Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Journey 333

Read: Acts 9: 1-19
        Certain landmarks of the world are always etched in the minds of people. Landmarks like Eifel tower in Paris, The Statue of Liberty in New York, Taj  Mahal in India are  so brilliantly etched in the minds of people all over the world in such a way that moment one sees the pictures of these landmarks, one can recognize it. There is another unique landmark in the world which was celebrated in a very historic manner because of its historic relevance and its unique place in world history. One of most iconic pieces of art is the painting done by Michelangelo’s fresco on the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Yesterday the Vatican celebrated its 500th anniversary with Pope Benedict XVI, gracing the occasion with the celebration of vespers. People all over the world come to Sistine chapel to view this iconic painting and it is said that everyone who views this painting is struck not only by its beauty but also by the magnitude of the fresco. There are nine centered panels in the ceiling fresco. It shows different images like the creation of Adam and also vaulted ceiling that has images of prophets and ancestors of Jesus. It was in 1508, that Pope Julius II della Rovera commissioned Michelangelo to do the work of painting the ceiling. In the beginning Michelangelo was skeptical about the whole work since he  believed that he was a sculptor and not a painter. He also felt that his enemies were using this job of painting as a ruse to get him fall from the grand stage, since the job involves the challenge of painting at a height of 65 feet, which requires not only endurance but also ingenuity. Thus he kept turning down the commission of painting the ceiling of Sistine chapel, because he felt that he had come to Rome to sculpt the tomb of Julius II, which he thought would be his masterpiece not knowing that 500 years later it was not the sculpture of Julius II for which he is remembered but the painting on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel, that catapulted Michelangelo into a hall of fame. It took four years to complete painting and finally the painting was unveiled in 1512,  with Pope Julius dedicating the newly decorated space with the celebration of Holy Communion on November 1st, which was the All Saints Day. According to late Pope John Paul II, the painting is considered as a priceless and a universal heritage, and this is confirmed by the millions of pilgrims who come from every country of the world to Sistine Chapel to admire the work of this wonderful sculptor turned painter. The chapel is still used for worship and also as the place for the secret conclave to elect the new pope. Thus through this wonderful work of art, Michelangelo, gave to the world, a vision about his work and an influence that was so tremendous in the world of art, culture and iconography. Here is a man who felt that he was called to be sculptor, one who felt that the world need to remember his contribution in the field of sculpture but God had much more greater plans for him. Thus for me, Michelangelo represents all those people whose vision and calling are in contradiction to the calling and grand purpose of God. It is this truth that we all need to comprehend as we think of our life, our plans for our life and our future. When we look at the Word of God we also find a life journey of a man who had a particular vision but God confronted him and transformed him to an entirely new individual with new vision and calling in life.
                We are meditating on the theme “Transformed Living” and the portion that we shall use for our meditation is from Acts 9: 1-19. This is the portion that we find three aspects of his life before he God confronted him. His vision of life was that he wanted Christian faith and religion to be destroyed and therefore made deliberate effort to travel far and wide to make it happen with the approval for killing the Christians in the most brutal way. In Acts 8:  1-3, we find the diabolic mind of Saul. He is a witness to the stoning of Stephen and even gave approval not only in the death of Stephen but also in the kind of death that Stephen had to undergo. Death through stoning which is very gory and painful. Later in v: 3, we find Saul going from house to house dragging both men and woman and putting them in jail. All these accounts seems to suggest that Saul was bent on destroying Christianity and it also seemed that he took a sort of personal vendetta and killing Christians as a means to pacify his anger and troubled soul. Here is  a man who feels and vindicated by his vision and mission to kill Christians in the most brutal way and destroy the church. But God had other plans for the violent soldier of the Law, one who staunchly upheld the tenets of Jewish faith. Saul seeks letters of introduction to the synagogues in Damascus where he plans to go, so that he could go there arrest the so called believers and bring them to Jerusalem. He once again begin his journey of passion and commitment to exterminate Christians, but it is this journey that brings total transformation in the life, vision and mission of Saul. God encounters him and he is transformed into a new creation. Saul becomes Paul. A man who staunchly defended the law become the bold preacher of the gospel and the power of grace. What Saul envisioned in his life and what God envisioned through Saul was contradictory, but praise God for His plan because through that plan the Christian Church got the leadership of Paul. I wonder what would be the case of the church and Christians if we did not have the epistles written by Paul. If God could bring about the change from Saul to Paul, let us also this day trust in the Lord, in his plans for our life and affirm that God has greater and a comprehensive view and perspective of our life. A plan and mission which we may not be able to comprehend today, but history tomorrow will be witness to what God could do in our life, if we submit to him and His plan for our life.

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Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla