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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

Divine Call Archives

WHEN HEAVEN IS SILENT - Rev. Fr. Michael Payyappilly V.C.

It is very interesting to observe a parent-child relationship especially when the child faces a problem. The parent spends precious time giving inputs to the child on how to overcome the challenge. I am sure, if permitted; parents would take up that challenge and save their children the bother. Words of encouragement and the assurance ‘we will be by your side’ is offered to their child. During the time I taught in a school in Maharashtra, on the Annual Day, a mother coached her daughter so much that the child nearly missed getting on the stage. It is always nice to see the passionate way in which a parent stands by his/her child on their ‘big day’. The evident love of a parent - we expect that.

Jesus has been portrayed in several ways over the centuries. Many scenes from the Bible have caught our imagination. One of those is Christ praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He is portrayed as looking up to the skies and praying. If we read more and study that incident deeply, we do not see a very serene Jesus, like the one portrayed in paintings. Rather, we find a very disturbed Jesus, who was acting very unlike himself.

Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to pray. That is not quite like Jesus. In the Bible, we read many times about Jesus going alone to pray. In Matthew 14:23 we read, "And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray." In Luke 6:12 we read, "Now during those days he went up to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God." Or at other times he would go to pray along with his disciples and lead them in prayers. We read in Luke 9:10, "On their return, the apostles told Jesus all that they had done. He took them with Him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida." He knew they were tired and so he led them off to prayer. So Jesus would always be either with the Father in prayer or He would be leading His disciples in prayer. But here at Gethsemane we find a very different Jesus. At the moment of His own pain and impending suffering, Jesus took three disciples with Him for prayer support. He is so disturbed that he pleads with them to pray. In Mark 14:32 we read "Sit here and pray". He, though being their Master and Lord, shows them the side of Him that is worried and anxious. He tells them, "I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here and keep awake" (Mark 14:34). He pleads for prayer support from His disciples – something very unlike Jesus.

The Word tells us that He goes a bit further away and tries hard to communicate to the Father. He cries out and says, "Abba Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me..." He keeps asking the Father for an answer regarding the ordeal He would have to undergo the next day. But the Father keeps silent. He is not able to connect to the Father in His moment of pain and distress. He then goes back to the disciples, finds them asleep and He pleads with them once again to keep praying. Here, we find our Lord in pain. He is not able to understand the silence of the Father. He is struggling through these moments of uncertainty. This is the most important moment of His life here on earth and He cannot receive comfort from His Father. This is the time He needs His Father the most. It is the climax of His mission here on earth. His ‘big day’ is at hand! He needs the assurance of the Father, He needs His Father to talk to Him and comfort Him, but He gets nothing. He gets silence. He is definitely struggling. And that is why we see Him get up thrice from His prayer, trying to make sure that the disciples are around Him, praying. He who found it such bliss to pray to His Father, now finds emptiness. He cannot pray right. He is restless. All through His thirty three years of life, He always felt the presence of His Father. At every small moment, He felt it. But on this day, when He wanted it the most, He found His Father silent. When every other parent would stand by their children during times of challenge and trial, helping them with words of encouragement and strength, here the Father chooses to remain silent. We find a disturbed and distressed Jesus. "Why is the Father not saying anything? Why am I not able to connect to the person I have connected so easily with?" These would have been the natural questions of the Lord, within the depths of His heart. Then He just lets go and says "Let not mine but your will be done". (Matthew 26:39)

This does not mean that Jesus got the answer. It just means that He just let go and He went along with what had to be done. After that prayer, Jesus does not speak much. He goes through the whole painful process in silence. Maybe all throughout the Passion, He never felt the presence of the Father. It was the time He needed His beloved Father the most. But He felt nothing. It turned out to be a very lonely and painful walk to the Crucifixion. True, the Blessed Mother was around, the women who cared for Him were around, His beloved friend John, was around. But He must have wanted the presence of the Father the most and the Father remained silent. Even on the Cross, He cries out so painfully, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46) A cry of anguish – a cry of the Son! And still He gets no answer. It started the day before. The feeling of being forsaken by the one person He was so sure would never forsake Him. And the Father kept silent all throughout.

None of us would ever agree or even dream that the Father would have actually abandoned the Son and left Him all alone. We know the Father was there for Him. We know that the Father would be by His side, though Jesus never felt it. We know that the Father walked with Him all the way to the cross. Though He was silent, we know that He was there. We are so sure about it, for God the Father can never leave Jesus His Son all alone. We are definite about that.

In life we go through these phases – the 'big days' of our life – times when we truly desire some kind of support from our Father in Heaven. Days when we are disturbed and distressed by what is going on in our lives. We are not able to find an answer. We sit in prayer and expect the Lord to give an answer. Yet like what happened to Jesus, many times He remains silent. Maybe, like Jesus, we too find it tough to sit in prayer. Our hour of prayer is a restless time. We do not know what to do, where to turn. And as we go through our life’s walk to Calvary, we feel abandoned and lonely. Maybe like Jesus we too are crying out, "My Lord why have you forsaken me". But during these moments of pain and disillusionment, let us remember that we were sure that the Father had not abandoned Jesus. We knew that the Father would have been by the side of His Son. If that is true, then so is this: the Father is somewhere around us, though He chooses to remain silent. It might not be the answer we are searching for. But Jesus too never got that answer. Till His mission was accomplished, He felt that loneliness. But the Father was there and that fact will never change! It may be true that we do not feel God’s presence and that He is silent during this pain of ours, but the Father is around. And this fact will never change.

When Jesus was leaving the world, He made a promise – "And remember I am with you always, till the end of age." (Matthew 28:20) He asks us to 'remember' this promise. If the Lord has given a promise, He will never break it. Let us remember that. He will remain faithful to His Promise. He is there with us. He is ‘Emmanuel’!

 
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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 - 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, 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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