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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Hallowed be Thy name"(Lk 11:2) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

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New Years Day: The Spark We So Desparately Need - Rev. Fr. Michael Payyappilly V.C.

We have said good bye to 2008. We have welcomed the New Year. Invariably like every year, the end of 2008 would also bring evaluations and discussions as to how this year turned out. And as always there would be mixed reactions. For some it would be a year to remember; for others a year they would rather forget. The general opinion though when we look at it from the overall point of view, is that it was not a very positive year. A number of terrorist attacks, they say numbering more than 50, the number of natural disasters like the earthquake in China, the cyclone Nargis, the South Ossetia war in Georgia, the continuing tensions in the Middle East, the Tibetian unrest just before the Olympics, and then of course, the one that has affected nearly everyone: the financial meltdown! When we have a year like this, we naturally tend to feel lousy - we tend to lose hope. Like many predict, the financial crisis does not seem to end and will be worse in the next year. Going through a negative or painful year make us take the negatives of the past year along with us into the New Year as well.

Let us admit it - all of us have had a tough year. There would be many families that have been affected badly by the world financial crisis. Maybe a few of us have unexpectedly lost our jobs in the process. As a result, the pressure of the family burdens is getting to us. Some of us could have faced a disaster that has badly affected our family. We are still reeling under its shock. Maybe our family life is in tatters. The relationships we held so dear to our heart is in shambles. Nothing seems to be working out. Our personal life does not seem to be going anywhere. Our lives seem to be plummeting down. Maybe we find ourselves right at the rock bottom and the bitter fact could be that we may not have been even responsible for these problems. We ended up as silent victims to all that took place. What do we have to look forward to? Everyone is rejoicing and busy in welcoming 2009. When the world celebrates the New Year, what do I have to celebrate but my brokenness and pain? The world can feel happy that they have completed another year. They can be excited that the monotonous 8 has changed into a new 9. But it does not seem to give me reasons to celebrate. The harsh realities of my life do not allow me to celebrate or feel happy. Is there a message during this New Year for the broken who find no reason to celebrate? Can anyone or anything bring in a small smile of joy on their faces, which would be a celebration in itself?

I have always thought about the incident of Jesus raising Lazarus back to life. We find this in the Gospel according to St. John Chapter 11. The Bible seems to tell us that Jesus came late. "When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days." (John 11:17) There are a lot of questions that we can ask in this incident here. Why did Jesus come late? Why did he not make it in time and just sat around waiting where He was? (John 11:6) Was he waiting for Lazarus to die? Why then did Jesus raise Lazarus to life? What happened that day? What does this whole incident signify? Was there only the spiritual meaning of Jesus being the 'Resurrection and the life'? Through this miracle of His, was He actually reaching out to the generations to come? To the many others down the centuries, who would 'die' everyday in various areas of their life, was He conveying something? What happened that day?

When Martha and Mary sent word to Jesus, they believed they had a chance. A very good chance actually, that Lazarus could be healed. Lazarus' sickness was getting worse but it was not too big for Jesus to heal. He has healed worse cases than this. And after all he was their friend. They had 'influence'! He goes to the house of strangers and sinners, why wouldn't He run to their home? Even the neighbours would have thought the same. They would have all been waiting expectantly. But as the days went by, their hopes and dreams started crumbling bit by bit. That wait for Jesus to enter in would have been so painful. Disbelief is what they would have been struggling with the most as the moments kept passing by. He had always answered their prayers; He was always there for them. Why then in this moment, when they needed Him the most, does He not respond? The villagers who encouraged them saying that "the Master would be here any moment" would slowly start losing hope themselves. The very moment of Lazarus' death would have been even worse. Not only did Martha and Mary have to deal with the death of their brother but they would have had a lot of doubts about the friendship itself. "Why did He do this to us?" Would not these same villagers then make fun of them?

It was always a matter of pride for Martha, Mary and Lazarus that Jesus was their friend. Not many families could boast of that. And there would have been those who would have a chance to jeer at them now. There were discussions going on about this in those lines. We read in John 11:36, "So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" So people were being critical at that moment too. Martha and Mary could hear these statements being made. It pained them deep within. They were not only dealing with the death of their brother but also trying to understand what went wrong with their treasured friendship. "Why wasn't He there when we needed him the most? Why did He choose to abandon us at the most important moment?" The words that both Martha and Mary say to Jesus is an indication to this, "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21, 32) There is another way that statement could be put, "Lord, why did you not come on time?" It was a pathetic situation. No one there seemed to have hope nor did anyone have anything positive to say about that situation. It is in a broken situation like this that Jesus stands in front of that tomb of sorrow and He weeps. hurting because of this tragedy.

We see an indication of this in John 11:33, "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who also came with her weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved." He suffered with them. And then to the surprise of all, He did the unthinkable - He raised Lazarus from the dead! For a set of people who had lost everything and had no hope, He brought light. Into their brokenness, He brought a healing. No one there would have imagined that such a thing could have taken place. Death was the worst of tragedies - there was nothing worse. He healed the worst of tragedies!

This last year could have been a year of pain and brokenness for us and our family. Tragedies after tragedies and nothing positive to look forward to… We thought He was close to us, that He was our friend. In the past, He has answered our petty desires. But then why at the moment we needed Him the most did He not do anything about our situation? Maybe like the people used that opportunity to jeer at Martha and Mary and their friendship to Jesus, today there are people jeering at our faith and our friendship to Jesus.

We fight not only our broken situation but also the confusion in our mind as to why, the One we were faithful to all throughout, has chosen to remain silent and abandon us. At these moments of darkness and confusion let us remember the Lazarus incident. Like He cried along with those who were pained because of their sorrow, He has been crying along with us. Through each one of the broken experiences of this last year he has been weeping with us. But just when everyone writes us off and does not give us any chance, the Lord will raise us up again. At present, we might be going through those four days of being in the 'tomb'. Maybe we are surrounded by darkness. We are not able to see even a tiny ray of light to give us hope but let us remember that Hope is waiting at the doorstep of our 'tomb'. That deep loneliness of the 'tomb' might be troubling us no end. There is no one to support us, no one to offer a helping hand. But let us remember that Hope is waiting just at the doorstep of our tomb. That deep darkness of the 'tomb' is depressing us. We do not see a way out of this situation, no light at the end of the tunnel. At those moments of being in the painful 'tomb', let us not forget that it will just take a word from Him, a small little moment, for the barriers of our tomb to open and for us to come out into light and life. That moment is just round the corner. This is what this New Year signifies for us. We are on the threshold of newness! The fresh air of joy is going to enter into the staleness of our pain.

We shall not lose faith, irrespective of what has taken place in the year past. Our financial situation could be bad, our health could be poor, our family life could be totally broken, our dreams completely shattered. But let us know for sure that the 'tomb stone' will open any moment now. The New Year calls us to just hold on with faith. To start a fire we need a spark. Let the New Year be the spark for the Light of joy and happiness to be kindled in our life once again. Yes technically it is just another day - just another normal 24 hours. But we can use it as a spark in our moment of despair. Let it kindle the faith within us once again. Let us once again put faith in the Friend who will never abandon us. Our grace and blessing is just a moment away. He will say the Word any moment and we shall be healed. Hold on!

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes."(Isaiah 35:5-7)

 
Divine Updates

MAGNIFICAT in Chennai

Divine comes to Chennai with the 'Magnificat', on June 23, 2018. Fr. John Prince VC will lead the services. With special sessions for children.

Venue: Stella Maris College, Cathedral Road

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - drcsydney@gmail.com. Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2018 - December, 2018

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, 2018

POWER 2018 at Divine Retreat Centre

DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 13th International Youth Conference - POWER 2018. 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 22 - July 27, 2018

Divine Retreat Schedules

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English retreats are held every week from Sunday to Friday. Special retreats are conducted for priests, religious and laity as well. Come and experience the Lord and grow in Him.

MALAYALAM RETREATS

Inner healing retreats, growth retreats, couples' retreats and youth retreats in Malayalam, are led by Fr. Mathew Elavumkal, Fr. Mathew Naickomparambil and Fr. Binoy Chackanikunnel.

OTHER LANGUAGES

Retreats in Konkani, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi and Telugu

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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