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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
"Behold, I make all things new“(Rev 21:5)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

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"Today, When You Hear His Voice, Do Not Harden Your Hearts..." Hebrews 3:8 - Caroline Grace Wong, Singapore

At my last retreat "Ablaze in the Spirit" at the Divine Retreat Centre, Kerala, India, I heard wonderful stories of a nun, Sr. Teresa who has the gift of hearing God's Voice clearly, in addition to the gift of vision. She shared many instances in her ministry whereby God would speak to her and prompt her as to what to do. In fact, these 2 Divine utterances "I Thirst" and "Step out and Proceed" which she heard very distinctly from the Lord during a Charismatic Renewal retreat, changed the whole course of her life and ministry. They were a clear call to her from the Lord, and she has been faithfully serving in the Divine evangelisation ministry in Potta and overseas, for the past 20 years. I was impressed as to how promptly she obeyed and responded to God's Call in her life. His Voice led her to touch thousands of lives wherever she preached and bore witness to God. Listening to God and doing His Will seemed so natural to her; it was the most normal thing to do on earth! Her sharing brought to my mind, my own recent experience of how God gently led me to attend that retreat which was totally unplanned.

First of all, as far as God's Voice is concerned, I always thought that God only spoke to holy people like Abraham, Moses and great prophets such as Isaiah, Elijah and in a human voice. But then, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Hebrews 13:8. Our Lord spoke 2,000 years ago. He still speaks today. In my initial years as a newly baptised Catholic, I could not hear God's Voice as I was expecting God to speak to me through one way only, i.e. in a human voice through a vision. Thankfully through my journey with the Lord over the years, and through reading the Scriptures, I have realised that God speaks to us in various ways, and not all of God's communication is vocal. He uses dreams, visions, people (visionaries and prophets), events, His written Word to communicate to us, such that I am today, more open to any way God wishes to use, to speak to me. I believe, besides a wrong understanding, many other things can cause us to be deaf to God's Voice and act as barriers preventing God's Will to be communicated to us. To name a few, our own sinfulness and unwillingness to repent, our hardened and rebellious hearts, our prejudices, our own distorted ideas as to how things ought to be, lack of a disciplined prayer life, our impatience and inability to wait on God and listen to Him, failure to recognize His Voice, lack of spiritual guidance and preoccupations with the things of this world, the cares and riches and pleasures of this life (Luke 8:14). Sometimes we go through life like the deaf man in the Gospel of Mark and we need Jesus to heal us through His Word: "Eph'phatha," that is, "Be opened." Mark 7:34 so that we can hear His Voice clearly.

About a month ago, one morning, a friend of mine casually mentioned to me that she planned to attend a special retreat for Priests, Religious and Lay Ministers (15-21 November) with the theme "Ablaze in the Spirit" at the Divine Retreat Centre, India. I was happy for her as I believe it is good to attend at least one retreat every year to be renewed and come back with a fresher perspective for one's life and one's ministry. The theme "Ablaze in the Spirit" resonated quite well with me, as deep down I felt I needed a good dose of the Holy Spirit to give me a much needed boost, in my ministry, as a Serran. I felt the retreat being catered to lay ministers besides priests and religious was very relevant.

Our domestic helper was due to fly back home for her 2-week annual leave. Her ticket was booked months in advance and her departure date was the day after the retreat finished. She would leave the day I would have returned; it was too close for comfort. I did not think much about the retreat when I got back home that day. Besides, I had registered myself for a "Conversion Retreat" in Singapore, in December this year and I could not imagine myself attending 2 retreats within a matter of weeks. In addition, being in the gifts business, December is a rather busy time for me at work with the year-end festivities, and a 1-week retreat was just too long. Days went by, then twice within the week, while adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; I heard a soft inner voice saying:"India". In my mind, I connected the world "India" to the retreat. I felt drawn to find out more about the retreat on the Divine website. I wanted to find out more about the topics that would be covered and the dynamics. But there was no such information. I told myself "Forget it". I then remember telling the Lord in my heart, that if He really wanted me to go, to give me a confirmation, a third sign perhaps upon which I would go. He did!

A few days later, I happened to be flipping through the newspaper. I was holding the travel section. On the first page, there was a half-page advertisement with the words "Incredible India" at the bottom. It was an ad from the Indian Tourism Board promoting the country. I then heard that same soft inner voice, saying: "This is the third sign". The next day, I asked my friend whether she had booked her ticket. She had not done so yet. So I thought there was no hurry. However, a few minutes later, I received an email from her about a "Silkair hot deal" to Cochin. At the same time she got a text message from her husband advising her to quickly book her tickets as the rates were likely to rise from 30 October, with the coming holiday season. Soon, I found myself booking my airline ticket on-line blessed with a hot deal too. Just last week I returned from Cochin and my domestic helper left for her annual leave the same afternoon I landed home, all without any disruption, like clock work.

Looking back I realised that God was patiently using people and signs to lead me to do His Will. I firmly believe it was the Lord's plan for me to attend that retreat. All along He led me to it gently and lovingly. Everything fell in place so nicely and I had great peace throughout and even had a good laugh saying to myself:"The Lord is so cute." The retreat I attended turned out to be one of the best retreats I have attended so far! I went in not knowing what to expect and I came out ablaze in the Spirit, feeling liberated, reborn and filled with joy. I received many spiritual gifts of forgiveness, of tongue, of greater love for the Eucharist, healing of past hurts, deliverance from the spirit of inferiority and impatience, and a clear vision of our Lord. I am very grateful to having been given the grace to allow myself to be open to the soft promptings I received. After the Inner Healing Service, I saw a beautiful vision of the Lord. He was dressed in a bright white robe and His hair was gold in colour. The Lord appeared very tall and slim, gentle and meek. His face was slim and He had nice sharp features. He was holding my little hand (I saw myself as a 4-year old child) gently and we were taking a stroll in the daytime, in a beautiful garden filled with daisies and little flowers, purple and red in colour. I saw myself looking up to Him, and smiling at Him after every step. Jesus would smile back at me and reassure me as we continued walking hand-in-hand. I was amazed when I opened my eyes to see a picture of Jesus seated in a garden and holding a small girl close to Him projected on the screen in the hall. I was speechless and filled with joy - it seemed like a confirmation of the vision I had just experienced! I do not know the full meaning of this vision but I do know I had never felt so much peace and joy before.

I firmly believe Jesus speaks to the whole world today just as He did 2000 years ago. The problem lies in us that we cannot hear him anymore. It is not that He has stopped speaking and caring for us. As Christ says in the book "Imitation of Christ": "I have taught prophets from the beginning and I continue to speak to all persons; but many have hardened their hearts and are deaf to My Voice. Many prefer to listen to the world than to God, and to follow the desires of the flesh than the will of God." It is important to always remain near to the Lord through prayer, spiritual direction, frequent reception of the Sacraments, reading of the Word of God so that we will be able to hear the Voice of the Lord when He calls. Moreover hearing is one thing, having the grace to overcome any resistance in one's hearts to answer Him promptly and with courage no matter when He calls, is another. Docility and obedience are also important for His Will to be fulfilled in us. There is a need to constantly remind ourselves of our Lady's words to the servants at the wedding in Cana, "Do whatever He tells you" (John 2:5). Mary is one person who not only heard God speaking but willingly obeyed, despite all the persecutions she would have to bear. On the contrary, Adam and Eve disobeyed the Voice of God Who told them not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

May all of us discover the precious Will of God for us every day, at every present moment. May we heed His Voice today and be open to His plans for our lives. "Today, when you hear His Voice, do not harden your hearts..." (Hebrews 3:8)

 
Divine Updates

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

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. Joshi Kochukudiattil, 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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