Thursday, June 26, 2008

Christian Writing - Quality of life matters more than the quantity and manner of worship

Benny Hinn Ministry received a tumultuous response in Mumbai in the second week of January 2004 with over one million people attending the prayer service. It would be good to understand this phenomenon and especially in the context of recent trend of people ostensibly devout Catholics, and especially Charismats, leaving the Church.


An aged lady who received a healing for her back in her testimony praised and showered blessing on Benny Hinn, and in the same breadth complimented him for desisting from saying anything negative against the Catholic Church or Mother Mary.


The lady was essentially trying to reconcile conflicting emotions - her perception of Benny Hinn as being anti-catholic and her need for healing based on Benny Hinn's reputation. She feared that her love for Mother Mary and the Catholic Church would be compromised by going for the meeting and was greatly relieved that she was not put to the test. 


But, unlike her there are many who have abandoned the Catholic Church for reasons ranging from finding the church uninteresting and uninspiring to questioning the very nature of worship. 


Recently, my wife and I met an old family friend, very devout and hitherto very involved in the Charismatic movement. He has now left the church. The reason: Jesus is the resurrected Christ and hence cannot be put on a wooden or plastic cross and hung round our necks or placed in a tabernacle. Furthermore, since God commanded in the Old Testament against graven, the icons in the church amount to idol worship.


This is indeed an area for scholars to debate and find the right answer and not the scope of this article. For instance, God commanding Moses to make an image of a bronze serpent and raise it up on a pole so that all who were victims of a plague will see and be saved – a precursor to Jesus' death on the cross and the resultant salvation for mankind – is a graven image that God himself proposed.


However, in such arguments, one fears that the essential tenets of Jesus' message are likely to get lost. Jesus asked, "Who is my mother or my brother or my sisters? He also provided the answer saying "those who do the will of God."


David had two opportunities to kill King Saul at close hands. David's response in both situations (Sam 26) was: "who can put forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?" David was a man after God's own heart and was very particular about observing what is right in God's eyes. Therefore, it is contingent on us to be careful before we condemn men of God whichever side of the equation they may be.


When David sinned, and famously so, by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah killed, he accepted his punishment humbly and penitently. When his son felt fatally ill, as punishment for his sin with Bathsheba, David put on sackcloth and fasted, pleading with God for his son's life.  However, when the child died David accepted God's judgment without remorse and went back to his normal life astounding his people.


What is remarkable about David is his constant thanksgiving in all situations. David did not desire to be king. God made him one. He, of course, desired to avenge the insult the philistine Goliath was heaping on God's people, and God empowered him. God had a plan for David; David acted knowing God is completely behind.


As much as God had a plan for David, he has a plan for each one of us. He wants us to have the best and Jesus gives the examples of the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields, how they do not have to worry about a thing. While the reward is free, it is still corresponds to what level we are obedient to God's commandments.


Jesus said, "Love your enemies and do good to those who have done you harm. Judge not and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back." (Luke 6:27-38)


The Catholic Church reflects on this commandment all the time. It is however up to each individual to pay heed to these commandments and follow it to the T if we want our share of the rewards. When we fail to do so, our share of rewards is curtailed. A healing or an unexpected blessing is God's way of giving us a second chance to complete repentance. The healing or blessing can be ours when we receive Holy Communion or share private time with the Lord before the Eucharist or at a Benny Hinn prayer meeting or while we are engaged in our day-to-day activities. God is always looking over us. Therefore, what is important is the quality of our life more than the extent, nature and dimension of our worship. The latter cannot substitute for the former. Irrespective of the church we may choose to go to the fundamentals of this law will not change.


If we know how to love one another (forgiveness and charity of heart being its key components) and to give thanks to God at all times for all the wonderful things that he has done in our life, no matter how painful our life may be in many respects, any church is a fulfilling, enriching church.



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