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Paul Vadakumpadan, Guwahati says,
HELP THY NEIGHBOUR FIRST, THEN GO ABOUT CHANGING THE WORLD
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Guwahati, Oct. 29. Bro. George Sungmur served many years in the motor mechanics department at Don Bosco Technical School, Shillong. In the late seventies, he came to stay in the theologate in Mawlai.

HELP THY NEIGHBOUR FIRST,
THEN GO ABOUT CHANGING THE WORLD

Fr. Paul Vadakumpadan

Sacred Heart College was just beginning and we were a small group of theologians. One day Bro. George came to give us the goodnight. He said, ``You are singing so often, Bind us together, Lord, Bind us together... I asked several of you to help me with my English and nobody helped. You are hypocrites.`` Thank you Bro. George (God rest his soul) for calling a spade a spade.  Bro. George was right, not only in helping others with English but also with vehicles, money, time etc.

On the other hand, there are also many beautiful examples of brotherly love. Umpteen times I have narrated an enriching personal experience of mine. Once I was about to go somewhere by jeep. All of a sudden the jeep decided to go on strike. To get a motor mechanic at that moment was difficult and in any case would take an hour or two. In the neighbourhood there was a seminary. I knew the driver there who was a good motor mechanic as well. I phoned the seminary. This was before the mobile revolution. The rector picked up the phone. He told me the driver had already left for the town to do some work. He asked me, ``What`s the problem?`` I told him of my predicament. ``Don`t worry,`` he said, ``I can settle it myself.`` In about five minutes he reached our house. In another ten minutes, he fixed the problem. Soon I was comfortably on my way, in the jeep repaired by the rector of the regional major seminary. Such small things are unforgettable. They make life beautiful. Absolutely! This good priest, Fr. Christudhas, had worked several years in the frontline Mizoram mission. At that time, motor mechanics in the area was a life saving skill. God be praised for such helpful people.

Perfectae Caritatis, art. 13, in speaking about religious poverty, mentions also solidarity. It says, ``Provinces and houses of the different institutes should share their poverty with one another, those who have more, helping those who are in need.`` Forty years ago, while going through this passage, my novice master, Fr. Lo Groi of happy memory, made a comment, which at that time sounded academic. He said, ``A Vatican Council was needed to tell religious to do what ordinary people were already doing.`` As years passed by, I found that Fr. Master`s comment was more than just academic.

First things first. I have had the privilege of taking part in many meetings at the local, national and even international levels. Everywhere one hears about universal solidarity, international assistance to the needy, transformation of the world, justice and fair play in international relations, level playing field etc. These are certainly good things. But we need to remind ourselves that charity begins at home. Selfishness in the apostolate is selfishness nevertheless. Means of the apostolate may end up as masters of the apostolate. Shall I call this capitalism in the apostolate?   There is no doubt that capitalism has triumphed in the modern globalised world. I don`t condemn it. I am an admirer of Manmohanomics and Thomas Friedman`s Flat World. However, capitalism in the apostolate is a different cup of tea. In fact, the flat world is about synergy and collaboration, not selfishness and rivalry. The rule of the apostolate is the basic Gospel rule Love your neighbour as yourself. Religious too are challenged to practise this fundamental law, first among themselves.

The so-called mutual love remains theoretical till it becomes mutual help. Such need is felt more often in small things than in big things, even in such petty things as occasionally lending a vehicle or some urgently needed cash to another, helping out someone who is hard up for time, means or needed skills.  These things are more urgent than international solidarity and protection of the environment, though the importance of these matters need not be downplayed.  Many small acts of kindness make for something big and exceedingly beautiful. Chances are what makes life difficult are not big problems, but small ones. Petty cases of selfishness, self-centredness, self will that put together make the whole apostolic team look like a crowd of self focused individuals, not a community of disciples focused on Jesus and sharing his good news.

Sharing God`s love ad extra begins by experiencing it ad intra. There is no better way to serve God than serving His children, beginning with those who are nearest to you, in fact, your fellow servants.
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