Thursday, May 28, 2015

Custom catholics

       Fr. David, our amazing pastor is very happy. Its not even a REACH Sunday and yet the congregation numbers at the family mass outnumber the choir members. This is no exaggeration, but happens in one of the best churches in our state of Connecticut that has an amazing set of priests and devoted set of mostly retired devotees. And it happens not just once a year, but on most summer Sundays, whenever religious education is not there and on days like Good Friday. Of course, I must admit that on days like Christmas or easter vigil we need to get to church at least 45 minutes before the mass because there would be no parking space and no seats available. 
     One of the most striking contrasts is when we went back to Bangalore to celebrate my daughter Claire’s birthday with family and friends. Since it was a Tuesday, we decided to go to 6.30AM mass on her birthday. And as we entered the church 10 minutes early, and this was almost 6 yrs since I had been there, I saw 2 little girls, probably in their 3rd grade in full school uniform and unaccompanied by elders coming and kneeling on the first pew and attending mass before they went to school. The church was filled by atleast 300 people and a great number of  them were attending daily mass just before setting out for work or college or school. Today as this vision entered and I started to think about it, I thought of a very compelling analogy. Last summer, my daughter turned 3 and I decided to teach her how to grow plants. So, as family, we went to Walmart and got some tomato seeds, some pots and some soil. This would be a wonderful way, my wife and me thought of introducing Claire to nature, GOD’s most beautiful creation in our small apartment home. We were all very excited that the packet of seeds said that we would bear fruit in 60 days. I had grown tomato plants back home in my amazing garden and at the back of my mind, that was a little too fast, but, I was excited for Claire. And what an amazing start we had. In just about 5 days, the tomato seeds had germinated and Claire was so excited and so were we. We kept watering the plants and in a few day the two-leaved plants grew a little. But, then in the 10 days, even though the plants looked healthy, they barely grew. I went and checked the soil and realized, that this soil would ensure germination in no time, but that was it. For the plants to grow, I needed to constantly add “Magic Grow” every week. The next few weeks was an amazing experiment. Every time we added magic grow, the plants would just grow like crazy and when we deliberately stopped it for a week, they would just freeze. Now we had pretty large plants, yet no indication of flowers. I again checked the details on the internet and realized that with the soil I had used and magic grow, I could get the plants to grow abundantly, but then for flowering I needed to use a different soil mixture. We went and brought the flowering soil mix. The summer was almost getting over and no flowers were around. After a couple of weeks, I excitedly woke up Claire as I had noticed the first bud. And it almost took a couple more weeks for it to bloom. By now I realized that I had not prepared well for the experiment. I had sowed seeds not in early spring, but in Summer and then I had not realized that in order to bear flowers, I had to used differently customized soils. By now, winter had set in and there was no longer hope for any tomatoes. I also realized, that given our apartment structure that allowed no insects, there would anyway be no tomatoes because we had barred the agents of GOD, the pollinators. No flowers, no fruit was how our beautiful experiment ended. 
     And in this way I recognized the beauty of Jesus’ parable of sowing the seed. It is not enough that one is born catholic. Even the seed that falls amidst the thorny plants will germinate. But will it flower and produce. And in our own little experiment, we had seen how we had customized everything such that if even one thing was not in order, the beauty of GOD’s creation would fail.
     Today, the need is not for a custom catholic. We should be far from that. Its not enough to have such a busy life and make it to mass on Christmas eve or Easter Sunday and feel good about ourselves as catholic. If the little envelopes with which we contribute money to run the church gets done, that would surely not be enough either.. We need to realize that when we go to Church, we meet the LIVING CHRIST, who came down for us and died for us and rose for us. And every time we go to church, we are there for a personal meeting with Christ, risen and alive and waiting for us. Every time we miss the opportunity, we are so not catholic that we need to be.