It is easy for the social, political and religious thinkers to say ‘Social Commitment’ eloquently. But nobody has got time to think about its various shades of meaning or how far it can be translated into action in their own life. The very term ‘Social Commitment’ signifies bondage or obligation to the society around. It includes caring, duty, obligation, responsibility and the like. All the creations of God can live their own. Unfortunately, man is not capable of that. From his birth to death, he gets involved with all types people, nature, flora and fauna. A new born calf knows how to suck milk without guidance and assistance. A newly hatched chick can fend for itself when it is born. It is so with most of the creations except man. Can he suck milk without help immediately after his birth? He badly requires help from others. This awareness is seen missing in many people. They shrink to blatant selfishness, making life terribly miserable. He creates deserts in his own life; the spring of love gets dried up. It is in this context we have to consider seriously the relevance and importance of Marthoma Heritage and Social Commitment.
St Thomas, the Apostle of India
Two thousand years ago, Lord Jesus Christ made His grand advent to this world to teach us how, with great trust in the Almighty, man can live as a responsible and respectable social being, and also, to be a role model. We know that during the life time of Jesus in this world as a man, justice had scant respect and rare application. That is why St John, the Baptist, who stood for truth, was imprisoned and beheaded. The crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ depicts the ugly picture of the society that totally ignored truth. St Thomas who travelled alone through the path shown by Jesus Christ to a remote country, of which the culture, language and people were quite unfamiliar, propagated the word of God and ultimately got killed with a spear by a hostile society. This is an excellent example of social commitment. Last year, we learnt a good deal about St Thomas, the Apostle of India, who got us begotten in Christ, and who became a martyr being killed with a spear. Our forefathers term the ministry of St Thomas as ‘Missio Dei’ which means the Mission of God. When Jesus Christ identified St Thomas and deputed him to carry out the mission of God, the disciple was bound to execute it out and out. It can be said without exaggeration that St Thomas did his job in the most admirable way.
Those in the Bible, chosen and called by God
Mordecai says in Esther 4:14 “if you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows—may be it was for a time like this that you were made a queen!” The task given to Esther was to save Israel. It was the duty and social commitment of Esther. Mary, though a girl, filled with Holy Spirit, accepts the otherwise seemingly scandalous duty as it came from her dear God through Angel Gabriel. Luke 1:38 says “I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.” It was indeed her dedication to God. St Athnasios comments about the time of the conversation between Angel Gabriel and Virgin Mary as “It was the time when the future of the world was hanging in the balance.” God gave man freedom to choose after distinguishing between good and bad. He can select anything. St Mary could have refused to accept the great responsibility, but she gladly welcomed the Will of God. The disciple of Jesus Christ had the same frame of mind when he was given challenging tasks later. Moses while working as a shepherd was assigned the role of liberating Israelites from the tyranny of Pharaoh. He was moulded to be a brave leader through privations and hardships right from his birth. The ordeal he underwent was a real intensive coaching for him. Joseph, one of the clan chiefs, was glorified for all the sufferings he had to save and lead his own tribe.
God has chosen and called us too
God entrusts us with responsible offices only after thoroughly educating us through complex problems, vexatious situations and unbearable tortures as mentioned earlier. In good old days we had no luxurious liners or supersonic jets. There were no hindrances like Visa and passports to move from one country to another. There was no entry fee, nor any formal permission required for free passage and living in a country of one’s choice. People carried the culture, language, myth, legend and even God to wherever they chose to stay. It was not merely traditional utensils and domestic animals that came along with them to the new place of living. The new country which they chose to dwell is not just a place of residence for them; it was a land for materialising their dreams based on their cultural heritage. They did not hesitate to assimilate the best of everything in the new country to their way of life. However, they did not prefer to stick on to one place, and their migratory nature made them move on. We are all migrants, destined to live far and wide, in clans and isolation, and follow more or less the same pattern of life as mentioned above. We too have certain responsibility and obligation towards men and matters. As the adage goes ‘the river flows like a river, the worm crawls like a worm. And I, as me.’ It means that each and every one has to do what is entrusted with. Joseph, Moses and Esther did their job excellently well. 1 Peter 2:9 reads “But you are the chosen race ,the King’s priests, the holy nation, God’s own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God who called you out of darkness into his own marvellous light.” This verse should be materialized in our words and deeds and duties. St Paul tells us what we are in 1 Cor 3:16 “Surely you know you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you.” He cautions us in 1 Tim 4:12 “Do not let anyone look down up on you, because you are young…”
The world, a home. How is personal relationship? Breaking?
Do we today confine ourselves within the four walls of selfishness, disregarding our responsibilities? In fact, the modern technology like Twitter and Face book facilitates such a tendency. The world tends to become a home, but man does not catch up with that. His relationship with others gets practically nil. Like the sands in the desert without any bondage among themselves he prefers to be solitary and self-seeking in the crowd. For example, the rampant use of mobile phones has done much havoc. In good old days, man had several occasions to mingle with and talk to his own family members. Today, mobile phones grab his time and attention even when he dines with others in the family, and they simply spoil the charm of get-togethers. He is so much addicted to cell phones. Our tongue is well set behind teeth and lips probably to remind us our tongue needs rest and restriction. You may have noticed that even the elephant keeps the open part of its trunk in its mouth. Only man goes his blah, blah on his mobile with complete oblivion of the time elapsed. Such persons remind us the ostrich which hides its head in the sand. Both of them invite their own destruction. If the ostrich’s nature causes its own destruction, the uncontrolled and irrational use of mobile phones and other modern technology not only destroys the user but also throws others into the abyss of complex problems.
Pass on the God-given graces
St Divannasios in Aropaga advises us in ‘Ecclesiastical hierarchy’ that we are bound to hand over to others the graces we received from God. In the passage of Holy Xosthos in the Holy Texsa, it is recited “O Lord, our Church and people be flooded with thy graces, blessings and gifts.” We have to carry out our duties in whatever field we may be. The world renowned Mother Teresa says “let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.” Indian theology has divided man’s life into four stages(ashramas), viz, the celibate Student stage, the Householder stage, the Hermit stage and the wandering Ascetic stage. In all these four stages, one has to do well what is expected of one. Celibacy has to be drastically followed in the Student stage, that is, before the marriage. The Householder should lead an ideal life of a married man with his wife and children. To decide not to have children is running away from one’s responsibility. The next two, one has to undergo later.
We always ask the question what others have done for us. Is it not the unholy desire to possess whatever we want from the society, the Church and others? The distinguished American President Kennedy tells his own countrymen “My fellow Americans! Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”. This exhortation should have its impact on our mind. Then only the Church, the society and the country can have peace and prosperity. Let us put an end to vulgar selfishness and conceit.
Whatever you be, a priest, a politician, a social worker, a teacher or some other personality, you are bound to do the duty assigned to you by God. The ego of the arrogant is that he can go ahead by destroying, defeating, deceiving and defaming men and matters. It is sheer foolishness to think that we have absolute freedom. Man is deeply owed to the society around, and his responsibility to the community is God-given. To run away from discharging from one’s duty is cowardice. The Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, reminds us “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Nowadays, social commitment is understood as looting the money of someone to distribute some pittance from it to a few. It is indeed a sad perception. An incident in the boyhood comes to memory. At the age of eight, running from the school for lunch to the house one and half miles away was a routine affair. Once during this hungry run, a beggar was seen relishing a ripe mango. On seeing the boy whose hunger stopped him for a while, the beggar took a delicious mango from his pot, wiped it with his rags and then offered it to the boy. Fearing it would be a trap, the boy ran for his life. The beggar was heard asking whether a beggar had no right to give alms. True, the beggar too should share what he got. Malachi 3:8 reads “I ask you, is it right for a person to cheat God? Of course not, yet you are cheating me. ’How?’, you ask. In the matter of tithes and offerings.” We should share with others what we have. Tithes belong to God. Everybody should keep it apart. If it is not done, it is equivalent to robbing God. Whatever gifts we receive from God should be shared with others. You were born as a man, that too, as a Christian. You do not belong to yourself. You cannot do whatever you feel like doing. You are bound to God, man, the nature and the whole universe.