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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

As gold in the furnace, He proved them

"(Is 2:5)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Divine Call Archives

When He knocks at our hearts’ doors

By Linda Joseph Kavalackal

One of my favourite choruses as a little girl was – ‘When Mr Satan knocks at my heart’s door and says “May I come in,” I say “No, no, for Jesus loves me so”’. Today, the greatest challenge for you and me as adults, is to know - if it’s Jesus knocking, the evil one or our own selves.

One of Satan’s vilest tactics is to come in where we least expect it – he is waiting to see whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8) When we sin subtly, we eventually become complacent in everything. The Lord hated the lukewarm church. He spat them out (Rev 3:14-22) Lukewarmers approve of, accept and subtly live with what the Lord hates – all seven deadly sins. We are called to be daring Christians - who live and love passionately - Him and our fellow humans with all our heart and soul (Deut 6:4,5, Matt 22:37-39) We today live, work, entertain, even do ministry, with no love. When hearts become deadened, envy becomes ‘mere concern’, anger becomes ‘righteous indignation’, selfishness becomes ‘justified exhaustion’, lying becomes ‘strategy to avoid tension’ – but sugar-coated sin is still sin.

Examples: We may not steal out of greed, but we have no qualms about destroying public property while taking extra care of our own, abusing work hours, stealing office stationery, wanting that new thing a friend has, disrupting that tidied shelf in a supermarket, cursing our fellow traveller, insulting that person from another religious faith or race. You must have heard the joke about the dad who corrected his son – “Why do you have to borrow your classmate’s pencil when daddy can get you many from the office?” We do not use our money wisely or frugally or we use it on people we think deserving. The starving get the leftovers, not what your family eats, wears. (Matt 25: 40-46)

Sloth is not merely huddling in bed. We have no qualms about breaking our word, promises (James 5:12, Proverbs 19:5) In the olden days, a man’s word was his honour. We lose the passion we once had and don’t do the good we are supposed to do. Are these too small? Nothing is. Start with the small. Obeying God in big AND small, is better than sacrifice. Sloth can be sloth to serve. One of my favorite preachers cried to the Lord to use her to bless others. Despite her thriving ministry, all He asked her was to give away her new red dress to a friend. She ‘changed the topic’. A month later, she asked Jesus again and the Lord told her the same. And she defended it saying, “Lord, but I bought a new earring to go with the dress”. And the Lord said, “Since you mention, if it’s a problem, give her the earring too”. WOW.

Wrath goes hand in hand with unforgiveness. Families crumble, churches split, friendships break  because of anger and resentment – those quiet jabs of Satan, which we have learned to live with. How many of us can stand in church saying with a perfectly clean mind that we are clear of unforgiveness? It’s not just VOCAL anger that’s sin. May be you have no anger, but can you say with assurance than someone else is not holding anything against you? Unless I make efforts and resolve issues, I cannot kneel to pray. And when the issue dangles on, it affects my work, ministry, daily life. Everything becomes a chore. A wounded spirit who can bear, cried the Psalmist. We are called to take our gifts to Him AFTER clearing rifts (Matt 5:23) If all who are wounded/caused wounds - stand up in church, I am afraid the majority would be standing. That is the reason why there is power lacking in our churches. God’s grace and His power are flowing, but the ones He has to work through are broken, wasting time on pettiness. Defeat evil with love (Romans 12:21)

Then there are the doubters who are too filled with pride to believe anyone else is good but self, our family, our church, our congregation, our race. God hates the proud and the arrogant (Proverbs 16:8) and that includes all kinds of pride. We have gotten hard knocks, so we are too proud to trust anyone. We generalise, especially the ‘broken’ people. Once hurt by a woman, once cheated on by a man, all become bad. You are what you are today, merely because of God’s infinite mercy. Yet it takes one small misunderstanding to let go and focus on another’s speck (Matt 7:3) Fissures become huge rifts. Sometimes, while discussing something perfectly normal with a dear one, suddenly you disagree miserably and wonder what on earth just happened! Its the evil one - demons cause strife. Throw in your arrogance, ego, hastily spoken words that wound and you have an ugly picture. Stew in silence, walk out and soon you have a broken relationship. The devil will keep you resentful, bury the pain and you will be indifferent after a while. That’s sin! Disagreements happen everywhere – focus on communication and reconciliation, NOT resolution (Matt 18:15) To resolve everything soon may not be possible.  Even the best Christians may have two opinions on the same matter. Resolution focuses on the problem, but reconciliation focuses on the value of the person and on getting the relationship back on track – it says, “I may not understand all you are saying or agree to it, but I care”. God expects unity in His church, not uniformity. Strive for peace. We should walk hand in hand even when we have differences of opinion (Romans 12:18) That means no gossip, no judging one friend to another. If all bridges are burned for new pleasanter ones, at some point you will be standing alone. THAT is not Christian (live together in unity) Broken fellowship is the worst testimony for Christians (2 Cor 5:18, 1 Cor 6:5) The Word speaks about Esther fasting and praying for three days before speaking to her husband. Good idea. Fast, pray and SPEAK UP. Before the enemy grabs you through your false pride and deadens your spirit. You may be strong but the other party may not be so. So keep trying. Do not do anything that will make your brother fall. Paul’s appeal is urgent (1 Cor 1:10) Many suicides, mental illnesses, lifelong wounds could have been avoided if we had learned to recognise strife and fight it. Learn to eat humble pie. It does not taste good, but its good for your spiritual health. The joy of loving and being loved is something Jesus wants each Christian to enjoy. They should know we are Christians by our love.

Then there is our ‘pi’ factor, which is pure vanity. Gandhi once said he loved Christ but hated Christians. An average Christian is the most self-assured, arrogant, criticising person around. If a person is hungry, God asks us to feed him. Not tell him to ‘keep well and stay warm, I will put you on my prayer list’ (James 2:16) Putting anyone on a list is easy, daily commitment to serve is harder. Doctrines are easy to preach but hard to live. Oh that the Lord would reveal each night how many chances we have lost that day, to be His self - to our own first, and to everyone we meet! Do unto others…do not serve another person food, clothing, behaviour or words, which you do not accept for yourself.

Each time you hear a person you can’t stand being praised to the skies, if you feel discomfort or an urge to put in a ‘warning’ to those listening, it plain envy. We humans are so pathetic that even when someone does us good, the evil one will rush in to remind us that “He/she seems okay today, but last week she was not all that good/I heard someone say…(insert mistake)”. We ask God to be merciful and we don’t give people a chance! Love does NOT keep a record of wrongs. (1 Cor, chapter 13) It covers the flaws of our friends – it does NOT expose its own as sinful. God asked us to give seventy times seven chances (Matt 18:22) We are asked to guard our hearts against EVIL, not people. God gives us fresh beginnings. Be merciful. If you want to be critical, remember that the Man who went to Calvary for you, ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus prayed that we remain one in Him (John 17:20)

Renowned scholar Rabbi David Lapin once described lust as not merely physical, but as our tendency to ‘use and throw’ people. Kinda shocking, but when we merely use someone when we just ‘want’ him or her, its lust. In Genesis 4:19, we see the earliest reference to lust - Lamech keeping two wives – one for the ‘duty of love’ and another for enjoyment - pleasure coming into marriage, sex. When we love people, we do not USE them. Period. Lamech even committed murder to satisfy his lust (2 Samuel 5:13-16) When we use people and then ignore them or badmouth them when we have no more use for them, we are ‘murdering’ them.

Gluttony. Mmmm. We may love to fast. But we don’t fast from hypocrisy, deceit, slander, mocking the weak, arrogance (Gal. 5:19-21) Ouch. I don’t know about you, but I would hate to fast, be grouchy all week, then come back and have a big tuck-in and have zero change in my nature.

I often wonder how we would face our Creator at the gate of heaven along with martyrs, missionaries, the poor and everyday saints – who will tell stories of starvation, rejection, illness, pain and even death for His sake. And we would be standing there saying “Yeah, I suffered too Lord, when one of my two phones got broken, when I had a sore throat, when family badmouthed me and a friend troubled me for help at an inconvenient time”. I’d be hanging my head in shame. Its crazy to ask for martyrdom, when you cant take the sting of a correction from a good friend. Division and hatred among Christians strike at the very centre of God's plan for unity (Eph. 4:3-6)

If you have read this whole piece and thought its all very apt for someone else you know, be assured, your spirituality is haywire. The Word you hear, the Bible passage you stumble upon – is meant for You. Not for your spouse, sibling, best friend, mother-in-law or priest. It is you the Lord is desperately seeking to correct and make just like Himself today. Be willing now, lest you learn it the hard way later. Some lessons are repeated in life until we learn it. We are busy hardening our hearts, but He is still knocking. Pray that you and I heed it each moment, daily, forever...

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