to win for just the amazing emotions that he was able to generate among quite a number of people. And I have no qualms about those who went and voted for him by considering carefully where their hearts belonged. There is no doubt that Hillary did not appeal to many and carried quite a baggage for many to surmount.
But, I was bothered about a group of people who really came to canvas for Trump just when things were fading for him in the last month. Yes, as analysis has now revealed that in the last month, the single largest group that made his victory possible by voting for him was the Catholics. I am not a man of statistics and numbers. And the one major reason, which I actually found out from some of our friends, who vehemently canvassed for Trump was that he would be the one delivering on the “Pro-Life” issue.
I don’t grudge their cause. My wife and I lost our first pregnancy the very day we knew we were pregnant. And the mighty healing hand of GOD is how we healed and we now have 2 beautiful kids, since. That should reveal how precious and delicate I consider life to be. Here is where I like to challenge each one of those who canvassed in the name of GOD and religion. Not those who exercised their franchise, but the ones who actively canvassed, including the so many priests who could say it at the altar where instead they should have been consecrating Jesus. My friends showed me all literature as well as biblical prophecies as to why they made their decision to support him wholeheartedly. They even found abundant words to make Trump look honorable in every aspect, even insulting Pope Francis, who by the way currently occupies the seat that Jesus bestowed upon Peter. Some even forgave him and equated him to Mary Magdalene who became Jesus’ most reliable confidante, even though she was a sinner. Little did they take into account that Mary Magdalene washed away her sins at the feet of Jesus.
Here is where they were wrong. For one, they did not remember “ Do not take the name of the GOD in vain”. It’s the first of the Ten Commandments. Where was it GOD’s work, when you take GOD’s own cause and give the reigns to a Devil? Have we forgotten what happened to Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis. Yes, they ate an apple. And by the way, it must have been an amazing fruit because Eve even got it to Adam after she tasted it. The problem was not the fruit that they ate but the fact that they had disobeyed GOD inspite of HIM having given them everything. And that was the beginning of the “Original Sin”. This is exactly why there are problems in this world. And it has plagued the Catholic church too from time immemorial. Why Mr. Trump does not even come close to Mary Magdalene is because he has never repented for anything. And that is the main tenet to get to God’s kingdom of heaven. To humbly and modestly accept one’s frailties and sins and put them at the feet of Jesus, because HE no doubt will forgive.
I am so much more looking forward to Mr. Trump being a servant and being the repentant sinner. For there is no doubt that just like Jesus does, I shall accept his being human too.