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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

“The will of God for you in Christ Jesus" (I Thess 5:18) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

“The will of God for you in Christ Jesus" (I Thess 5:18)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

St Paul speaks to us about the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thess 5:16-18).  The entering of Jesus into humanity and becoming part of the human race has changed the destiny of humankind. Jesus has revealed this to us in His conversation with Nicodemus. “God so loved....” (Jn 3:16). With the incarnation of Jesus, God has taken charge of the destiny of every individual and of the human race as a whole. He has made sure that none of us should perish. God keeps authority and control of everything that could go wrong with our lives, turning everything to our good. This is the assurance given to us by the Lord. At every moment when anything goes wrong with us, we should believe that the hands of God are moving, turning it all to our good. Hence the assertion of St Paul, “Rejoice always” (I Thess 5:16). There is no reason for us to grieve. Our prayer in such circumstances should be a prayer of praising God.

“Those who trust in the Lord will never be disappointed” (Rom 10:11)

I have a friend who is a hardcore cricket fan. He himself does not play but he follows all the matches wherever in the world it may be happening and whoever is playing. According to him, the best team in the whole world is the Indian team. Whenever the Indian team plays anywhere in the subcontinent, he would try to go to the venue to cheer the Indian team. If the team is playing anywhere abroad and if he is travelling, he would make it a point to get the game recorded so that he can watch it when he gets back home. When he watches a match, he gets so involved in the game that he would enjoy every moment of it and be totally oblivious to everything else that is happening around him. If the Indian team wins, he is the happiest man. There would be a grand celebration at home. But if the Indian team loses, he would be so affected, angry and grief-stricken that no one would dare go near him.

Once when the Indian team lost, he did not spare even the television set. He took a thick book and threw it at the TV and broke it. Once I was visiting him and I was told by his wife that he was watching a cricket match in the TV room. It was India playing against Australia. I went and sat with him knowing that he would be too engrossed for a conversation. As I was watching the game with him I noted that the Indian team was faring very poorly. The opening batsman was bowled out after scoring just a few runs. The Indian captain introduced the best Indian batsman. Unfortunately he too was bowled out, taking only a couple of runs. I was expecting each time a violent reaction from my friend. To my great surprise, he was laughing and clapping away each time. I asked him if by any chance he had changed his loyalties. He laughed and said, “No chance Father! India is the best team and I know it.” I then pointed out to him that they were faring quite miserably. He told me with great excitement, “Father you just wait and see what is to come. This is going to be the best match ever. India is going to spring a great surprise on the world.” I was wondering how he could foretell this. I looked at him again and he was too engrossed for me to interrupt his watching. After a while perhaps understanding my confusion over his exuberance, he told me, “Father, this match happened yesterday while I was travelling. I am watching a recording of it. India won and they won in style.” My friend was not disturbed at the apparent setbacks because he knew the final outcome was sure victory. At that moment I understood the wisdom of scripture instructing us to “Praise God in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:18). Every circumstance is moulded in the hands of God for our good. Our limited intellect is not able to understand the whole truth about any failure. In every failure, the seeds of victory are sown. The seeds will sprout up, at the right time appointed by God, to bring success. Hence a Christian refuses to be sad or angry whatever the loss maybe.  In our prayer we must carry this confidence of faith and our prayer will always be the praise of God and thanksgiving.

How much more will your heavenly Father give good things” (Mat 7:11)

We understand the way Jesus taught us to pray. The disciples requested Him to each them to pray. “Lord teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1). Jesus responded by giving them what we know as the ‘Our Father’. He said to them, “When you stand praying, say, “Father, hallowed be thy name” (v. 2). The Lord insists that we begin every prayer by calling God as ‘Father’. Whatever our mindset is at the moment of prayer, whether we are sad or sick, we must turn our mind to God with the confidence that He is our loving Father and that our lives are in His care. The word ‘Father’ is very meaningful because the very word Jesus used to address His Father in prayer is ‘Abba’. This is more than a word as it conveys a relationship of love and trust. The Lord wants us to begin our prayer not by concentrating on our woes but by raising our attention to the great unfailing love we have in our Father God. Hence we will be able to continue praying, “Holy be your name.”

The personal prayer of Jesus was a reflection of this attitude of trust and praise. In the gospel of John’s narrative of the Raising of Lazarus, Jesus prays in a rather tense situation. Martha and Mary were in tears, grieving over the death of their brother and disappointed with Jesus for not coming in time to heal the brother while he was ailing. Jesus himself was affected by the grief of the sisters and the loss of his friend. He was in tears. The Pharisees and the Scribes, in their critical mindset made allegations of negligence to Jesus towards his friends. While He went around healing everyone else, He wasn’t available for His own, they observed. In this negative atmosphere, Jesus rises to pray and His opening words was a calling upon the Father with praise, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always” (Jn 11:41,42). Jesus teaches us how to pray even in the disturbing situations of our life. A prayer that begins with distress will only stagnate in despair. We come out of prayer depressed because all the while our mind is clouded with sorrow not making a way for the light of God’s love to come through.

We learn to pray from Mother Mary. With great joy she praises God, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour... for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Lk 1:46-49). We need to remember that Mother Mary is singing God’s praises in what really was a distressing situation. She was told that she would conceive and bear a son. This message from heaven should have caused her great anguish of mind. She could be stoned to death because she would be found pregnant when she was betrothed to Joseph. Though she did not understand anything clearly, she had the trust that the Lord as He promised would take authority over the situation. This courage and strength of her faith gave her the grit and confidence to become the handmaid of the Lord.

“Now shout, for the Lord has given you the city!” (Josh 6:16)

Our problems may seem insurmountable. Our sorrows may seem deeply rooted. Our tensions unending. However, the more we look at these, the more blinded we are to the solution. But on the other hand, the Scriptures tell us to entrust everything in the hands of God and have implicit belief that God is Almighty. That means there is no power mightier than God. This God is with us and leads us through the problems to the victory that He gives. Joshua was asked by God to march into the Promised Land (Josh 6). Joshua calculated this to be an impossible proposition. The kingdom of Jericho that he was to occupy according to the promise of God was fortified by thick high walls. The resources of the Israelites were in no way equipped to battle the strong city. When he turned to the Lord, he was directed to take the procession around the city blowing the trumpets and singing God’s praises seven times over. This might have seemed absolutely baffling and absurd to all human reasoning. However Joshua and his followers did as bidden, obeying  God’s word and marched around the city seven times, singing God's praise. The impossible became possible. The thick walls of the city cam crumbling down and the Israelites took possession of the kingdom.

There are moments in our lives when everything looks impossible. Even God’s promises seem to be unrealistic. We would tend to so conclude, in the naturalness of our thinking and living ways. We go by rational thinking, by the logic of cause and effect. We have no space for the supernatural. We refuse to believe in a God who is waiting to intervene in the impossible situations of our life. Only those who believe in God’s power and care will be able to praise God at all times. Our God is a god of miracles. Through prophet Isaiah, God said, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear” (Is 59:1).

“The Lord will fight for you” (Ex 14:14)

Once I met a lady during the retreat. I spotted her often during the intervals in the retreat hall praying alone. I thought I should speak to her. When I went and met her I saw a smile on her face. I asked her what she was praying for. The smile became more radiant and she said that she was rejoicing and praising God. When she continued talking to me, I was amazed when she mentioned that she was diagnosed with cancer of the fourth stage. During one of the talks she was very touched when the preacher spoke about Mother Mary praising God in her trials convinced that God will take charge. In prayer this lady got the courage to believe that if she surrendered her life in the hands of God, God will take authority over the cancer. This conviction became a deep experience in her heart that she was joyfully praising God as Mother Mary did. The advanced stage of cancer did not bother her anymore because of the deep faith she placed in God. She knew God was greater than her cancer. She went back from the retreat with much joy in her heart. Two years later she came again. On Sunday after the Mass I invited those having testimonies to come and share the wonders God has done in their lives. This lady came forward and I recognised her. She shared to the gathering how the doctor had confirmed that she had but a few months to live. After the retreat she went to the doctor again. This time she went through all the tests and the doctor had diagnosed that she was being healed. He asked her to meet him after a few months. When she went to meet the doctor again, he pronounced that she did not need any further treatment. Her faith had saved her.

There are moments in our life when we struggle with acute problems, unable to find the way out of these. It is in such times that the Lord invites us to trust in Him. He tells us, “I am the way” (Jn 14:6). When we find Jesus as the way in every situation of our life, our burdened hearts will find rest in Him. It is then that we are able to rejoice praising God. Until we find this experience of trust, we will be tossed about from problem to problem, from temptation to temptation, and from despair to despair. We need to learn to find our rest in the Lord as St Paul said, “being rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:17). When we found our lives in the sure and tremendous love of our God, we shall according to God’s will “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.”

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we praise and thank you for your love is unchanging. You have a perfect plan for our lives and nothing can diminish the good you have allotted for us. You alone have the power to turn everything for our good. In every circumstance of our life, we know you shall be there. As we keep our eyes on you, fill us with the heavenly joy that we may praise you unceasingly. Amen.

 
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