Fulfill the Faith; Fan the Flame
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
The World Youth Day held from 15th to 20th July 2008, at Sydney, Australia, was an extraordinary International Youth Event organised by the Catholic Church, which drew hundreds of thousands of youth from all over the world to listen to Jesus answering the question of the rich young man in the Gospel story: "Good Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?" (Mk 10:17). From 27th to 29th December 2008, thousands of youth from all over India will converge to Mumbai, to hear the Word of God answer the same question at Kairos 2008, the National Youth Gathering organised by the National Catholic Charismatic Youth Council. These two events remind me of the paternal love that Jesus had for that young man in the Gospel (Mk 10:21) and of the fatherly love that St. Paul had for his true and dear 'son' Timothy as expressed so strongly in his two letters to him.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul begins by stating that even though in the past he had persecuted and insulted Christ, since he then had no faith and so did not know what he was doing, God was merciful to him, in spite of him being the worst sinner, and poured his grace upon him giving him faith and love, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. It is God too, furthermore, who has sent Paul as an apostle and teacher to proclaim the message of faith and truth, for God wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth. It is for this purpose that Paul wants that in every church service everyone should pray for all people and especially for those in authority and in leadership.
Paul thus admonishes Timothy, the youth leader of the Church, not to let anyone look down upon him because of his youth, but to be an example for believers by his speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. He should spend time in the public reading of the Scriptures and in preaching and teaching. He should not neglect the gift in him that was given to him when the prophets spoke and the elders laid their hands upon him. For thus he will save both himself and those who hear him. Paul becomes very practical and down to earth when he calls upon all young leaders, like Timothy, to treat all older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers and younger women as sisters, with all purity. They should respect widows and take care of relatives, especially members of their own family, rather than spending time in gossiping.
He therefore asks them to be in no hurry to lay hands on people to dedicate them to the Lord's service. For there are those who teach different doctrines, swollen with pride and arguing constantly about words, thus bringing jealousy and suspicion. Religion is not a way to be rich, for money is the root of all evil, but it should make us satisfied with what we have. If one wants to be rich in the right way, he should run the best race of faith and thus win eternal life. He should put no hope in worldly riches but be rich in faith and good works.
Perhaps because Timothy's faith and zeal had waned in the course of time, as it can happen today among our youth leaders, Paul had perforce to write a second letter to him, assuring him in the first place that he was praying for him night and day, secondly, encouraging him to keep alive the precious gift of faith God gave him through his mother and grandmother and, thirdly, never to forget that the Spirit he received by the laying on of Paul's hands does not make one timid, but fills one with power, ensuing from love, and founded on self control. He should therefore not be ashamed of witnessing to Christ and even suffering for the Gospel and for God's People as Paul does. He should not fight over words and should avoid foolish discussions and ignorant arguments that end in quarrels and drive people away from God, but he should always be kind, patient and gentle in correcting if and when needed.
There will be difficult times ahead when people will become pleasure loving, greedy, conceited, disobedient and merciless, holding to the outward form of religion but rejecting its real power. They will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear. All those who want to live a godly life in Jesus will be persecuted, but he should remember that it is the Scriptures that will give him the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus, and fully qualify and equip him to do every kind of good deed. He should therefore preach the message patiently at all times to convince, reproach and encourage all his hearers.
I was reminded vey forcefully of these two Pauline letters to Timothy, when I was invited to give a retreat, two missions and a training school in healing and deliverance, this October 2008, in Auckland, New Zealand, by the Bishop of the diocese and by the Auckland Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service Team. I was delighted to meet so many Indians, especially from Mumbai, attending the programs, and amazed to know that many of them were either my former students in the schools where I was Principal in the late sixties and early seventies or were my former youth retreatants who had made the charismatic retreats conducted by us in the late seventies and the eighties.
A Former Student
There was, however, one former pupil of mine, whom I did not meet personally but who sent me the following email on the very first day of my two weeks program. "I am happy to hear that you are bringing God's Word to New Zealand. You may not remember me but you have been my unseen mentor over the years. I grew up in 'Lourdes Villa', in St. Andrew's Parish, Bandra, Mumbai, and I was a young lad in St. Andrew's High School, when you were my Principal in the late sixties. Fathers Austin Norris and Jude Ferreira are my batch mates. You introduced a few of us to Amateur Radio and 35 years later I am still a HAM. I won't go into the smacks I got from you with your cane concealed in your sleeve.
I live in New Zealand, up north of Auckland, where you will be preaching, but sadly I may not be able to attend. I just want you to know that I have received an abundance of God's love and protection in my life over the years. A horrendous road accident in 2002 from which I walked unscathed is one example of protection. The love of my wife Valerie and my two girls Rebecca and Rachael are one of the many blessings our Lord has given me. Your fortnightly articles 'Led by the Spirit' in the Holy Spirit Interactive website continue to inspire me and I am proud that God chose you for his mission." (Signed: Capt. Rey Machado, Manager-Pacific Islands Operations).
A Former Retreatant
Among those I met in Auckland who had made one of our monthly charismatic retreats in Mumbai or one of our tri-monthly retreats in Goa during those 25 years was Edwin Pereira, whom I knew very well then as a youth leader, another Timothy, in Goa. The testimony that he gave on 27th October was a great surprise even to me, - almost unbelievable. "I had read about many people who said that they had experienced Jesus. I could not imagine that the Jesus who walked this earth 2000 years ago could be alive in people's hearts now. None the less one day a close friend of mine came over to my house and said that he had experienced Jesus. The sparkle in his eyes and the joy on his face made me want to experience the same. June 29th 1984 was the red letter day that would make a deep impact on my life. For The five days retreat conducted by Fr. Rufus and Fr. James was a move of the Holy Spirit that helped me understand the love of God the Father for me. I knew that through Jesus I was now free and that there was a purpose in my life. Jesus became alive to me and was my closest friend. Later the Growth and Inner Healing retreats by Fr. Rufus helped to deepen this experience.
The journey continued as the Lord led me to places I never would have gone to and to people I would never have dared to meet. I joined the youth group and began witnessing to other youth throughout Goa. Later we were invited to network with other youth groups from other parts of India and we witnessed the powerful move of the Holy Spirit among the youth of India. Indeed it was a 'Kairos', God's special time for the youth of the country. The core leaders of the youth group in Bardez, North Goa, decided to keep ourselves single for the Lord for 5 years to work for and dedicate ourselves to the youth. After that time the Lord blessed each one of us with a wonderful life partner. Anna is indeed my angel and we have been blessed with two wonderful boys. God is alive and faithful. He calls us to witness, he equips us and walks with us. At times the storms can seem to overpower us, but he is present in the boat. I am in the midst of a storm right now but I tell the youth, "I know my Jesus is always victorious and he will never lead me to places where his will cannot protect and guide me".
I returned to Mumbai, after the extremely busy two weeks of preaching and counselling for healing and deliverance in New Zealand, with a sense of fulfilment in my priestly ministry, having seen for myself the deep peace and the great joy on the faces of all my many former students and retreatants I met there, who had like Timothy kept the Faith in Jesus so alive and the Fire of the Holy Spirit ever burning, thus transforming the Good News into Good Acts.
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