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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous" (Rom 5:19) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

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Monthly Reflections

Through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous" (Rom 5:19)

Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

 

Christmas is the celebration of obedience. Obedience becomes a celebration when it is a joyous conformity of one’s will to God. When one insists on always having one’s own way, that stubbornness constricts one to his or her own resources. When, however, one opens one’s heart to the will of God, godliness flows in, offering all of heaven’s grand possibilities. This is what we experience at Christmas and stand witness to as the promise of Christian life.

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb 5:8)

Jesus explains the incarnation of the Son of God as the conscious acceptance of God’s plan for the salvation of humankind. “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). The Father decided that not one should perish, even when the whole of humankind rebelled against Him and made a choice for ruin. The Father would not abandon them to their folly and He handed over to His Son the mission to redeem the world from awful death. This required the Son to take upon Himself the burden of sin and pain that humankind had sold itself to. He had to leave the shores of heaven and come down to the earth in order to identify Himself completely with the plight of human misery. He had wholeheartedly accepted this plan of the Father in the spirit of the psalmist‘s prayer, “Here I come to do your will, O God” (Ps 40:8,9). Whatever sacrifice this entailed He had determinedly accepted, because of His loving conformity with the Father. “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30). In the gospels Jesus has repeatedly expressed His commitment of obedience to His Father. “My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to finish His work” (Jn 4:34). The work He had to finish, in this particular gospel context, was to make sure that the sinful Samaritan woman was redeemed from the curse of sin and death. This was the principle of His life. For this will of the Father to be fulfilled, He conformed His words and actions to those of His Father. “I don't speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it” (Jn 12:49).

Since His will was always conformed to the will of the Heavenly Father, He was sure that His Father’s loving presence was ever supporting Him.  “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (Jn 16:32). He was not seeking human acclaim but the good pleasure of the Father. This obedience demanded nothing less than a total self emptying, right from the moment at Bethlehem where the Lord comes in the form of a helpless baby culminating at the climax of His crucifixion as a criminal at Calvary. St Paul describes this self giving of Jesus to the Father as humble obedience of the highest order, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

“I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)

As we celebrate this supreme obedience of Jesus to the Father that won us salvation, Christmas also joyfully commemorates the obedience of others whom God chose to collaborate with Him in this work of salvation. For the Son of God to take human form, God needed a woman who would accept the call to be His mother. This message was conveyed by the angel to Mary whom God had chosen. The gospel tells us that she did not understand much and she was deeply troubled. She knew the dangers it exposed her to. She could be stoned to death because of the law of the time that dealt severely with anyone found to be pregnant before marriage. However, when she was anointed with the Holy Spirit, she was assured of God’s power and submitted herself to the will of God. She became blessed as her cousin Elizabeth described, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45).

St Joseph remains a magnificent icon of obedience in the history of salvation. According to the gospels, he is a person who never speaks a word, but was always vigilant and meticulous in carrying out the word of God. A recurrent phrase in the gospels is that he proceeded in every decision according to the direction given in prayer. He was set to marry a girl from his own village Nazareth, Mary by name. That was when he came to know that he could not go ahead with his plans as she was pregnant. He accepted this sad reversal and decided to abandon his plans of marriage. At that time the angel of God instructs him to accept her as his wife and he obeyed God’s word. Though he was to marry her, he was to go without conjugal rights because she was chosen by God to be the mother of the Son of God and she had conceived of the Holy Spirit. He obeyed and renounced his rights as a husband without any hesitation. This generous submission to the will of God marked every step of his journey.

When it was time for Mary’s confinement, he had to take her with him for the census at Bethlehem As we read the gospel account, we see that he could not even get a place to rest in the crowded town. It should have been agonising for him with the mother of God in his charge, not being able to avail a place of rest at the critical moment. Next, he is made aware that their lives were in danger with the wrath of the king Herod turned against the new born Babe. He was told first to flee to Egypt and then to return to Nazareth. At no time, did he drag his feet in accomplishing the Lord’s directive. He knew the will of God revealed to him was the best option for his family. After having fulfilled the commands of the Lord, he disappears from the pages of the Bible. The one purpose he had in life was to protect and guide Jesus and Mary.

“Obedience is better than sacrifice” (I Sam 15:22)

The three persons central to the Christmas event are people who were so completely committed to the will of God to the extent that they held nothing back for themselves. When we celebrate Christmas, we proclaim that obedience to God is what ushers in salvation and what we are here for. The one decision that destroys the celebration of life is rejection of God’s plan for us. The Prodigal Son ended in the misery of the pigsty when he defied the Father to pursue his own selfish agenda. When he walked away from home, his decision was to mould his own destiny without the Father. His goal was a pleasurable existence for himself, rid of any consideration for the Father. He ended up in a miserable state where he could not help himself. When utterly devastated, his rescue and salvation had its start when he decided to seek out his Father and be a lowly servant in his household. “Treat me as you would treat one of your hired servants” (Lk 15:19) was his sole aspiration. Nevertheless, when he chose to be a servant, it was into the loving arms of the Father that he reached, ushering in a grand celebration in the house.

Obedience to the Father is the gateway to salvation. When one surrenders oneself to the will of God, the Lord would mould one’s life according to His glorious plan. And God’s plan is always for our good, to give us a future and a hope (ref. Jer 29:11).

Whenever God chooses anyone to collaborate with Him in the history of salvation, God demands perfect obedience. To the extent that man cooperates with God, He could accelerate His glorious design to save humankind. Adam and Eve, the first parents defied God and reached out to satan for a paradise without God. They became irrelevant in the history of salvation. Because of the rebellion of Eve and of Adam, God said that the earth was cursed. “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen 3:17). On the other hand, the obedience of Mother Mary broke the curse upon humankind. Blessings descend upon us and others when we obey God.

A couple came to me and related miraculous blessings they’ve had from God. The wife was pregnant. It was going to be their third child. She had gone for a routine check-up during pregnancy which revealed that the child showed signs of Down’s syndrome. The doctor advised them to wait for a month and repeat the tests. This time, the diagnosis was confirmed. The doctor advised them to abort the child. Their friends were also supportive of the idea, reasoning that that they had already two babies and they did not need a sick child. The couple however felt deeply convinced that this was a God given child and that they could not even consider hurting it. With great affection in their heart, they accepted the child in just the way God chose to give it to them. When the child was born, to everyone’s surprise it turned out to be perfectly normal and a healthy child. The doctor could not understand how this came about. The couple knew that their obedience to God had brought this blessing to the child. I asked them how they would have reacted if the child had instead been born with Down’s syndrome. They responded that they would have accepted and loved the baby as now. The child even then would have been a channel of greater blessings. God is able to bless us when we open our hearts to trust Him and we are ready to obey His plan for us accepting every situation life poses with gratitude and faith.

“More precious than gold… sweeter than honey” (Ps 19:10)

The famous American preacher Bishop Fulton Sheen narrates his God experience. After his graduation from high school, he decided to join the seminary and become a priest because he felt God’s call very intensely in his heart. That’s when he got a letter from the Education Department of the Government that because of his sterling performance in the exam, he was awarded a scholarship covering all the costs of his college studies. It was an honour and a great opportunity. He went to his parish priest with great joy showing him the letter of scholarship. The elderly monsignor was not at all impressed and was in fact dismissive about it. He told young Sheen that the vocation he felt he was called to was a greater honour and a God-given opportunity, advising him that it is better to obey God than long for any earthly offer. He asked Sheen to tear up that piece of paper and proceed to the seminary. Sheen says he immediately tore up letter of scholarship and he never ever regretted that decision. He became a priest, a Bishop and a great leader and preacher leaving his impression for ages to come.

We need to discard offers of the world to favour God’s will. It’s in prayer that we discern God’s will in all the situations of life. There could be confusing options laid up before us but there shall be a firmness in our hearts in our commitment to follow God’s will. A worldly option could even be a deception of sin that could drain off grace from our lives. Even our choice in the celebration of Christmas can lead us away from the rich grace of that holy moment, because we are preoccupied with superficial holidaying and with the commercialisation that the season has brought about.

“What shall I do, Lord?” (Ac 22:10)

We read in the Acts of the Apostles how Saul was given a call by Jesus while he was riding on the horseback on his way to Damascus. He would have known definitely that he had much to lose in accepting that call. As he describes the inner dynamism of this call and acceptance, he writes to the Philippians that he considers every other honour as refuse compared to the glory of belonging to Jesus (Phil 3:8). He was a Pharisee in scholarship tutored by Gamaliel, the most reputed teacher of the time; in social status, Paul was a Roman citizen, an honour and prestigious accomplishment; in religious fervour, Paul was a friend of the High Priest, unstoppable in his mission to eradicate every threat to the old religion. Yet at the moment of choice where he stood to lose all that he lived for, nothing could dissuade him from accepting Jesus. The decision he made at that moment moulded him as an apostle of Christ who had a definitive role in moulding the Church. He was the chosen apostle to lead the non Jewish population to Jesus. God had handpicked him to reveal the mystery of Jesus Christ and Paul’s writings remain as the theological basis for the teachings of Jesus. His daring obedience became a great blessing for himself and every generation of seekers.

When we look at the three figures in the manger, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we are clearly reminded how their obedience to God’s will led them to be unimaginably blessed where they would be a blessing for all generations. The blessing of Christmas is the grace to say ‘yes’ to God in all situations of life. There will be confusing moments and intimidating challenges. Yet there shall be a determination in our minds to choose the way of God. At any dark moment of confusion or fear all one needs to do is to dare to wait and pray until the light shines revealing God’s mind. This Christmas as we pray for ourselves and our dear ones let us thirst for the grace to know and accomplish God’s will. The Christmas blessing is nothing short of the ultimate joy of salvation and we shall then be heralds of the saving grace of Jesus to the world.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we rejoice at the birth of your only Son, Jesus Christ, for this has redeemed us from sin and death and grants us the greatest gift of eternal life. Lord as we bow before you, we lay down all our decisions and pray “Let your will be done in our lives.” We are sure O God that your love for us is unchanging and when we completely submit ourselves to your plan, we will be blessed and our lives will be a blessing to those around us. At every moment reveal to us your desire for our lives and grant us the grace to seek your will and accomplish it for your glory. Amen.

 
Divine Updates

MAGNIFICAT in Bangalore

Celebrate an evening with our Lord in Bangalore at the 'Magnificat' on December 16, 2017. Services to be led by Fr Augustine Vallooran VC. All are welcome.

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

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

Emmanuel Conference at DRC

Welcome to the season of blessings - mark this Advent with special retreats for discipleship, couples and children at the Divine Retreat Centre. A time to strengthen yourself in the Lord, before the end of the year. Led by Fr Augustine Vallooran and the Divine team.

Date: December 24 - 29, 2017

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

Hindi Convention Ojas 2018

The Divine Retreat Centre will conduct our eighth Hindi convention, in 2018. Two retreats will be held simultaneously on the campus; one for adults and another for couples and youth. All are welcome.

Date: May 27 - June 1, 2018

Divine Retreat Schedules

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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.

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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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