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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
"Life in all its fullness“(John. 10,10)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

"Life in all its fullness“(John. 10,10) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC


Man is a complex being. He is made up of a soul, mind and body. Some thinkers imagine that man is essentially a rational soul and the material body is accidentally added to it like a bird in a cage. When the cage is broken the bird can fly away. Others thought that man is only a material body without any spiritual content in him. Christian vision has always affirmed that both the spiritual soul and material body are integral parts of man. Therefore whatever happens to him affects his material component, the body, and his spiritual nature. A relationship with God, for example, will change not only man's soul but his mind and body as well. A spiritual experience will have its consequences in his psychological and material factors.

“My God turns my darkness into light” (Ps 18:28)

In the gospel of Luke chapter 19, the spiritual conversion of Zacchaeus is described in detail. This spiritual transformation that came about in the life of this tax collector has affected his mental postures as well. It is not only a conversion experience in which a sinful man turns to Jesus and becomes His follower; rather it is a total transformation of the whole person from being an unjust and unhappy outcast to a blessed man of God.

It is noteworthy that St Luke introduces Zacchaeus as the chief tax collector and a man short in stature. I believe these were key factors that contributed to the personality of Zacchaeus and his conversion. At the time of Jesus, Palestine was ruled by the Romans. The Romans had conquered the country that the Jews had always considered their own, given to them by God Himself. Taking them out of the land of slavery in Egypt, it was to this Promised Land that God had led them. But now they were once again become almost slaves under Roman dominion. The intention of the Roman Empire was to extort money from the Jewish people to fill their own coffers. For this purpose they used Jews themselves, who were appointed as tax collectors. That is how Zacchaeus, a Jew became the chief tax collector of Jericho. He was the highest Roman official in Jericho, guarded by Roman soldiers. The Roman Empire respected his decisions and his strategies. He could collect as much as he wanted, by whatever violent and unscrupulous method he chose. He only needed to give the prescribed share to the Roman government. No wonder he was a wealthy man, much feared and deeply despised by his own people.

One could wonder why Zacchaeus chose such a terrible profession. We could imagine his own deep-seated hatred and self contempt had led him to that choice. The evangelist tells us he was small in stature. We could visualise Zacchaeus as a boy growing up in the suburbs of the Jericho city. Among his friends and teachers, he would have been called nicknames that ridiculed him for his shortness. Every such rebuff would have made him angry and at the same time heightening his self-contempt. Among his friends, he would have been singled out to be teased. Unable to defend himself, he would have stood painfully isolated and helpless. It was in this negative setting that he grew up.

My soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart” (Ps 73:21)

In the seminary, we had a companion who was short and stout and very fair complexioned. We used to call him 'pumpkin'. He was very intelligent and good-natured. In the exams he used to come out always with very high marks. We were a little jealous of him and used to tease him a lot. We never imagined that he would feel hurt. He left the seminary and we did not know why. Much later, after I was ordained a priest, I understood how terrible he had felt those days. He had studied in the university and had become a professor. He invited me for the baptism of his child. When the baby was brought to the church, I had to suppress a smile because I couldn't help but notice the baby looked like a little pumpkin, round and fair. Later in the house, he narrated to me what was for him a harrowing experience in the seminary to be constantly taunted with nicknames. He felt great rejection. He tried to hide his pain behind a smile, but he would go back to his room and cry aloud. In order to gain respect from his companions, he studied harder. But he gave up in his endeavour and left the seminary as things didn't get better. Later, after having become a professor he joined a rebellious group in his parish to fight against the parish priest. He revealed to me that it was the way he was venting his pain for the shabby treatment he received from his companions who now were priests.

This sad predicament of this professor is a disturbing memory in my mind. It enables me to understand Zacchaeus. Two attitudes would have formed in his mind. He would have grown up with anger brewing within him as a child, an adolescent and a young man. His anger was directed against his own people who, he felt rejected him. This anger would have given rise to depression in his mind. Feeling totally unaccepted he would have been led to a desperation and self-contempt. He would have had a craving to assert himself in some way in order to be respected by everyone and thus to get some sort of recognition to increase his self worth. It would have been at that time that the Romans conquered Palestine and began to persecute the Jews. Zacchaeus was perhaps happy that the people of his own race that he hated must now suffer at the hands of the Romans. He would have known the Romans were looking for intelligent and clever people from among the Jews to collect taxes. Zacchaeus would have happily offered himself, with an eye also on the rich returns for himself. Soon he grew in stature in the eyes of the Romans, because of his efficient and cruel ways of extorting the money from the Jewish subjects whether they could afford it or not. He was appointed to the privileged post of the chief tax collector.

His profession, while giving him great satisfaction, would have made him hate himself all the more, because at the heart of hearts he knew how despised he was by the common public, by his own people and also how cruel he had become. His sinful ways had affected his family relationships. Because he had developed an angry nature, he could never enter a relationship of love and trust, even with his own wife and children.

“I have called you by name; you are mine” (Is 43:1)

It was this deep rooted unhappiness that led Zacchaeus to Jesus. Jesus was by then reputed as a prophet and wonder worker. In some corner of his mind, he had a desire to see Him and be blessed. That's what made him climb up the sycamore tree.

He knew for sure that he did not stand a chance to talk to Jesus or be counted worthy of His consideration. What happened then was something beyond his wildest expectations. Jesus while moving with the crowd, stopped at the foot of the tree and looked up. Jesus called him by name and asked him to come down. In the midst of the crowd that despised the tax collector, Jesus waited for him with respect, announcing for all to hear that He was to stay with him. This declaration sent shock waves into the crowd. All the Jews gathered there were scandalised that Jesus must choose to be the guest of a public sinner. Zacchaeus was shocked that Jesus disregarding the public resentment should single him out for favour. In the past, he was singled out to be teased as a child and isolated as a youngster and despised and hated as a tax collector. Now he seemed to be singled out for favour. He felt totally accepted and recognised for what he was by the prophet acknowledged by all. In that instant of the acknowledgment of love by the Lord, the sting of all the past memories was wiped away.

As Jesus had promised, He the Good Shepherd had gone in search of a wounded sheep, picked it up in His arms, bound up its wounds and taken it home. The wound here was not a mere bodily affliction but one that extended to the depths of the spirit. Zacchaeus became a new person and his family shared that experience of salvation. "Today salvation has come to this house" (Lk 19:9).

“He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion” (Ps 103:4)

I remember a politician came here for retreat some years ago. He was the leader of a leftist trade union body in a factory. He had slipped into alcoholism. Because of this, his wife brought him here for retreat. He expressed his remorse saying that he was making a mess of his life. He wanted to change because he said he had a future as a political leader in the state. He acknowledged his wife was very loving and caring and yet he had made a mess of his life.

I prayed for him and I got a vision in my mind. I could see a little child crying huddled up in a corner of a dilapidated hut. I mentioned this to him. I requested him to help me understand this vision, because I said that this vision had a clear message to understand his problem. When I said this he looked into my eyes, and there were tears flowing down his. This man had a reputation of being a brave political leader and hence I was taken aback to see him break down. I wondered why he was crying. He stammered through his tears, "That little child is me." He was born and grew up in extreme poverty. His father was a drunkard. His mother was an asthmatic patient. The family survived on the little cultivation they had in a small patch of land attached to the hut. He went to school many days starving. His father would be very cruel to him and his mother. As he grew up, he developed an insatiable anger with the rich man in the fringes of whose land his house was situated. He was clever in his studies, but he always felt despised by his fellow students because of his poor attire.

He concentrated on his studies, gaining distinction in the college. He was the union leader of a leading Leftist party and over time grew in the rank. He got a managerial post in the factory, owned and managed by the family of his rich landowner. Soon he became the political leader of a party acknowledged by all in the locality. At this time, the daughter of the factory owner fell in love with him and insisted on marrying him. The family of course opposed this but in time gave in. Now they have two children, but he took to drinking, disappointing not only his family but everyone around. He told me he had a deep seated anger against this rich family where he married and in whose factory he worked. He realised he married his wife not really out of love but with a motive of revenge. The more she showed him love, the more he hated her and in the process he despised himself, because at the back of his mind, his self contempt and anger prevented him from accepting any consideration from anyone. I explained the inner dynamics of his mind that had isolated him from his family and from every source of love and joy. I explained to him how the grace of God had raised him up in life and how he was consistently rejecting all the love and blocking all the channels of love God was opening out to him.

During the Eucharistic Adoration, he had a life changing experience. He was looking at the face of Jesus, and he really felt Jesus was looking at him. That's when the priest leading the Adoration quoted a message from the prophecy of Jeremiah, "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jer 31:3). Soon the voice of the priest was overtaken by waves of the voice in his own heart. He felt God was speaking to him. The voice of God resounded in his heart. In that overwhelming experience of God's love, he felt renewed and accepted. That brought salvation to him and to his family.

The flow of God's love into our hearts is blocked by deep-rooted emotional distress. We need to make a very honest soul- searching and offer every such anger and sorrow, self contempt and self pity to the Lord whose heart is always open to us. Our deep longing to be appreciated and to be loved will be fulfilled only by the Lord who loved us with an everlasting love. This love pours out from the Cross where He offered Himself to be broken in order that we may be healed of our brokenness. We are drawn to the Cross, to the explosion of love. "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12:32). His cross is the sure sign that we will not be allowed to be defeated even by the deep-seated wounds of our hearts.

Prayer

O God, your love towers above the heavens. Lord Jesus, we praise you for being exalted on the Cross for our salvation. You have seen what lies hidden and deep within us, defeating us and dragging us to despair. You alone can shine your light and bring healing to every layer of our lives. You are the Shepherd who binds our wounds and leads us to life in all its fullness. As we come before you, we thank you for your compassion that we can count on. We praise you for the sure hope of healing we have in you. We bring before you the broken humanity and we pray that you may make us messengers of your healing love to those lost in the dark valley of their wounds. Draw our hearts to love always as you yourself have loved us endlessly. Amen.

 
Divine Updates

Retreats and Healing Masses in Sydney

Divine Australia invites you to healing Masses and retreats to be held across various venues in New South Wales, Sydney. To be led by Fr Augustine Vallooran VC. For details, email Fr Roni George, Director, Divine Australia - drcsydney@gmail.com.

Date: 2 - 7 October, 2018

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

Divine Retreats in Adelaide, Melbourne & Canberra

Divine healing Masses and retreats to be held across various venues in Australia. Masses to be offered by Fr Augustine Vallooran VC. Praise and worship by Glen and Teresa La'Rive.

Date: 22 September - October 1, 2018

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