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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
"I dwell with the crushed and the dejected“ (Is 57:15)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

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".. To Him Who Is Able To Do Far More Abundantly Than All That We Can Ask Or Think,...To Him Be Glory ... In Christ Jesus Throughout All Generations, Forever And Ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21) - Caroline Grace Wong, Singapore

It has been a few weeks now since I got back to the busy city life in Singapore, after having made my first pilgrimage to the Holy Land last Christmas 2008. As I took some time to reflect back upon the pilgrimage, I asked myself what was the most significant and memorable thing that I brought home with me from this trip which would be a constant reminder for me of this pilgrimage. Was it one of the various religious articles which by the fact that I managed to touch them at the various holy sites were quite special? Was it the little Good Shepherd olive-wood carving which my husband and I bought in Bethlehem, since it reminded me of the Christians living in very difficult conditions in that town, whenever I looked at it? I soon realized that though the things I brought back served as good reminders of the emotions I felt at every site and reminded me to pray for peace in the land of Israel everyday, I also brought back something that could not be touched or looked at. It was not packed in my suitcase - rather it was gently and delicately placed in my heart to be treasured and pondered upon for a long time to come. That special gift was a spiritual one: it was Christ's Love! During this spirit-filled pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I witnessed Christ's Love and Power in ways which I had never experienced before.

Firstly, I discovered for myself that the Lord is a great planner! In December 2007, I made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina where our Lady appeared to 6 visionaries in 1981 and still does so till today - not knowing that the following year, same time, I was to be in Jerusalem. I realized that it was no coincidence that I was in Medjugorje. The Lord must have wanted me to deepen my love and devotion for His Mother and my faith in the power of her intercessions first, before leading me to the Holy Land. Indeed how true it was that through Mary, one was led to Jesus!

Secondly, the Lord showed me that He is the Divine Provider Who takes care of all our needs, even the smallest one, through the following incident which happened upon my arrival in Tel-Aviv - the first day of the trip. Somehow my luggage and that of one of my fellow pilgrims got delayed. So I checked-in to the hotel with only my hand-carry. The weather was cold and my winter jacket was in my suitcase, besides all the other essentials. Deep down I felt an inner turmoil starting to erupt. On one hand, with God's Grace, I felt mentally prepared to go through all the discomforts that would come for not having any toiletries, clean clothes or winter jacket for the following few days. I was surprisingly happy that this would be a very interesting trip indeed. I even felt "free and light" for not having to unpack anything. I also started having thoughts of the homeless people whom I used to come across as a university student, sleeping on the pavements on a cardboard with some thin blanket, in the streets of London in a cold December evening as I hurried to the underground station to take the train back home. Back then, I used to walk pass them without any feeling of compassion, but that night in the hotel room in Galilee, I remembered them and my heart was moved. On the other hand, the evil tried to tempt me with thoughts of anxiety - what if my luggage got lost and could not be found, would I be able to endure the next 10 days? Would I be able to focus on the trip with all the discomforts? But with God's Grace, I chose to remain calm, to take one day and even one moment at a time and allow Him to guide me and not to entertain all the evil's what-if questions.

Just then, the phone and the doorbell started ringing. My fellow pilgrims started calling my room and coming to my door offering to lend me some of their toiletries and clothes. I was very touched by their spontaneous gestures of love. But the Lord surprised me even further after I went through my "little collection" that night as to how detailed, complete and precise He was. I got two face moisturizers (which was quite essential in the cold weather there), one each from 2 different pilgrims, staying in 2 different rooms. I was amazed to find out that one cream happened to be a day cream (as it had UV protection) and one a night cream (it did not contain any UV protection but was very buttery, which was ideal for the night). I then got two pairs of socks, one pair each from two other pilgrims. And I was without luggage for exactly 2 nights. Another fellow pilgrim kindly lent me some of her winter clothing excluding the socks. Looking back, it was strange that she did not lend me any socks. She would not be able to know what the other pilgrims brought as they were all from different rooms. All I could conclude was that the Lord through His Holy Spirit was the Mastermind behind all this. In a matter of hours I had all that I needed and in abundance. For me it was a miracle and not a coincidence. And only the Lord through His Holy Spirit could orchestrate everything so smoothly, so fast!

Thirdly, seeing the tremendous sufferings the Lord had to endure on my behalf at the Garden of Gethsemane in order to pay my debt caused by all my sins, I felt great remorse for all the sins I have ever committed. I cried like never before on the rock where our Lord sweated blood. On the Via Dolorosa while making the Stations of the Cross, I was inspired by how the Lord carried His Cross to the end. He showed me by His own example, through His Passion and Death on the Cross how to carry the daily crosses of my life that leads to salvation. He carried His cross with great dignity and resignation to the Father's Will. Jesus did not show any anger, throughout His Passion and Crucifixion; He did not shout angry words, seeking to defend Himself in anyway or swear loudly to His executioners or complain - instead He bore everything silently, with great strength, patience, boundless love, endurance and courage. Jesus was not self-centred but cared for all of us. He was not stingy and calculative instead His love was boundless! It also reminded me of Fr. Peter Zhang's (our Spiritual Director on this pilgrimage) words of wisdom namely the need for courage as disciples of Christ and the need to have the courage to be joyful even in times of great trial, sadness, to still make the effort as Christ is always with us and there is no reason at all not to be joyful. Jesus was always one with His Father; He would always turn to Him in prayer for strength. He was the Beloved Son with Whom the Father was well pleased (Matthew 17:5-6) because of His obedience. Jesus never showed any sign of rebellion but He was always docile to the Father's Will. Indeed there was so much to learn from our Lord.

Last but not least, the Lord hears our prayers and in response He does far more than all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). A few weeks before our pilgrimage to Holy Land, we were asked by our group leader, Sean, what our expectations and objectives were in travelling all the way from Singapore to Holy Land. I remembered saying that I would like to understand the depth and the mystery of His immense Love that led Him to the Cross though at that time, I was clueless as to how or whether I would ever understand. I actually forgot about my objectives after that meeting as I was faced with a series of incidents once I boarded the plane to Tel-Aviv, from being interrogated at the airport like I had never been before to my luggage that came two days after my arrival, to having a bad stomach in the middle of the trip. Yet everyday, I was simply grateful that I was still alive and in one piece. But interestingly, the Lord did not forget! Looking back now, I realised that to know God's love was actually one of St.Paul's prayer to God's people in Ephesus. In his letter to the Ephesians 3:17-19, St. Paul prayed the following, "...that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

In His loving kindness, the Lord waited until I visited Mt. Calvary in Jerusalem, at the site of His Crucifixion, to make me understand in one moment, all that I needed to understand about His Love. It was not something that I could try to comprehend or know through my intellect but it was a supernatural understanding that went straight to the heart, a "you-just-know" kind of feeling but which words could not explain. It was like a divine revelation coming from the Holy Spirit talking to my heart and spirit and not to my mind. At some point, I felt my heart was going to burst as it was so full of something mysterious. Something was happening inside me. I was scared that if I moved that this deeply intense feeling would leave me so I remained still and continued to gaze at the face of Christ, filled with pain, bleeding and yet so filled with Divine Love, Gentleness and Forgiveness. I felt amazingly loved by Christ the more I gazed at His Divine Face. I felt Jesus communicating to me through His gentle heart, saying to me, intimately and personally, "I love you! I always have and I always will love you. My love for you has always been and was from before you were born, before the world was made." I felt great gratitude for what He did - indeed I finally truly understood the high price He paid for my salvation so that I who am dust ("He knows what we are made of, He remembers we are dust." [Psalm 103:14]) could inherit the kingdom of heaven. I then felt a great desire in the silence of my heart to return that love - to from now on show Him through my life that His suffering was not in vain. I felt my heart physically leaving me and rising to touch Him, to comfort Him and to tell Him how much I loved Him and that He had won my heart forever.

In conclusion, my whole pilgrimage was like a beautiful retreat where I received healing, forgiveness and unconditional love. My response after this trip is to put into practice the instruction given by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews 12:1-2, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross..."

Divine Updates

39th National Youth Retreat

Our annual National Youth Retreat will be held at the Divine Retreat Centre. Come and let the word of God refresh you. Simultaneous retreats for couples, children and Bible nursery to be held. Contact Divine Youth for more details.

Date: May 19 - 24, 2019

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - 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, 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

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