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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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The light will shine

By Fr. Michael Payyapilly VC

A complaint that I get to hear very often is “I have heard the Word of God so many times but nothing changes in my life and in my attitude”. Some people have come to this retreat centre numerous times. Some of them are disappointed saying, “I have been here several times, but I don’t seem to get rid of my weaknesses”. It is understandable when people make statements like that because they do not see visible changes in their lives and they start thinking that the Lord is not doing anything and their lives are just the same. A worried wife once wrote to me, “Father, I have a husband who keeps attending your retreats but I barely see a change in him. I have seen so many other people change but this man’s life is just the same. No one can change him. Not even the Lord.” All these concerns at times do seem genuine and not without reason. They truly cannot see any visible change and then these retreats or the time spent in prayer seem like just wasted moments.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 3, we read a very famous incident. An encounter between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus. The Word tells us that Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. The reason he does so is obvious – he does not want to be seen in the company of the Lord. Being seen in the company of the Lord would lead him to be ostracised by the other Pharisees who were scared of Jesus’ increasing popularity and the authority with which He spoke. Nicodemus says, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” So it is obvious that though he knew that the Lord was someone special he chose to come in darkness. The darkness reflected the state of his heart and mind. He chose to come in darkness. The Lord would then speak to him about being born again of the water and the Spirit. Nicodemus was confused and kept asking the Lord questions. Here was a Pharisee, who was supposed to possess all knowledge of the scriptures but he seemed so ignorant. His mind was too filled with darkness to understand what Jesus was talking about. There is even a tone of disbelief in his voice when he says, “How can these things be?” He did not seem to even believe what the Lord was saying. The Lord keeps explaining. It is not even clear how the dialogue ended. The bible does not tell us in what state of mind Nicodemus went back. In fact the bible remains silent about Nicodemus from there on. It is like an incomplete incident. There does not seem to be a proper ending for that incident. Did Nicodemus understand? Did he change? What happened is not clear.

The next time we read about Nicodemus is in John 19:38 - after the death of Jesus. The Word says, “After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission; so he came and removed the body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing around a hundred pounds.” This is very significant, because the one who came to Jesus by night for fear of the Pharisees, is now here in broad daylight asking for the body of Jesus. Claiming that body is a public statement of his acceptance of Jesus. It was a declaration of his discipleship. This was the man who had come to Jesus by night and now here he stands publicly accepting Him. How the change? What had transpired in the life of Nicodemus from the first time he met Jesus? That first meeting could have been three years back or months back. The Bible does not tell us the time gap between that first meeting and the second meeting after the Lord’s death. But definitely something has transpired during that gap. What brought about this change? That first meeting does not tell us what exactly took place. But definitely something did.

The Lord used those moments that He had with Nicodemus to sow the seeds of His Word. Every moment the Lord had with Nicodemus was spent in filling him with His Word. Maybe at that moment it did seem that nothing much was happening. Maybe it did seem that Nicodemus would not change. Maybe it did seem that that first encounter was incomplete. But that is what it seemed for the world. But for the Lord those were precious moments. Those were the moments that the Lord sowed His Word into the heart of Nicodemus. That Word worked on him during that gap. That Word later blossomed and changed the man called Nicodemus. From a man filled with darkness, he became a man filled with light. He became a man who would publicly acknowledge the Lord. The Word brought in light.

Many a times we have that feeling that being in the presence of the Lord has not brought about any effect. We do not see or feel any visible change. But the Lord does not lose out on any opportunity to fill us with His Word. We might feel as though the moments in the Church or the moments in prayer were futile. But for the Lord, they were precious moments when He was sowing the seeds of His Word into us. This Word will now work on us. We could be struggling through darkness. Maybe like Nicodemus our hearts and our minds are darkened. But every moment that we spend in the presence of the Lord, the Lord puts in His Word. Maybe its effect is not immediately visible but one day its effects will shine forth. This is not only for ourselves. But even for our family. Sometimes we think that taking our children to church is futile. We see their behaviour after the service and think that the service has had no impact on them. But the Lord uses those moments to sow His seed of the Word into their hearts. That seed will work on them every day and every minute. And one day, the darkness will vanish and the light will burst forth. This is why it is important to take them to the services and prayers. Let us not think that there will be no impact on them. Give the Lord an opportunity to sow His Word into them. Let us not decide that those moments will go to waste. But let us believe that the Lord will use those moments in bringing forth His light into their darkness. His Word will never go to waste. In 1 Samuel 3:19 we read, “As Samuel grew, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” The words that Samuel spoke were never his own. It was always the Word of the Lord. And that Word would never go to waste. I have always pondered about the halogen lights that give out bright light. Initially when we switch on one of those lights, it barely burns. It takes its own time to burn. Sometimes it takes a good fifteen to twenty minutes to burn fully. But once it does, it banishes all the darkness around it. It shines forth. The Word of the Lord that He sows into us is like that. Maybe at times it takes a bit of time to start burning but once it does, it shines forth and it banishes the darkness within.

All our lives are like that of Nicodemus. Maybe we are going through a phase where we think that nothing is working. Even sitting in the presence of the Lord is not effective. Maybe we feel like giving up. But let the life of Nicodemus be an eye opener for us. The Word that the Lord sowed in our heart will definitely blossom and bloom one day. The darkness will be banished and the light will shine forth. His Word has power. As it created the world, it will create newness in us. Psalm 33:6 - “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made.” If the heavens could be made by the Word of God, how much more will that Word bring out changes in the one who listens to it. The darkness will not overshadow us, the light of the Word will prevail. Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path”.

 
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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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. Mathew Elavumkal, Fr. Mathew Naickomparambil and Fr. Binoy Chackanikunnel.

OTHER LANGUAGES

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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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