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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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FEAR OF GOD OR DREAD OF GOD - By Rev. Fr. Michael Payyapilly V.C.

If you forward this mail, in the next 27 hours you will you get a very special blessing from Jesus. If you do not forward this mail and ignore it, you are rejecting God and you will go through a lot of trials and sufferings for the next two years.” This was found at the bottom of a religious forwarded message I received in my email inbox recently.

“Letters to throw contempt on the LORD” (II Ch 32:17)

There was nothing new about this message because for the past eight years or so that I have been using my email ID, I have received thousands of these kinds of forwards. The only new thing in this mail was the number of hours that were mentioned. It said 27. And I would have been fine if it had stated 24 hours or 36 hours or 48 hours. But I was curious to know why the extra grace period of three hours was given? Maybe they did it, keeping in mind the speed of my internet connection, which was so fast that it would take three hours to forward a message. Only later did I realise that the three hours of grace period was the great ‘Forward gimmick’, a little catch to keep me guessing. Initially, eight years back, when I opened my new email account, and I used to receive these kinds of ‘forwarded’ messages my first reaction would be to immediately forward it to as many people as possible. After all which Christian wants to go through trials and suffering for the next two years? As it is we have more than enough of trails and sufferings on our head with our daily problems. As though I would want one more just because of the internet! And so all my ‘beloved’ ones, for whom I care for so much, would be forwarded this burden. As long as it was off my head, I was fine with it. I was sure that I was not going to ‘reject’ the Lord, nor am I going to take up any trial and suffering courtesy an internet forwarded message, supposedly from a ‘well-wisher’.

I am sure this is something that most of us, using the internet, have come across. A lot of these so called ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ forwarded messages are doing the rounds. I have always tried to understand the meaning of ‘suffering’ in this world. I have looked forward to getting a satisfactory explanation for suffering. Even as we studied Philosophy and Theology, I thought I would get some concrete explanation for it. But the nice professors with ‘wisdom’ could never give me an explanation for it and always ended the discussion with the statement, “It is always difficult to understand why there is suffering.” Obviously I was not happy and kept thinking to myself that I will find out the answer myself. It is after receiving these wonderful ‘forwarded’ messages that I got my long awaited answer – ‘The sole cause of suffering is - not forwarding these spiritual messages on the internet’! If only my professors would use the internet!

“The LORD is my shepherd” (Ps 23:1)

On a serious note, what do these kind of messages pass on? Isn’t it a dread of the Lord? A dread that the Lord will punish. A dread that we are going against God if we do not pass on a forwarded message. A dread that He will destroy our family. What kind of an understanding of God are we passing on? What kind of a Lord are we portraying? Is this the kind of Jesus that we have found. If so then we have found the wrong Lord. The Lord portrays Himself not as a God of destruction. He portrays Himself as a friend. He portrays Himself as a Shepherd. He says, “I do not call you servants any longer … but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15). He looks at His disciples as friends. And a friendship is not built up on dread. It is built up on love. He sees Himself as a shepherd. “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11). Not only does He term Himself as a Shepherd but calls Himself the ‘Good Shepherd’. He says, “The good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep." (John 10:11). If He was a God who destroys, then why would He say that He will lay His life for His sheep. In Luke 15:1 ff He speaks about going in search for the lost sheep. Never does Jesus portray Himself as a God of destruction. The Lord Himself does not give a negative portrayal of His qualities. He redeemed the world with an act of love. An act of love in which He did not give suffering but rather He took it upon Himself.

True the Lord does speak of suffering. He does speak of taking up our crosses. He calls us to Christian suffering -a suffering that every disciple is called to. But never does He show Himself as this God who would punish and destroy. I would go to the extent of saying that people who forward such messages with that last little line of ‘trials and sufferings’ have not understood the real Lord. I find it hard to recognise the Jesus of those forwarded messages. I know of a Jesus, who forgives and loves. I know of a Jesus, who accepted us with our faults and mistakes. I know of a Jesus who was ready to die knowing very well that we His people have sinned. In Romans 5:8 we read, “But God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” The kind of experience that we have had of the Lord, is the kind of experience that we will propagate. Only one who has understood the Lord as a forgiving and compassionate God can propagate a forgiving and compassionate God.

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (Ps 8:4)

It is sad if we have to make use of such a negative idea to propagate Christ. Our God is a God of love and compassion. He was someone the people were never scared to go to. When the lepers and the outcasts and the sinners were scared of going to others, because they would be condemned, they came to Him to find love and acceptance. When the prostitute was thrown in front of Him, He did not pile on the burden of condemnation and suffering. He brought her back with love. He tended her back to health. No wonder He asked Peter in John 21:16 “Tend my sheep”. Let us understand Him as a God who loves. Let us experience His compassion. After all doesn’t He say, “Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

And if by not forwarding such negative ideas of Christ, we are to face trials and sufferings for the next two years, then as true Christians let us take up our crosses and follow Him. Let us make that conscious decision never to propagate a ‘dread’ of God but rather a positive ‘fear’ of God based on love. I would never be able to relate to a God who scared the living day lights out of me. I have known a God of forgiveness and love and I will propagate a God of forgiveness and love.

And by the way, we don’t need those three hours of grace period too!

 
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

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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.

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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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