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  DEVOTIONAL  
 
   
Letter to Metropolitan
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  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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  COUNSELING
 
Back to infancy -- they n
 
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
     
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  ARTICLE  
     
  Jesus and I  
  A play still being written  
   
  "WHAT are you writing now?"

My reply would be the same as I would have said, had I been asked this question five years ago -- A play "Jesus and I".

Not that I did not write anything in five years. I did, a few short plays. But this particular play has been living in me all along. The more I read Jesus and about Jesus, and the more I meditate, the theme gets new dimensions. Because the personality of Jesus unfolds itself revealing deeper depths and dazzling heights. As his inseparable shadow during the last part of his eventful life "I" also keep constantly growing and shrinking as an antithesis to whatever he is. Innocently we prophesied the fate of each other the first day we chanced to meet. "Those who act according to their conscience and conviction will be crucified", I said to him. "Those who do not act according to their conscience may not get crucified but they would carry the cross on them all through their life" said Jesus.

From this point, let "I" speak.

* * *

I repeated in my mind:

"People with conscience and courage to do what they believe is right will be crucified."

"People with conscience, but no courage will carry the cross all through life, but never get crucified".

We chanced to meet when Jesus was on his way from Jerico to Jerusalem with his disciples and halted for lunch as the guest of our landlord, the local chieftain. Whenever the chief entertains an important guest, all of us who lived in the neighbourhood were to lock ourselves in our homes, and should not show up before the guest leaves. We were all his tenants and servants. The chief was very fussy. He did not want anything ugly around so we had to hide. The news leaked out. People came to know that the guest of the day was Jesus, the Nazarene, the one who performed miracles, cured lepers, gave sight to the blind, voice to the dumb and life to the dead. People defied the ban and came out of their huts to see that the entire area was flooded with people -- lepers, lame, deaf, sick and the old being carried. Came Jesus with entourage, the large iron gate opened, the guests went in and the gate closed with a loud screech. People could not get a glimpse of Jesus. They shouted: "We want to see Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God". They jostled like waves. They appealed, cried, shouted. No response. Some jumped the wall chanting Jesus, Jesus. No response. Suddenly a commotion. Some bodies, beaten up, bleeding were thrown out over the wall. Many got frightened, some outraged. I shivered with anger, to retaliate the inhuman cruelty. Through the milling crowd I struggled to move up, from the farthest end. Wanted to beat those who assaulted the poor. Inching forward on the crowded ridge as a fuming fury I covered half the distance towards the mansion gate. Suddenly it dawned on me that I was playing with fire, playing with my life. Whom am I fighting against? The all-powerful chief on whose mercy I existed. My wife, children, our livelihood, the little hut we lived. My very existence I owed to him. My legs stopped moving, moved backwards, step by step, scared if some one noticed, knew my intention. Jesus and the crowd will go. There will be no trace of the event. The village will be the same old miserable hell. And I have to live there, doing everything to please him. No, I cannot. Walking backward I reached the farthest end. To the delight and relief of thousands, the iron gate opened like the gate of heaven. Came out a smiling young man, divinely handsome. People shouted "Haleluya, Bless, Oh son of God, Bless, Bless."

People rushed towards him. He raised his hand, gently waved at them, said "be patient. I shall come to each one of you, heal you, comfort you. Stand where you are."

Healing the ailing men and women, blessing the handicapped and invalids back to normal, curing the deaf and dumb, he walked and walked and reached very near me. Just in front of me stood a charming young woman who was weeping all along and as he approached she fell at his feet. "I have sinned. Forgive me for my sins", she cried. He helped her rise, put both his hands on her head. "You did repent. You are absolved of your sins, my child. Live a good life". He took her hands and gently comforted.

Then came a woman with her young son who was dumb and deaf at birth. She appealed to Jesus to save him and make him a normal human man. He put his hands on his head and said "Say blessed be the name of the Lord". The dumb boy said, "Blessed be the name of the Lord". His voice was as loud as an echo from a cave. He said to him, "You can now hear; hear good things. You can now speak; speak truth".

People had lot to tell him, ask him. He listened patiently, answered, asked back. Everyone got a chance. Someone asked, "Who is my good neighbour?" I thought it was a stupid question. But he took it seriously and answered. He gave the anecdote of the Good Samaritan who attended on a victim of robbery with compassion when priests and aristocrats who passed by turned their face against and walked away. "Who among them is a good neighbour?" he asked. "The man who helped him," was the answer. "Do likewise", he said. There was a loud laughter. Jesus raised his head and looked around, and he looked at me. "Why did you laugh?" I did not realize that it was I who laughed, I was sorry, I apologized. "Don't be sorry. Tell me what made you laugh?", he asked.

"The joke you said".

"But I didn't say any joke".

"That advice 'do likewise".

"I didn't think it was a joke. It was a wish."

I explained why I said so. "I, too, was one of those who walked past the bleeding victim. I was moved. I wanted to go to him, dress his wound but I walked away faster. Because if some people, people in charge of law and order, see me sitting beside him they would catch me and hold me responsible for the crime. That I robbed him. They would book me. I wanted to save myself".

"Your conscience told you to help".

"Yes, Really".

"Is it not a sin, not acting according to your conscience?"

"Those who act according to their conscience, will be crucified", I said.

He raised his eyes and said, looking at me, "If you act according to your conscience you will be CRUCIFIED". He stood looking at me.

Did I say something wrong? Did I offend him? I was sad.

He said, "If you have conscience and do not act according to it, you will be carrying the cross all your life, but not get crucified". I could see compassion in his eyes and an enigmatic smile on his lips.

He went round, comforted everyone. He continued his journey with his disciples.

I followed him. Because I knew he was a man of conviction, honest, fearless, selfless. I followed him not as a disciple, but as one who admired him more than his disciples for his courage, daring and compassion. This may be how a man without these attributes pays tribute to one who embodies all these.

The play "Jesus and I" is a monologue interspersed with events. The character "I" represents those who can discriminate between good and bad, virtue and evil, want to be on the side of justice, but lack the courage and stamina to act according to their convictions due to personal, social, economic and political compulsions. When it comes to the crucial question of choosing between survival and conviction, not many would take the risk of sticking to their conscience. The others like 'I', worried about survival and existence, most painfully suppress their urge to do what they knew is right. 'I' walk a few steady steps, in the right direction, develop diffidence, fear consequence, retrace, walk back.. "Why should I?" 'I' try to justify myself. But the justification torments each time. I follow Jesus, I witness with awe and admiration his daring deeds.

Every time he says a provocative truth, takes a risky act and the priests and their henchmen insult him, assault him, I move forward to defend him, to retaliate. But no sooner I retrace. I hide myself so that I may not be even suspected. When his disciples deserted him, and there was no one to give a sympathetic glance, I was there with burning desire to comfort him, but hid myself behind the cursing crowd. I was afraid.

In the Court of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, where the priests and their henchmen shouted "Crucify him, crucify him" there was no one to shout back "Don't crucify him". Pilate repeatedly asked if he should be spared. Where did all his disciples go? Where did those hundreds who were healed, cured, blessed go? Were they all like me? I was there. I wanted to shout, but my voice didn't come out, chocked with fear. When I heard a high pitch shout 'Crucify him, crucify him' as if the thundering voice came from a cave, I could distinctly identify the voice. I looked at him. The same dumb and deaf young man whom Jesus gave the power to hear and speak. I was shocked. I wanted to kill him. Took a few stern steps forward, stopped, slowly walked backward. I was afraid, they would finish me. I went back and cried. Mary Magdalene who was a witness to the miracle of Jesus giving that deaf and dumb the power to hear and speak, recognized him. She charged forward and asked, "You! The miserable dumb and deaf who got hearing and speaking by the blessing of this man! You!" She spat on his face. What a stirring conviction, courage, I thought. "I am a slave" said the man with tears flowing. "Slave of the high priest. Prize for my explosive voice. I do. I do, so that I live". He burst into loud sobs. I saw a soldier standing behind him thrusting his spear on his back.

I followed him, his way to Calvary.

Jesus carrying the heavy cross on his shoulder, being beaten and abused fell down, I rushed to help him in the dark and once for life dared, to help him, but was caught by the murderers who beat me and grabbed my garment. I ran away naked.

I was there when they crucified him. I closed my eyes when they pierced his arms. I moved towards him. I stood before him. He looked at me. That compassion in his eyes, that enigmatic smile. I remembered what I said. Crucified for obeying his conscience. I remembered what he said "Carry the cross, but not crucified." Slow crucifixion.

* * *

This is the play, "Jesus and I", that I have been writing.

Courtesy: Indian Literature, a Kendriya Sahitya Akademi publication, May/June 2012
 
  By  Omchery N.N. Pillai  
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