Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes – Ephesians 6:10
The funeral rites of Rini Mathew had just concluded and I stood in sad reflection near her coffin which was slowly disappearing under shovels of mud. Rini was a good friend and a role model through my life. My classmate in college many years ago, she was gifted in many ways— a tall goodlooking girl who bagged the top ranks
in the University, and was central to every college activity. Soon enough, she was married and had to face a different side of life with a husband who matched her in brilliance, but was often subject to depressive bouts. I could never forget the phone call summoning me to her house hardly six months after her marriage. Her family and in-laws were present. It was an evening of tears, vehement arguments and silence. Her family was adamant about a separation and were ready to appeal to the church authorities. Rini listened silently, her rosary held firmly in her palm. At last she stood up and gave her final verdict one that reverberated in the room and in the hearts and lives of those present for many years to come—“I have promised in front of the Lord to be with him till death do us part. That is my final decision.” In the next five years she had three wonderful children and her faithfulness saw her through the good and bad times. Today she sleeps in peace, having fought the good fight to win the race.
When we open the Bible we come across the wealth of promises that the Lord makes to us and we experience the fulfilment of these promises in our lives if we stand by our faith. Very often we too make promises with every intention of standing by them but life’s attractions weaken our resolve and we fall short of expectations. However, some of the promises that we make as Christians need to be prioritized and taken very seriously. They are the ones that we make through the sacraments we receive.
At baptism our Godparents promise on our behalf that we will renounce the devil and receive God as our Lord and Master. As we receive the sacrament of Holy Communion we partake in the Body and Blood of Christ and personally commit ourselves deeply to Him. This is followed by Confirmation where we pledge ourselves as soldiers of God. One often wonders if we, as Christians, understand the seriousness of these promises we make. As parents, do we do enough to help our children strengthen their faith? The world that our children experience around them holds an immense capacity to alienate them from the God they have promised allegiance to. If they simply don’t know, or experience the power of God in their daily lives, the promises they made in church in front of God and His people will be thrown away along with the toys and games that appeared attractive when they were new but were discarded when the next attraction came.
Perhaps the promise that is facing the greatest danger of disintegration is the sacrament of matrimony the promise that two full- edged adults take to live together and raise a family. While wedding celebrations have progressed from lavish get-togethers in five star hotels to destination weddings that take wedding guests to world famous tourist spots, the commitment to remain together is on a downward spiral. A generation ago, separation was not even considered as an option unless the situation was such that the partner was in danger. With deep prayer and faith, most marriages survived the rough patches to reach more stable stages supported by growing children and their joys and achievements. Unfortunately the 21st century Gen Z category is governed by an insidious individualistic mindset successfully promoted by social media. It is no easy task for a marriage to survive the challenges posed by a philosophy and culture that places the individual self above all other considerations and relationships.
The sacrament of Holy Orders taken by the priests and religious is a commitment that has its own set of trials, especially because of the depth and difficulty of the vows taken, and the public exposure that Church leaders are subject to. However, like marriage vows, these promises are also made by mature adults who have been given time to reflect on their commitment before taking a final call.
Keeping the promises we have made to the Lord is never easy. For some it is harder than for others as circumstances vary, and each one’s tolerance threshold is different. However, there is always help that is just a prayer away and we have examples of brave souls like Rini in front of us. Though she is no longer with us, her words of commitment will remain like a beacon of light showing every committed Christian the way forward in severely disturbed conditions.