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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Let us walk in the light of the lord

"(Is 2:5)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

"Let us walk in the light of the lord

"(Is 2:5)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC


Darkness suffocates. It is light that liberates the human spirit. Hence, the thirst of man to be led to the light as expressed in the prayer of the ancient sages of India, "From the untruth, lead us to the truth; from darkness lead us to the light; from death lead us to immortality." Jesus, the Son of God, who was sent from heaven as the Saviour is the fulfilment of this deepest yearning of every human heart.

“In Thy light do we see light” (Ps 36:9)

At the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus proclaimed in the Temple area, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (Jn 8:12). This festival in fact, commemorated the faithful guidance of the Lord in the form of a pillar of light through dark cold nights as He led the ancestors in what was a protracted journey lasting over several decades, from the land of slavery to the Promised Land. At the commemoration of this salvific event every year, huge candelabras were lit and the people celebrated in thanksgiving. According to historians, the Temple appeared in the night like 'a diamond glowing in the sun'. It is in this background that Jesus made the proclamation of being ‘the light of the world’. He was indeed declaring that He was the Messiah whom the people were eagerly waiting for, with the hope offered in the prophecy of Isaiah that the Messiah would be, "A light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth" (Is 49:6).

Significantly, John introduces Jesus in the gospels as "the Light of the human race, the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... the true light, which enlightens everyone" (Jn 1:4-9).

Jesus is the light of life that dispels the darkness of death, the light of love that dispels the darkness of hatred, the light of hope that dispels all despair. He is the light that is not merely to be admired from afar but to be followed closely. He is the light we need to allow into our hearts.

“Who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, yes, who indeed intercedes for us?” (Rom 8:34)

The gospels present to us how Jesus became the light to the lives of the people who opened their hearts to Him. The immediate background of this proclamation of the light is the incident in the Temple courtyard where Jesus dispelled the darkness in the heart of an adulterous woman who was brought to Him by the scribes and Pharisees to be condemned to death (Jn 8:2-11).

According to the Law of Moses, she was to be stoned to death. She was made to stand in the centre of a surrounding crowd of men, each holding sharp stones aimed at her. She stood there trembling in fear, looking into the horrendous fate of death that awaited her. It was at this moment that Jesus boldly steps forward to be her advocate.

The Son of God becomes the help of the helpless. He delivers her from death to life, from a sinful past to a future of holiness. She accepts Jesus as the Lord. Jesus asked her, "Has not anyone condemned you?" She replied, "No one, Lord" (Jn 8:11). When we walk in the valley of the shadow of death and our hearts are engulfed in the darkness of fears and anxieties, Jesus comes as the reassuring light declaring, "Peace! Be still!"

“The eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun” (Sir 23:19)

The paralysed man lying at Bethesda for thirty-eight years is the symbol of every defeated and desperate person (Jn 5:1-9). The belief of the time was that the first person to be taken down to the pool once the waters are stirred, would come out healed. Because of this, a lot of sick people were gathered, all waiting for the movement of the waters.

As Jesus went into the crowd of the lame, crippled, blind and deaf, Jesus observed a hopeful anticipation on the face of everyone and how at everyone’s side there was the help of a caring person who was ready to take the sick person down to the pool. Jesus also noted one particular man lying in the corner, alone and absolutely unconcerned about anything happening around him. Hope had died in him leaving behind a passive and dull despair. There was no one with him. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” (Jn 5:6). This man replied that he had no hope of ever getting healed because no one was there for him and recounted how every time he tried to move forward, someone else would be carried in ahead of him. He felt defeated again and again. Jesus stood before him and gave His hand to him and asked him to get up and walk. He walked to a new life of hope of a new future.

In a world marked by cut-throat competition, when everybody is racing ahead, stepping on others to have their way, there are many who are forgotten by the wayside, defeated and have given in completely to despair. Jesus stands before them as the light to dispel all the darkness that has filled the corners of their heart due to every such unfortunate moment of abandonment, offering them a new hope – a hope that would not disappoint. What God has promised through prophet Isaiah is fulfilled in Jesus. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Is 43:18,19).

“A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Ex 34:6)

The Samaritan woman whom Jesus was waiting for (Jn 4), is a symbol of inferiority that torments human heart. As a Samaritan she would have felt inferior to the Jews who considered themselves as an elite race. In her conversation with Jesus, she revealed anger and arrogance – projections of the deep rooted inferiority in her heart.

In gentleness and love Jesus persisted, turning her heart away from human perspectives to divine attitudes. “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10). Here she was ready to own up to her sinful waywardness and accept Jesus as the Saviour of the world and receive the Holy Spirit. She was healed of all wounds of inferiority and saved from all sinful ways. She was raised up to be the first missionary to proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah. “The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could He possibly be the Messiah?”” (Jn 4:28,29).

There are people who get stifled by a ghetto mentality defined by narrow boundaries of social demarcations. Financial and educational considerations also enter into the makeup of one’s self esteem and identity. Feelings of inferiority could torment such individuals. They need to raise their eyes up to the glorious truth that all are the children of God. That ultimately is the root of all self-respect. It was to this light that Jesus opened the heart of the Samaritan woman.

“Through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir” (Gal 4:7)

Zacchaeus was an angry man. He was angry with his own people for what they had done to him since his childhood. The gospel of St Luke describes him as a man short of stature and as the chief tax collector of Jericho (Lk 19).

One would wonder why being a Jew he should choose to be a tax collector, thus becoming an enemy of his own people. The tax collectors were considered the traitors of their own people because they sided with the occupying force of the Roman Empire. The Roman administration chose intelligent Jewish young men to collect taxes and to do it brutally. They were rewarded by being allowed to keep a share for themselves.

We are told that Zacchaeus was a rich man because of this. He was quite probably taking revenge on his own people because of the pent-up anger within him. Being a short child, growing up in the suburb of Jericho he should have been isolated by the other children and ridiculed. He could never fit into the community and was denied the self respect that he longed for. As he grew up into a young man, his anger brewed into revenge and disdain. It would have been at this juncture that he heard of how the Roman rulers were looking for capable young men to collect taxes. He grabbed the opportunity and began to wield his power to satiate his anger. There was however, a guilt that tormented him, leaving him empty and restless. The more money he made, the more hatred he encountered from his people, and the more lonely and dissatisfied he was.

In spite of this, his heart still longed for an affirmation. It is this that made him run ahead of the crowd and go up the sycamore tree. All he wanted was to see Jesus, though he was afraid he would get rebuffed by the rabbi. To his great surprise, Jesus called him by name and asked him to come down. He was totally overwhelmed by this bold offer of love to visit his house.

The Pharisees and scribes were scandalised at what they thought was inappropriate familiarity. “When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner” (Lk 19:7). Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham” (v.9).

This affirmation of love brought in waves of transformation to the heart of Zacchaeus. All the negativity pent up over years was quenched. He felt he was completely liberated from the stranglehold of bitterness and greed. “Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over”” (v. 8).

The world is full of people enslaved to the negative experiences of their past. They choose to be determined by their negativities, thereby destroying their own lives and causing havoc in the lives of others. Jesus is waiting to reach out with His affirmation of love that alone can save.

“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life” (Deut 30:19)

The Good Thief on the cross turned to Jesus in repentance after having wasted an entire life in sin. He reprimanded the fellow thief saying, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal” (Lk 23:40,41). He turned to Jesus and found forgiveness and paradise in Him. He prayed, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The Lord replied him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:42,43). It is the yearning of every human heart, however steeped in sin, to hear the voice of God calling out to a reconciliation with the generous offer of paradise itself.

From the beginning of His public ministry to the end, Jesus fulfilled the promise of being the light to everyone living in darkness. All those who turned to Him were enlightened, finding salvation through Him. The one person who however, chose to turn away from this light, preferring darkness was the Lord’s own disciple Judas. He was taking care of the contributions offered to Jesus by people. Judas’ greed got the better of him. St. John mentions that he was stealing from the money entrusted to him to take care of for the common needs. When Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus with a litre of costly perfumed oil, Judas was disturbed and would complain “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” (Jn 12:5). Here the evangelist comments, “He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions” (v. 6). Even while in the presence of the light of Jesus, the darkness of greed in the heart of Judas only intensified, leading him ultimately to betray the Master for thirty silver pieces. And this would eventually lead to his self destruction. Hence the warning of Jesus: “This is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil” (Jn 3:19).

Jesus shines as the light promising to dispel all the darkness of sorrow and despair, sin and death. The gospels are a testimony of those who opened their hearts to him and became enlightened. These glorious lives are written not for historical curiosity but as sure promises of what the Lord is waiting to do for us. Gospels would become good news for us today when we open our hearts to Him accepting Jesus as our light. St. John tells us, “To those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (Jn 1:12). Down the centuries, He remains as the light shining in the darkness which the powers of darkness have not been able to overcome. He is the “Daybreak from on high that shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Lk 1:78,79). This is the sure hope amidst the encircling gloom that threatens lives and futures.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank you for the gift of the New Year. You offer yourself as the light, assuring us to dispel all the darkness around us. In the past, there were moments we were overwhelmed and suffocated by the powers of darkness. We were even frightened whether these evil powers would defeat us. Your promise that those who follow you will never walk in darkness, gives us great courage. Be with us Lord that we may always remain the children of the light. Let us also become light, reflecting your light, giving hope to a world that lies in the darkness of despair. Amen.

 
Divine Updates

40th 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 a Bible nursery will be held. Contact Divine Youth for more details.

Date: May 24 - 29, 2020

Retreats in Divine Retreat Centre, UK

Divine Retreat Centre, Ramsgate UK, is holding several English and Malayalam language retreats - led by Fr. George Panackal VC, Fr. Joseph Edattu VC and Fr Antony Parankimalil VC. All are welcome.

Dates: Jan - Dec, 2020

Hindi Convention Ojas 2020

The Divine Retreat Centre will conduct our 10th annual Hindi convention, in 2020. Two retreats will be held simultaneously on the campus; one for adults and another for couples and youth. All are welcome.

Date: May 31 - June 5, 2020

POWER 2020 at Divine Retreat Centre

DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 15th International Youth Conference - POWER 2020. 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 19 - July 24, 2020

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2020. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - drcretreatrego@gmail.com or drcsydney@gmail.com. Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2020 - December, 2020

Divine Mission in Melbourne, Australia

Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, along with Fr Jose Kannampally VC, will lead several healing Masses and retreats across various venues in Melbourne. Please spread the word.

Dates: 17 January - 4 February, 2020

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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.

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Every week, retreats are held in five different regional languages of India. The retreats are led by Vincentian priests and supported by powerfully anointed laity of God.

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