Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to India with Fr. Antony Thekkekara, Fr. Mathew Thekkekara and Fr. Joe Hannapple. Both Fr. Antony and Fr. Mathew have spent time here at my parish, St. Patrick’s in North Platte, Neb., as associate pastors. We had a very aggressive itinerary as we went to eight cities in 10 days. We saw some wonderful sites like the Taj Mahal, the tomb of Mahatma Ghandi, the church built over the mortal remains of the Apostle Thomas, and some Hindu and Baha’i temples. We were able to ride elephants up a mountain to the Amber Fort in Jaipur. Fr. Mathew was not very fond of the elephant!
I’ve determined that India is mystical, magical and just plum crazy (at least the drivers on the streets are crazy). One of the mystical places that I experienced is the south-western state of Kerala. Kerala is tropical paradise. It is also home to many of the Catholics in India and is the home state of Fr. Antony and Fr. Mathew. Kerala was distinctive for its exceptional friendliness and courtesy of the people.
Here in Nebraska, we call our state “the Good Life.” Kerala has a wonderful self-understanding as they refer to their state as, “God’s Own Country.” I mentioned that the drivers are crazy as the roads are congested. As we passed throughout Kerala, I kept seeing vans and buses with signs located above the windshield which read, “God’s gift.” What a great way to appreciate your land and your possessions!
St. Paul speaks to us in Romans 11:36: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” These simple words help us better appreciate our land and our possessions. All things come from God, are sustained through God, and will eventually flow back to God. God is the ultimate owner of everything. Nothing is excluded. For our part, we find ourselves midstream. The gifts of God flow into us, we cherish and tend them, and then they flow back to God.
What would it look like if we viewed everything as God’s gift? Our house, our job, our family and our qualities – all of these belong to God. It might be fun to imagine putting post-it notes on everything around you which simply state, “Gods gift.” People who are self-centered have great difficulty with this perspective. They think they own everything – their possessions, their relationships and their positions. Stewards are different. Stewards believe that everything is on loan. Stewards know that we live in “God’s Own Country.” Even my car is “God’s gift.” What do you believe?