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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC



Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Man was created by God with a glorious vision. "God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness" (Gen 1:26). In this exalted dignity bestowed on man, He reflects the wisdom and the goodness of God. Man is able to think things through and know them through his reason. He is also able to make decisions throughexercise of his free will and act. These twin capabilities of reason and free will enable man to partake in the divine nature, though in a limited way.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8)

Jesus perfects the limited human nature by anointing it with the Holy Spirit. Speaking to Nicodemus, He said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit" (John 3:5,6). Jesus affirms the necessity of being reborn of the Holy Spirit. Later St Paul reaffirms this, "Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come" (II Cor 5:17).

Rebirth in the Holy Spirit perfects what was initiated at our creation as human beings. We are created, endowed with intellect and will power. What the Holy Spirit does is to perfect our human intellect with unerring, godly wisdom and our free will with the power required to fulfil decisions.

The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you (Jn 14:26)

Letting the disciples know what the Holy Spirit will do for us, Jesus said, "When He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth" (Jn 16:13). We shall be led to the whole truth. Hitherto, the disciples could think and understand only along the thought lines and patterns of the world which are fleeting and imperfect, ridden with untruths. This is opposed to thinking that is in its godliness, changeless and true.

Jesus spoke of His impending passion, death and resurrection to the disciples on three occasions. Despite these predictions reiterated thrice over, never did the disciples comprehend even an iota of what the Master had meant. This is blatantly obvious as evident from, the most unfeeling and contrary reaction of the disciples at each instance. The first time Jesus had prophesied, Simon Peter was bewildered and he took the Master aside and rebuked Him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Mat 16:22). When a second time, Jesus prophesied about His passion and death, the disciples got to "discussing among themselves… who was the greatest" (Mk 9:34). While Jesus sought to impress on them that the mystery of salvation was in becoming smaller to the point of total annihilation, the disciples were set on the path of becoming greater in the way of the world. The third time Jesus predicted the eventual passion, death and resurrection, the two disciples, James and John came upseeking glorious positions, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left" (Mk 10:35). However much Jesus tried to teach the disciples the mysteries of the kingdom of God, their thoughts were very confined to the oppressive patterns of worldly thinking.

They were clearly not opened to the lesson of the glory of the Cross. No wonder when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, all of them abandoned Him and ran away. They were so desperate that the gospel describes that the last of the disciples took flight from the Master’s side even at the cost of losing the dignity of his cloth. “They all forsook him, and fled. And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body; and they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked” (Mk 14:50-52). They definitely counted their lives as far more indispensable than to be standing by their besieged Master.

On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit anointed them with heavenly wisdom, their understanding was illumined. Simon Peter was able to proclaim with an absolute conviction to the people, the mystery of the Cross: "Jesus the Nazorean... delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed... But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death... Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:22-36). This realisation had effected a profound transformation in the way he began to understand his own experiences. He, who once shuddered at the very mention of the Cross, now in the anointing of the Holy Spirit could recognize the wisdom and glory of Calvary and could himself embrace the Cross with great joy. When he and John were flogged, "they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the Name" (Acts 5:41).

Peter could relate every human suffering with the cross of Christ. In his first letter he writes, "Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (I Pet 4:12-14). He is exhorting all the followers of Christ to go the entire way and enter the real presence of the Lord in moments of their pain. He explains that their suffering is both a share that they are chosen and privileged to receive from the Cross of the Lord and an assurance of the ultimate crown of eternal glory.

“God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13)

The Holy Spirit empowered the free will of the apostles in order to fulfil the mission of Jesus. The Lord had asked them to wait and pray while He was in agony in the garden of Gethsemane, but they were too tired to comply with the request of the Master. It was the weakness of the will that the Lord described saying: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mat 26:41). It wasn’t enough knowing and willing the good, what was equally needed was the power to execute one’s decision. This will power that enabled the apostles to accomplish what God desired was endowed by the Holy Spirit. These very disciples who could not hold out an hour to pray with the Master even after being entreated several times, since after being anointed with the Holy Spirit, became men of prayer able to teach others to pray. St Paul tells us that it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to pray. "In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings" (Rom 8:26).

In the dark hour of the arrest and condemnation of Jesus, the gospels present Simon Peter as having followed Jesus right into the High Priest’s residence. He perhaps gained entry through the influence of some highly placed secret followers of Jesus. Yet in that defining hour Simon proved the weakness of his will. He once had proudly declared his fidelity to Christ “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” (Mat 26:33). Yet he could not bear witness to Jesus when he was challenged by an insignificant servant maid as he was warming himself by the fire in the High Priest's courtyard (Mk 14:66-71). Since after being anointed with the Holy Spirit, he could feel and assume the courage strengthening him to stand up for Jesus and declare that Jesus is the Lord and Saviour, even in the presence of the Sanhedrin, the most powerful council of the Jews. Peter attests to the assertion of St Paul on the Holy Spirit, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (II Tim 1:7).

The disciples could not heal an epileptic boy brought by the father. The father complained to Jesus about their failure, “I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able” (Mk 9:18). We remember that they had been accorded the power right in at the beginning of their association with Jesus. “He appointed twelve, to be with Him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mk 3:14,15). It was clearly as Jesus reprimanded them a case of lack of faith, "O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him to me” (Mk 9:19). After the Pentecost experience however, the apostles were exercising in marvelous ways the power of faith working miracles, healing the sick and raising the dead, even to the extent that the mere touch of their shadows brought healing.

Human nature is perfected by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. We will be able to carry out the mission of Jesus only when we are empowered by the Spirit of God. The Lord has asked us to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us on one cheek (Mat 5:39). This is the command of love that we need to obey exactly when it is most difficult to. When we are hurt by someone by word ordeed, the natural impulse is to hit back. This is when we need to wait and pray for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will pour love into our hearts empowering us to forgive the person who hurt us and to return good for evil.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35)

When Mother Mary was given the message that she would conceive and bear a son, she understood nothing. Hence she was deeply troubled. That was natural. But the gospel tells us she opened her heart to the promise of the Holy Spirit. She understood the whole truth of what was happening to her. She accepted wholeheartedly what she realized was the invitation to be the mother of the Messiah who would be born as the Saviour of the humankind. She also realised that she would conceive and bear a son not in the human way but in the power of the Holy Spirit. When this divine realisation came upon her she began to rejoice and praise God for the great call that was given to her.

Christian life is to be lived not in the way of limited human reasoning wrought with miscalculations and further burdened by our human frailties, but in the supernatural light and power of the Holy Spirit. This is not being unrealistic but is the real possibility offered to us when we wait and pray for the Spirit of God to anoint us at every instance of our life. Every decision made, every step taken is to be in the light of the wisdom offered by Spirit of God. We need to know that there is more to life than what our natural reason offers us. A failure, for example, need not lead us to sorrow, because it could be the way through which God is guiding us to a greater success, because all that happens to us is according to a plan of God which is destined for our good (Jer 29:11). Moreover, God is working through everything that happens to us for our good future (Rom 8:28). We are no longer discouraged by the failures of the past and the frailities that seem natural to our human nature, for we can reach out to the power of the Holy Spirit that allows us to do the good we want to and defeat the evil we despise. It is only through the light of the Holy Spirit that we will come to such a divine realisation. Waiting and praying for the light and power of the Holy Spirit will make our life truly Spirit filled and Spirit led.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank you for the promise of the Holy Spirit. Enable us to wait and pray at every moment of our life for this promise to be fulfilled that our life may truly be lived in the light and power of your Spirit. Let us be able to remember in the moments of our failure and sorrow that you would never leave us alone. We will be defeated only when we will not turn to you for your power to strengthen us. Enlighten our understanding and strengthen our will that we may truly live led by the Spirit. Amen.

 
Divine Updates

MAGNIFICAT in Chennai

Divine comes to Chennai with the 'Magnificat', on July 20, 2019. Bro Lalith Perera will lead the services. With special sessions for children.

Venue: Stella Maris College, Cathedral Road

MAGNIFICAT in Bangalore

Celebrate an evening with our Lord in Bangalore at the 'Magnificat' on July 20, 2019. Services to be led by Fr Joseph Edattu VC. All are welcome.

Venue: St. Joseph's Boys' School Chapel, Museum Road, Bangalore

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, 2019

Retreat for Priests, Religious and Lay Ministers

Divine Retreat Centre is organising a retreat for Christian leadership - priests, religious and laity in Christian leadership roles. Please spread the word to Christian leaders and religious you know.

Date: 28 July - 2 Aug 2019

Divine Retreats in USA

Fr. Augustine Vallooran and team will lead several special retreats across the US - in California, Florida, Texas, Ohio and Maryland. Please bring your family and friends. Hear the Word and be refreshed. 

Date: August 2-18, 2019

POWER 2019 at Divine Retreat Centre

DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 14th International Youth Conference - POWER 2019. 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 21 - July 26, 2019

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2019. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - drcretreatrego@gmail.com or drcsydney@gmail.com. Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2019 - December, 2019

Retreat in Maryland, USA

Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, along with Glen and Teresa La'Rive, will lead an inner healing retreat at the Shrine of St Jude Catholic Church, Rockville, Maryland. Please be there.

Dates: August 16-18, 2019

Divine Retreat Schedules

ENGLISH RETREATS

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 Vincentian priests.

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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