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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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A call to be His witness

- By E. K. Maria

Some years ago I happened to attend a retreat at a College campus in Bangalore conducted by a Priest and some lay ministers. It was a two day retreat. Though I have been a Chirstian all my life, I was still hearing a lot of things about Jesus for the first time. At the end of the retreat, we had many go to the stage and share their testimony.

An elderly lady went forward to share her testimony. She looked very weak and walked with a great difficulty. She was unable to even climb the stairs to the stage. Two volunteers almost carried her up. She stood there breathing heavily and then picked up the mike and as she spoke her face lit up. All the tiredness seemed to vanish. She then said that she was 80 years old. She went on to say, “Name the sickness and I have it”. She also said “I have undergone 7 surgeries and before every surgery the doctors told her children that it was doubtful if she would live. Then she said “Jesus was with me all through those difficult moments of my life”. Everytime, He assures me of His love and presence and it is a miracle that I am still living in spite of the doctors giving up hope on me. She said that she had undergone a lot difficulties and troubles in her life but the Lord was always faithful and never abandoned her. She said that all her children have settled abroad and they support her financially but she lives all alone in a flat. And then her face brightened up and her voice was so joyful when she said “But I am not alone, my Jesus stays with me.” She was saying all this with a lot of conviction. Finally she said “I am very sick and all the organs of my body are failing and paining. Today Jesus called me by name and reassured me, “Bridget don’t be afraid I am with you”, and so I tell you even if all the organs of my body wither or fail, still I will never give up on Jesus. I will tell the whole world about His love. I will always trust in Him and be His witness because Jesus is a loving Saviour and has always been faithful to me”. As she was being helped by the volunteers to come down I noticed the radiance on her face. She was filled with the love of Jesus. This elderly lady’s witness touched my heart. Even when she is so sick and all the major parts of her body are ailing, she is there ready to be a witness for Jesus. Not only that, every time she said “Jesus”, her face would light up with joy. As she spoke I knew definitely, this elderly lady had the experience of Jesus. Everyone in the crowd was talking about this old grandma who said with a lot conviction that Jesus is a true friend. It was a living testimony proving the love and faithfulness of Jesus.

All of us are created by God in His own image and He loves all of us. Therefore we have the responsibility to be like Jesus, to talk about Him, to serve Him and to love Him and to make Him much loved. We should also be able to give Jesus to those who do not know him and to those who have ignored His love.

Jesus never said “You shall be my preachers” Jesus said “You shall be my witnesses”. It is quite possible to be a great preacher, without being a witness for Christ. It is also quite possible to be a great and living witness for Christ without being a preacher. John the Baptist and the Apostles were the most outstanding witnesses for Christ through speech and living. John the Baptist unafraid of losing his own importance as a prophet in the eyes of his disciples persuaded them to go and follow Christ saying “He who comes from above is greater than all (Jn.3-31). That is a witness through both speech and living. When the Apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin in order to be questioned and threatened, the Apostles unafraid of the dire consequence said to the high priest, “we are witnesses to these things and so is the Holy Spirit”. Acts 5:32) Theirs too was a witness through speech and living. Some of us are witnesses through speech but all of us can be witnesses through living.

As the disciples kept growing in number, the twelve Apostles called the whole group of believers together and chose seven men among them who were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom and put them in charge of spreading the Word of God. Stephen, one among those seven, was a man richly blessed by God and full of God’s power, performed great miracles and wonders. It is said that when Stephen spoke, the Holy Spirit gave Him such wisdom that no one could refute him. He preached about Jesus boldly without fear and the members of the Council who listened to him became furious. But Stephen, filled with God’s Spirit, could look at heaven and see God’s glory and Jesus at the right hand of God. The members of the Council rushed at Stephen and threw him out of the city and stoned him. All through this painful process Stephen’s eyes were fixed on Jesus. He was a true and faithful witness of Jesus. Even when it came to the point of sacrificing his life he did not cease from becoming the Lord’s witness. (Acts.7 & 8).

Saul who became Paul after his conversion was the greatest of witnesses for Jesus. As he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians he encountered Jesus in a vision. That one encounter changed his whole life. He turned out to be the greatest witness for Christ and nothing could separate him from the love of Jesus. Every opportunity he got to proclaim Jesus, he did it with courage even when his life was in danger, because Jesus had chosen him to serve Him, to make his name known to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. The Lord also said that Paul would have to suffer for His sake. In spite of knowing this he continued his work. (Acts 9:15). Paul had to face a lot opposition not only from the Jews who tried to kill him but even from the disciples because they were afraid and did not believe him. Paul did not give up. He went on preaching boldly and more vibrantly. He made use of every opportunity he got to preach about Jesus. Even when he was arrested along with Silas and their clothes torn and were beaten up severely and thrown into prison with their feet fastened between heavy blocks of wood, they sat there praying and signing along with other prisoners drawing them close to Jesus. And suddenly there was a violent earthquake and the door opened and the chains fell off all the prisoners. The Jailer was a witness to all this and he and his family accepted Jesus and were baptized. (Acts: 16:25). Paul’s arrest and torture turned out to be a blessing which helped him in baptizing the jailer and his family.

Paul considered himself as an Apostle of Christ and always said that he was not inferior to the apostles. Paul proved that he too was called by Jesus as He had called the apostles. Paul’s love for Jesus was very intense and deep. At one time he publicly declares, “Are they Christ’s servants? So am I, but I am a better servant than they are. I have worked much harder. I have been in prison more times. I have been whipped much more and I have been near death more often. ……..(2 Cor.11:23-25) . St.Paul though a prisoner in Rome for two years before his execution, welcomed all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about Lord Jesus. (Acts 28:30-31) John the Evangelist ends his Gospel saying that, “This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things and we know that his testimony is true”. (Jn 21:24)

To be a witness for Christ, Paul even risked his life and went without sleep, food, clothing and shelter. He toiled day and night to spread the Gospel. He never gave up no matter what difficulties came his way. He considered it a privilege to suffer for Christ and therefore boasts about his sufferings and weakness, which he admits as a sharing in the sufferings of Jesus. As Christians, we are expected to be true witnesses for Christ. But, we shrink from our responsibility when troubles and turmoil’s came our way. We expected others to do it and we ended up doing nothing worthwhile for Christ.

We follow Jesus as true disciples and work hard to be His Apostles because Jesus has called each one of us to be His witnesses. Which means that each one of us is ‘called’ as Jesus ‘called’ the 12 Apostles. We can be His faithful servants only “If we purify ourselves from all that is not noble in us, then we shall be a noble vessel for a noble use ready for the use of our Master for any kind of good works” (2 Tim 2:21-22). Like St.Paul, we too should be able to say, “Who then can separate us from the love of Christ? Can troubles do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty, or danger or death. No in all these things, we have complete victory through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:35-36-38)

We strive hard in our lives to stand up as His witness, whether we are young or old, man or a woman. Because the Lord never said that it’s only for a man or a woman to be His witness. He said “you shall be my witness”. The letters of the Apostles remind us of their hard work for Christ. The fire that was burning in them spread every where. We too should be the carriers of that fire.

There are moments in my life when I felt fear gripping me. When I have felt lonely and my heart was filled with unbearable grief. When I felt everything was lost. In those moments I am reminded of that old grandma who stood as a witness before thousands and declared, “I am not alone, my Jesus stays with me”. I am sure, as that Grandma’s testimony touched my heart, it would have touched many other hearts as well. As Christians we have the privilege of witnessing Christ both in words and deeds. And so we keep ourselves busy in the Lord’s work and He will work wonders in our lives. He will surely stand by us and strengthen us to carry out our work for Him, even if we have to suffer for His sake.

 
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Date: July 22 - July 27, 2018

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