By Jacob Peenikaparambil
Thrissur, Jan. 7, 2019: Religious persons in the Catholic Church should first become disciples of Jesus before trying to make others His followers, says former Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph.
“Becoming a disciple of Jesus is a difficult task whereas becoming a devotee is easy. Our call as religious is to become disciples and make people disciples of Jesus,’ Justice Joseph told the general plenary assembly of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, India’s first indigenous religious congregation for men.
The January 4-8 assembly, now underway at Jerusalem Retreat Centre, Thrissur, is expected to evaluate the relevance and impact of the 187-year-old congregation’s ministries and revisit its vision and orientation for the next ten years. It has chosen “Listen, Discern and Go forth” as its theme.
Justice Joseph was among a few prominent persons from different fields the congregation invited to facilitate it to revisit its vision and goals.
The triennial assembly, attended by 82 delegates representing 2,535 Carmelites working in 33 countries, is an important milestone in this process, one of the priest participants told Matters India.
Others who addressed the assembly included Reverend Valson Thampu, former principal of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and Father George Mutholil, Jesuits’ Kerala provincial.
Justice Joseph told the gathering that becoming a disciple of Jesus requires purifying the heart and practicing the values of Jesus. What many retreat centers are doing now is making people devotees and many devotees need not become disciples, he observed.
Justice Joseph, a devout Catholic who made a name as a compassionate Supreme Court judge, urged the Carmelites to ask what Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara, one of their founders, would do if he were alive today. “St. Chavara was a person who lived in the history, but he created history. Every member of the CMI congregation is called to create history,” Justice Joseph asserted.
According to him, the Catholic religious men and women are called to take Jesus to people by living His values authentically.
The former judge noted that the Article 25 of the Indian Constitution gives citizens the right to profess, practice and propagate the religion of one’s choice. “Without practicing the core values religion, propagation of faith becomes sham,” he said added that Christians, especially priests and the religious, should help people to meet Jesus in them.
“Are our institutions imparting the values of Justice, Equality, Freedom and Fraternity?” he asked the assembly.
Justice Kurian also set three priority areas for the Carmelites to make people Jesus’s disciples.
He wants to them to follow Saint Chavara’s example in education– use it as a tool to make students agents of social transformation. The current trend, he regretted, is to make students to compete with each other and set amassing wealth as their top priority.
He wants the Carmelites to earnestly promote the Indian Constitution’s values, which he pointed out, are found in the Gospel:
Justice Kurian also urged the Carmelites to help reform families, especially the Christian, and protect them from a culture of liquor.
“A clarion call for us today is to work against the culture of liquor and drugs. They are serious blocks in building a society based on the kingdom values,” he said.
He bemoaned that families have lost the gospel values as parents concern mainly on their children’s achievement. “They want their children to make money and not earn money. When making money becomes the goal, means for making money are compromised, but earning money requires adopting means that are morally and ethically right,” he explained.
Reverend Thampu too called for passionate commitment to excellence to make education life oriented. “Excellence is not measured by the marks one scores in examinations. One has to be excellent in everything one does and excellence is spirituality,” he said.
He also wants education to aim at building a counter culture of stimulation. He recalled taking many steps he had taken at St. Stephen College Delhi, such as reserving 10 percent seats for dalit Christians, were part of his attempts to create such a counter culture of stimulation. Education, he added, should aim at individual and social transformation.
The Kerala Jesuit provincial highlighted the focus areas of Social Apostolate as:
• Re-commitment to the original vision.
• Constitution of India should be next to Scripture.
• Balance between institutional and prophetic dimensions.
• Conscious attempts to communicate that the poor matter to us.
• Writing and speaking on the structural reasons for poverty.
• Taking a stand on the side of poor