Today makes two years to the date that I left Bombay to take up this assignment at the Pontifical Council for Culture at'the Vatican. Much water has flowed down the Tiber since. I recalled the night I flew. The plane was more than half empty giving me enough room to be alone and even more plenty of "inner space" to ponder and pray. As the aircraft roared along the runway and powerfully winged its way high into the sky, I sensed that with every minute I was drifting miles and miles away from home, family, friends as well as from persons and places that over the years had grown so dear. I peered through the window to have a glimpse of this great megalopolis and saw what looked like a huge bowl of luminous pearls. And soon they glistened into darkness! My poor heart bled with pain.
As a priest, I have had several postings and to put it lightly had "covered much ground"! But I had never felt so intensely the pain of separation. It was as if bits of my heart were being surgically sliced away. Even more, it was a rehearsal for death when one must perforce leave everything and everyone behind. There ispain in such separation. But it is a pain that purifies. During these two years as I have been reflecting on my life and work here, in moments of quiet prayer, time and again the Lord has been saying this to me:
"All which I took from thee,
I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in my arms."
The Lord had stripped me because He wanted me to be invested with Himself; He had shattered my security, because He Himself would now be my security; He had reduced me to nothing, because He wanted to be my everything. The Lord could not build me without first breaking me; He could not fill me without first emptying me. A boat must break loose from the moorings in order to launch out into the deep; the clamorous call of the incoming tide is indeed irresistible! Gradually, the conviction deepened that only total surrender can lead to lasting serenity. I have come to understand that whatever we surrender to the Lord is never really lost but always found at a deeper level. Distance is so necessary for perspective. We need to get away from the scene in order to view it better. We own only what we give away and we must learn to open our hands to give if we are to receive. I still love, even more deeply and dearly, all that I left behind. Can earthenware vessels ever lose the flavour of things that were first put into them and remained here for decades? I needed to enter this night to be able to penetrate through this darkness; to be blinded in order to behold the light; to die in order to live. It is only when one has been overwhelmed with the experience of the "todo" that is God that one realises the "nada" of all that is human!