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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

 

Divine Call

Where do you stand? - By Maria Sangeetha

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you… For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:37,38)

The saga of the Passion echoes in every age and in the journey of every chosen witness of Christ. It comforts us that there is a sure hope for every suffering person who must endure unjust strife and does not have a dramatic Divine intervention. The Passion also makes a clear demarcation between those who stand for Christ and those who do not. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Lk 11:23).

He was held suspect for the longest time. At the very beginning, when He first proclaimed the word of God, the crowds rushed to kill Him. When He healed, they conspired to eliminate Him. When He cast out demons, they were quite sure He was working through the evil power of Belzebul. Finally they managed to have him arrested in the dark hours of night. He had blasphemed they said. The entire nation stood horrified that this miracle worker who stood in the name of God had in fact been a blasphemer. They would cry out “Crucify Him.” Wasn’t He too good to be true? The cynic within had won. There had all along been tags that He was a winebibber and a friend of sinners. There had to be some truth in the many insinuations. He clearly appreciated the sinners and tax collectors over the Pharisees and Scribes. He hinted that the disreputable would be the first in the kingdom of heaven. We should have guessed that He was not all right. Witnesses were brought to the trial held by night. Each had a story to tell. Only that, none of their stories would agree. Trial after trial was held. Pilate found no fault in Him. He said so. He even washed his hands off. Yet he condemned him to death to satiate the crowd. He even won over the arch enemy Herod. In what history would judge centuries later as a most unfair trial, Jesus is finally condemned to death. His foes had been more powerful, more vocal, more convincing and more numerous. His friends stood hidden, helpless, silent and some of them were even a bit confused.

A silent prayer arises among his sympathisers that God would dramatically intervene and prove to the bloodthirsty crowds that the Lamb of God was indeed innocent. “Why should the nations ask, “Where is their God?” Before our eyes, make known among the nations your vengeance for the bloodshed of Your servants” (Ps 79:10). Jesus had gone about doing good. Now all his works are questioned and dismissed. The times are bad, they concluded in despair. God must intervene at least for His own name sake, they reasoned.

It was similar reasoning, though with hateful motive, that the mockers demand a supernatural proof of vindication. “The chief priests, scribes, and elders mocked Him, saying, “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself… Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God. Let God deliver Him now if He wants Him. For He said, ‘I am the Son of God” (Mat 27:41,42).

God remains determinedly silent. The Son dies labeled as a criminal on the Cross for all the world to see. As the accusers feel accomplished, a dark heavy silence descends. Was it the silence of God responding to the human challenge? Even the sympathisers are now weighed down by this darkness of incomprehension. What must they believe in? Why would God watch an innocent man be defeated by evil? If He were the loving Father that Jesus proclaimed, would not his heart be torn to see His beloved Son crushed.

The Cross is a scandal indeed. Yet at the centre of our faith is the very event that appears to be a stumbling block to the belief in a loving and saving Father God. St Paul acknowledges, “We preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23). The Cross is foolishness. It was the thinking crowd that made the decision to choose Barabbas over Christ. “They all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”… And their voices prevailed” (Lk 23:18,23).

Two thousand years have passed.

The world claims to have moved on with civilisation, technology and consciousness of human rights. Yet we know it is a civilisation that despises the wisdom of the past, a technology so inhuman that it seeks to replace humans with artificial intelligence, a global village that trounces down a discordant voice, human rights activists who demand death, the ostracised who ostracise the rest!

Much has indeed changed. Yet Calvary repeats itself. Today the Church, the body of Christ is as hated as the Lord Himself was. Its stance for life seems to threaten the vocal majority. Its teachings challenge the powerful, the rich, the famous, the talented and the popular. In every country, there is a ‘punishment’ being wrought on the Church. To be religious is to face the challenge of being despised and dismissed as archaic.

Yet the Lord prepared us well, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:18-20).

While the persecution continues unchanged, the hating crowds only have grown. Today the social media dictates every individual to be present. It dictates this presence shall be marked by taking sides and also dictates which side one must take!

Needless to say, in Pope Francis’ words, “It is fashionable today to criticise the Church.” The Church has errors. The arrogance and sins of persons identified with the Church have caused many much suffering. One such person who suffered was St Padre Pio. It was while speaking of this saint that the Pope mentions this, “Padre Pio lived in difficult times. He loved the Church but he never destructively criticised it, as is fashionable today. The one who loves the Church knows how to forgive, because he himself is a sinner. One cannot live a whole life accusing the church. Whose profession is it to accuse? Who is the great accuser in the Bible? It is the devil. Those who spend their whole life accusing are friends, cousins, relatives of the devil. Defects must be identified so that they can be corrected. The defects are denounced, the Church is loved. All that is done without love is from the devil.”

Christ was vilified and put to death. He took on the wages of the sins of humankind. This was His mission. He saved us through His suffering and death, not through the glorious moments of ministry. The Father knew this. Hence He did not concede to the public demands to vindicate the Son on human terms. On the third day, the Father raised Jesus to glory, defeating death and establishing salvation. The Calvary hour shines glorious for eternity. We call it now “Good Friday”!

In every age, godly men will be persecuted. They shall bear the sins of their erring brethren. And we know just as surely that their sacrifice shall sanctify the Church and spread the aroma of salvation. They shall suffer as Christ did. The world would denounce them and feel vindicated for that. That would not deter them – for they committed themselves to serve Christ not for worldly crowns but for the eternal crown the Father awaits with for them.

In all this however, one thing is left for us to decide. Where do we stand? Shall we join the multitudes that dare to condemn. We demand justice without fair trial. The more independent we attempt to sound, the more conformed we are to the multitude. We join the chorus of voices that are raised by the bloodthirsty mob looking for a scapegoat. The way of Christ demands us to risk sounding naïve and looking foolish. We need to desist from judging.

The mocking Pharisee at the foot of the Cross had reached the threshold of heaven, when lo and behold, he saw the One he dragged to death standing right there glorified by the heavenly Father. In sheer embarrassment, he stepped aside depriving himself of heaven. Is this what Jesus meant when He said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned... For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:37,38). The yardstick we use today would be used on us as well when we reach the Day of Judgment. So may we heed mercy and grace that we may receive mercy and grace. Our destiny and hope for eternity depends on this.


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Divine Updates

MAGNIFICAT in Chennai

Divine comes to Chennai with the 'Magnificat', on July 20, 2019. Bro Lalith Perera will lead the services. With special sessions for children.

Venue: Stella Maris College, Cathedral Road

MAGNIFICAT in Bangalore

Celebrate an evening with our Lord in Bangalore at the 'Magnificat' on July 20, 2019. Services to be led by Fr Joseph Edattu VC. All are welcome.

Venue: St. Joseph's Boys' School Chapel, Museum Road, Bangalore

Retreats in Divine Retreat Centre, UK

Divine Retreat Centre, Ramsgate UK, has announced several English and Malayalam language retreats to be led by Fr. George Panackal VC and Fr. Joseph Edattu VC. All are welcome.

Dates: Jan - Dec, 2019

Retreat for Priests, Religious and Lay Ministers

Divine Retreat Centre is organising a retreat for Christian leadership - priests, religious and laity in Christian leadership roles. Please spread the word to Christian leaders and religious you know.

Date: 28 July - 2 Aug 2019

Divine Retreats in USA

Fr. Augustine Vallooran and team will lead several special retreats across the US - in California, Florida, Texas, Ohio and Maryland. Please bring your family and friends. Hear the Word and be refreshed. 

Date: August 2-18, 2019

POWER 2019 at Divine Retreat Centre

DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 14th International Youth Conference - POWER 2019. The very best international preachers and gospel bands will be here to lead us into worship. Be there to experience a totally different atmosphere of prayer. A Couples' Retreat and a Kids' Retreat will be held simultaneously. Don't miss it.

Date: July 21 - July 26, 2019

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2019. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - drcretreatrego@gmail.com or drcsydney@gmail.com. Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2019 - December, 2019

Retreat in Maryland, USA

Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, along with Glen and Teresa La'Rive, will lead an inner healing retreat at the Shrine of St Jude Catholic Church, Rockville, Maryland. Please be there.

Dates: August 16-18, 2019

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Every week, retreats are held in five different regional languages of India, apart from in the local language - Malayalam. The retreats are led by Vincentian priests and supported by powerfully anointed laity of God.

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