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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"They were all filled with the Holy Spirit"(Acts 2:4) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

"They were all filled with the Holy Spirit"(Acts 2:4) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

May is the month of Mother Mary. Popular devotions to the Mother of God are dear to the heart of the people in this season. Both during family prayer and personal devotions, everyone meditates on the word of God connected to Mother Mary, to reflect on her commitment to God and the role she played in the history of salvation. This year, the feast of Pentecost falls on the third Sunday of this month. In the Church as a whole, and in the hearts of the individuals, there is an ardent preparation for a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit. Special retreats and prayer sessions are held for this purpose. In fact the Bible testifies that Mother Mary would prepare us in our search for a special anointing of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

“He is our peace, who has made us one” (Eph 2:14)

Before ascending to the right hand of the Heavenly Father, Jesus instructed the apostles to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The apostles would have been puzzled at being given such a mission because they were deeply aware of their inadequacies. This is where the Lord gave the assurance that He would send the Holy Spirit upon them that they be equipped for this life mission. Jesus explained that this would require them to wait and pray. “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about... in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit” ( Acts 1:4,5). The Book of the Acts further testifies that the apostles went to the Upper Room and “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer together with Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14). We need to infer that it was the motherly love of Mary that enabled the apostles to turn to prayer with one heart and one mind. The gospels reveal to us that this body of the apostles were so dispersed that even when they were with Jesus during His earthly ministry, they could neither apply themselves in prayer nor were they united. In Gethsemane they could not focus in prayer, though Jesus repeatedly entreated them to wait in prayer, while He himself was immersed in a communion with His Father (Mat 26:41,42). On one poignant occasion when Jesus was prophesying His passion, suffering and death, the disciples were arguing with each other over who was greater among them (Lk 9:44-46).

In the presence of Mother Mary, these apostles were able to devote themselves in prayer single-mindedly, for the purpose the Lord had instructed them to wait for. Mother Mary could prevail on them to adopt this attitude of self surrender that she herself manifested all through her life, right from that very first moment when to the angel of God she accepted the call as a humble handmaid of the Lord (Lk 1:26-38). When the message came to her that she would conceive and bear a son, she did not understand what it all meant. She did not know how that would happen to her since she was not living with Joseph though she was betrothed to him. She was deeply troubled because she could be stoned to death as this was the punishment meted out to women found pregnant out of marriage. It was at the moment that the promise of the Holy Spirit was given to her. “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35). She accepted God’s plan for her life in the power of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

“He has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness” (Lk 1:48)

Mother Mary becomes the great example for everyone waiting to be anointed with the Holy Spirit. The only way to receive this anointing is the way of total surrender to God - becoming servants of the Lord. This is the message of Mother Mary for all times. It was this message that she conveyed to the family at Cana that was facing a crisis (Jn 2). The wine jars had become empty at a wedding celebration and an ominous turn of events was taking place. That’s when Mother Mary turned the whole family to Jesus, asking them to obey Jesus. The instructions of Jesus were in fact unreasonable. He asked them to fill the jars with water. This in no way corresponded to the need of the hour. The jars were placed outside the house as they were meant for the ritual cleansing of the guests before they entered the banquet hall. Now that the guests were already seated, there was no need of water being filled in these jars.  Yet the servants obeyed. Then Jesus told them to take the water to the head waiter who was in need not of water but of wine. However unreasonable the way of Jesus was, the family obeyed. That’s when the miracle was done. Water was turned to wine. The whole episode is an event of self surrender, being ready to become the servants of God as directed by Mother Mary.

The new wine at Cana is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. It was Mother Mary who led the family to prepare themselves to receive the new wine. This is a lesson for us on how to prepare ourselves for a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit at every moment of our life. Jesus asked us to show the other cheek when someone strikes us on one (Mat 5:39). This is a practically impossible command. When someone does or says something against us, we are naturally hurt. Our reactions are too natural as we want to hit back or pay the other back with the same coin. We call this human. But this human reaction fails to make us spiritual. What Jesus expects of us is a divine response to a human hurt. But we don’t find the strength within us for that. This is why we need to surrender the human hurt to the Lord and wait and pray for the Holy Spirit of love to heal and empower us to rise up to that Divine response. Our life must be therefore a constant waiting and praying for the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

In the upper room it was this lesson of servanthood that was being imparted by Mother Mary to the apostles. Like her they were able to surrender their lives in the hands of God for God’s plan to be fulfilled in them. That’s when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. After having been anointed with the Holy Spirit, Simon Peter and the other apostles, together with the early followers of Jesus began to praise God enthusiastically. Simon Peter proclaimed with great power of the Spirit that Jesus was the Lord and invited everyone to turn to Him and be saved. Some of the people of Jerusalem tried to dismiss the apostle’s exhortation saying that “These Galilean were drunk” (Acts 2:13). Simon Peter answered them that this was not an intoxication of alcohol but the power of the Holy Spirit promised through the prophecy of Joel, “l will pour out a portion of my Spirit... upon my servants and handmaids” (Acts 2:14-18). The apostle was explaining to them that it was when they truly became the servants of God that they were anointed with the Holy Spirit. This is the lesson they had learnt from Mother Mary.

“What is impossible with man is possible with god” (Lk 18:27

As we prepare ourselves for a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit we will learn from Mother Mary to surrender every moment, every experience of our life to God waiting for the Holy Spirit to enlighten, strengthen and comfort us. It is only then that we will be able to live out our commitment of faith to Jesus. During one of their discourses with the Lord, the apostles asked Him whether the marriage relationship was possible as God intended it to be. The context was the discussion Jesus had with the Pharisees on divorce. The Pharisees had asked whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds. Jesus replied saying that God’s idea of marriage was based on the fact that it was He who united them and the two shall become one flesh never to be separated. Then the Pharisees debated with Him saying that Moses had given the license for divorce. Jesus answered that the prophet conceded by giving this permission only because of the hardness of their hearts but that this was not the original will of God. Right after this when the disciples asked Him whether this Divine ideal of marriage was workable with human beings, Jesus answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted” (Mat 19:11). What Jesus could be meaning is that only those who receive grace from God will be able to live out their marriage commitment. Marriage therefore is a covenant relationship that is enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore Jesus asserted earlier that it is God who unites the married couple in such a way that they could never be separated. Marriage is initiated by God to be a spirit-filled and spirit-led relationship. Whenever the natural reactions of dissent overwhelm the couples they should wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to enable mutual understanding and love.

The testimony of a couple is very significant here. They came for a retreat to finalise their decision to get divorced. They were convinced that they could not pull on together because of their temperaments. Both had their own strong opinions about almost everything and any decision would end up in a fight. Anything that went wrong in the house brought up a blame game. Both were hot-tempered. Emotions flared up every now and then deepening the division. It seemed obvious to them that it was for their good and the good of the children that they separate. All they expected now was an approval from God to go ahead with their seemingly reasonable decision. I listened to them and I prayed with them. I told them that their living together was naturally impossible. I further explained to them that Jesus Himself said that marriage was a relationship that was impossible for the human nature to take on. Then I read out to them the offer of Jesus that He would enable every marriage with the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Mat 19:11). They were curious to know how the Holy Spirit could make a difference to their long standing problems and to the basic incompatibility they recognised in their temperaments. I took time to explain to them how Jesus has asked us to wait and pray for the Holy Spirit so that our life is filled and led by the Spirit always. When there is a decision to be made, what is important is to be determined in the heart that the decision should be according to God’s will and not to suit anyone’s convenience or selfish way of thinking. This determination would open up our minds to the view point of the other, releasing us from stubborn insistence on one’s own preference. In prayer the two will be able to wait for the descent of the Holy Spirit before every decision making. Even when there is a mistake the two should come together by praying and offering this problem to the Lord, waiting for Gods intervention. That is when the two will be able to experience the wave of the Holy Spirit in their hearts enabling them to understand each other. Then, without condemning the other, they will be able to accept a solution from God.

“Overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21)

Mother Mary handled the problem in this manner. The family had made a mistake in calculation and as a result the supply of wine fell short. Mother Mary saw the problem and without blaming anyone, turned to Jesus saying, “They have no wine.” And she instructed the whole family to obey Jesus. The mistake was turned to a miracle. The new wine was of a superior quality and the celebration continued. Quoting this incident I told the couple that this will be made possible in their lives by the Holy Spirit. What they needed to do was to make their life a continuous waiting and praying for the Holy Spirit.

It was an eye opener for them that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit could become so much part of our life that our life could be totally changed. They had always prayed, but they never knew prayer could transform their lives in the power of the Spirit.

Mother Mary points to us the way to a new life in the Spirit. We are often led by our own reasoning and priorities, never allowing God to come too close to us. For Mother Mary the Holy Spirit was the wellspring of her life. All those who surrendered their lives to God found Him so close to them that for them life itself was all about God. St Paul expressed this intense union with the Lord as saying “For me to live is Christ” (Gal 2:20). For St Peter, Jesus was the very reason for his life that he declared “I love you more than everything else.” Spirituality is an overwhelming experience of surrendering oneself in the hands of the Lord and being filled and led by the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for the promise of your Spirit to anoint us and guide our way in this world. For your mother, life was totally surrendered to the Heavenly Father. She was anointed by the Holy Spirit and she was able to be the handmaid of God doing the Father’s will at every moment. Her surrender to God was so total that there was no dark moment of sin in her life. She is the Morning Star showing us the way to commit our lives to you in the power of the Spirit. May we too be anointed with the same Spirit that we may fulfill the role you have given us in the history of salvation. Amen.

 
Divine Updates

38th National Youth Retreat

Our annual National Youth Retreat will be held at the Divine Retreat Centre. Come and let the word of God refresh you. Simultaneous retreats for couples, children and Bible nursery to be held. Contact Divine Youth for more details.

Date: May 20 - 25, 2018

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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

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

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