Monthly Reflection by
Prayer of the Month
"Clothed with power from above" (Lk 24:49) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the manifestations of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within us. These gifts enable us to direct our lives according to God’s plan and to put our lives at the service of the Church. Down the centuries as Pope Paul VI had declared, “These gifts have made the Church richer, more lively, more capable of defining and proving herself... fruitful, beautiful and marvellous and capable of establishing herself even to the attention and astonishment of the profane and secularised world.”
“God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing...because we are united with Christ” (Eph 1:3)
The spiritual gifts are spoken of all through the pages of the Holy Scriptures, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Two accounts of the gifts are particularly significant. We read in the prophecy of Isaiah, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord” (Is 11:2,3). The prophet here mentions wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and the fear of the Lord. These seven gifts are called the Messianic gifts or the Isaian gifts. These effect the inner transformation of the faithful, strengthening them in their faith journey with Jesus, as they accept Him as their personal Lord and Saviour. As Pope Leo XIII writes in His encyclical ‘Divinum Illud’, “By means of these seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the soul is furnished and strengthened so as to be able to obey more easily and promptly His voice and impulse.” These are the gifts the Church focuses on during the Sacrament of Confirmation.
St Paul speaks about nine charismatic gifts in his first letter to the Corinthians. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues” (I Cor 12:7-10). These charismatic gifts are for the service of the Church, to be used for the benefit of others, to build up the Body of Christ. While the Isaian gifts benefit the faithful personally, the Corinthian gifts of service benefit the whole people of God rather than the individual receiver. The exclusive goal of the charismatic gifts is the common good. St Paul writing to the Ephesians tells us that these gifts are given by God, “in order to perfect the saints for a work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11,12). We find further description of these gifts in the other Pauline letters (Rom 12:6-8, Eph 4:11-16).
The nine charismatic gifts are usually grouped into two heads – word gifts and action gifts. The word gifts are the gift of tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, word of knowledge and the gift of wisdom.
“One who speaks in a tongue does not speak to human beings but to God... he utters mysteries in spirit” (I Cor 14:2)
The gift of tongues is mainly a gift of prayer. The Holy Spirit uses a person’s voice to praise God in articulations that may not have evident conceptual meaning. St Paul encourages the faithful of Corinth to pray both in unintelligible syllables and in intelligible language. “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit is at prayer but my mind is unproductive. So what is to be done? I will pray with the spirit, but I will also pray with the mind. I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will also sing praise with the mind” (I Cor 14:14,15). This gift of prayer which is beyond conceptual expression is of great value to free the depths of the soul to express vocally and audibly what it cannot articulate in clear cut concepts and words. It is a love language in which a human prayer of praise and intercession is taken over by the Spirit within, in an overwhelming experience of intimacy with God. “In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groaning” (Rom 8:26). In Christian spiritual tradition St Augustine and other Fathers of the Church speak of the ‘prayer of jubilation’ which was a community spontaneously singing. While St Paul encourages the disciplined use of this gift, he warns that such a spontaneous and free prayer of the heart shall not cause confusion and chaos in the community of worshippers. “If the whole church meets in one place and everyone speaks in tongues, and then uninstructed people or unbelievers should come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds?” (I Cor 14:23).
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (I Cor 12:1)
As important as the gift of tongues is the gift of the interpretation of the tongues. The study of the Scripture reveals that the gift of tongues is given not only for the sake of prayer but also to give a sign for unbelievers. “Thus, tongues are a sign not for those who believe but for unbelievers” (I Cor 14:21). The tongues are given also to convey a message from God to the assembly of believers. “When you assemble, one has a psalm, another an instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything should be done for building up” (v. 26). However what is spoken aloud in the gatherings in tongues must be made intelligible. Hence St Paul speaks of the meaning and relevance of the charism of interpretation. “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let it be two or at most three, and each in turn, and one should interpret. But if there is no interpreter, the person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God” (vv. 27,28).
“Whoever prophesies builds up the Church” (I Cor 14:4)
As the word signifies, a prophet is one who speaks on behalf of God. The word ‘pro-phete’ means ‘to speak for’. Prophecy is the speaking forth of the mind and heart of God in human language. Through prophecy an appropriate word of God is communicated to the people at a particular circumstance. Therefore the purpose of the gift is not so much to foretell the future, as often it is misunderstood but “to encourage, console and build up the Church” (I Cor 14:3). St Paul points out the paramount importance of this word gift: “Pursue love and strive for spiritual gifts and especially that you may prophesy” (I Cor 14:1). In the early Church this gift was very effective leading to the decisions for the spread of the gospel. Paul and Barnabas were commissioned for the ministry to the gentiles in the strength of such a prophecy. “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers... While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off” (Ac 13:1-3). What is important to note is that the word spoken by a man with the gift of prophecy was accepted as the word of the Holy Spirit and obeyed instantly.
A prophet speaks out only what is received from God, not his pious thoughts or acquired convictions. In a moment of anointed listening, the prophecy is received as an inner urge to speak out a message which he is sure is from the Lord. Moreover, he should be convinced in his spirit that the message spoken is for the good of the community. Such a message will be confirmed by the discernment of the group. It will also bring great joy and peace to the listeners. A false prophecy given for egoistic purposes, however, could cause confusion, sorrow and disunity. The prophecies of the Bible are characterised by these elements. St Peter affirms, “No prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God” (II Pet 1:21). The book of Numbers narrates the prophecy of Balaam. King Balak invited the prophet Balaam to prophecy against the Israelites moving into his kingdom, in order that they may be cursed by God and may perish. What Balaam did instead was to bless them, exhorting them to occupy the land. At this the king was furious and reprimanded the prophet. Balaam however informed the king that he felt an inner compulsion from God to bless the people. “But what power have I to say anything? I can speak only what God puts in my mouth” (Num 22:38).
Prophecy is a gift beneficial and even necessary for the preachers. They should be in prayer waiting upon God to know what message God wants the people to hear. Preaching is not the same as teaching. Teaching is a communication of ideas from brain to brain. What the teacher wants the student to learn is what he teaches. Preaching however is different. Those who come to hear God’s word are being drawn by the heavenly Father (Jn 6:44). They are so drawn because God has a message to convey to them through which He would accomplish something special in their lives. A preacher therefore is not free to communicate his own ideas. He must speak as he is inspired by the prophecy that God conveys.
“I will tell you great things beyond the reach of your knowledge” (Jer 33:3)
The gift of the word of knowledge is a revelation given to a leader for the spiritual benefit of others. Such knowledge leads to healing, correction, and warning of wrong attitudes and for spiritual direction. We see in the meeting of Jesus with the Samaritan woman by the well of Jacob a display of this gift. Jesus while speaking to her revealed to her the sinful state of life she was in. At one moment when she tried to avoid discussing her personal life she tells Jesus that she had no husband. To which the Lord responded saying, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true” (Jn 4:17,18). This revelation was so liberating for her that it became the beginning of her conversion. She accepted this revelation saying, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet” (v.19). Later she would proclaim to the people of her village, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” (v 29).
I remember a counselling experience years ago which helped a young man to turn to God in conversion. He was a rebellious young man. His mother had told me that he was very angry with his father though his father was very kind to him. He became a school dropout wasting his time with a wrong type of friends. When he came to me for counselling he did not want to discuss anything about his life. He was there on compulsion. I prayed for him and I realised what was at the root of his anger and waywardness. The Lord revealed to me that his father had wanted to abort him when his mother was pregnant with him. I called his mother aside and confirmed this. She revealed that indeed this was true and it was she who insisted in keeping the baby. Her husband shouted at her all the time for that. They already had three children and he did not want another baby. I perceived that this rejection by his father had gone into his tender heart already when he was in the womb of his mother. I did not want to reveal this fact to him because it would aggravate his anger. But this young man needed a healing. So I spoke to him of how much he was loved by God who is His loving father. When I mentioned the fatherhood of God the young man broke down in tears. He told me he can never think of God as a father and if God is his father, he never wanted to have anything to do with Him. I realised the depth of hurt that this young man was carrying in his heart. I spent time with him guiding him to an experience of God’s love through the revelations of scripture. At one moment he burst out in anger against his own father. He desperately said he does not know why he hated his father and he acknowledged that his father had been always good to him. His mother had also told me that her husband had accepted the boy after the birth. Clearly the rejection in the womb had had a lasting effect on the boy. I led him through a prayer of forgiveness and to accept his father as this was the father given to him by the loving Heavenly Father. This experience brought about an inner healing to the young man. It is evident that the gift of the word of the knowledge directed us to this healing.
“The Lord gives wisdom” (Prov 2:6)
The gift of wisdom is the wise direction given by God beyond natural human understanding to meet a particular need. Through this gift the Lord directs us to solve a problem in a given circumstance. It also gives preachers new insights into the word of God. It is therefore both a preaching and counselling gift.
“Everything is possible to one who has faith” (Mk 9:23)
The gift of faith refers to the kind of faith that St Paul says can move mountains (I Cor 13:2). It is a supernatural surge of confidence from the Holy Spirit that the person feels within himself that God will intervene miraculously in a particular need. This charism gives certainty and assurance that God will act through him. Shortly after the Pentecost event, the book of the Acts of the Apostles describes how Peter healed a crippled beggar sitting at the entrance of the Temple. All that the beggar expected was at the most a few coins. Instead Peter inspired by faith “looked intently at him... and said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around...” (Ac 3:4-8).
“The Lord gave them power and authority to cure diseases” (Lk 9:1)
The gift of healing is a grace of the Holy Spirit by which God touches and brings wholeness to a person. It is a continuation of the healing ministry of Jesus. He came to heal man from all forms of brokenness – spiritual, mental and physical. Jesus is alive today healing people and making them whole. He wanted this ministry to be continued through His disciples for all times. He said, “These signs will accompany those who believe... they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover” (Mk 16:17,18). The gospels testify that the apostles continued the healing ministry of Jesus. “They went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs” (Mk 16:20).
The gospels teach us healing should aim at the wholeness of a person and not only the physical wellbeing. Jesus forgave the sin of the paralytic before healing his body (Mt 9:1-6). Moreover physical healing is not meant to end in the body rather it should lead a person to a life of total commitment to Jesus. We are told that after the Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was physically healed, she got up and served Jesus (Mk 1:31).
Healings are signs of the kingdom of God. John the Baptist sent word through his disciples enquiring whether Jesus was truly the expected Messiah. Jesus told the disciples of John to report to him the healings performed by Him. “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Mat 11:4,5).
Jesus gives the healings as the evidence that He was the saviour sent to the world to establish God’s kingdom. Moreover Jesus Himself tells the Pharisees, “If it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Lk 11:20). Hence the miracles of healing are given as the direct intervention of God into human brokenness, in order to build up the faith of the community.
“The signs of a true apostle were performed among you... with signs and wonders and mighty works” (II Cor 12:12)
The gift of miracles is the deed of supernatural power worked through a human person by God. It is a direct intervention of the power of the Holy Spirit into the natural order in order to change an existing situation. Through this charism, God’s power is demonstrated turning natural laws to man’s favour. In the gospels we read of the different times Jesus rebuked the storm and the waves in order to save the disciples. As a result the faith of the disciples was strengthened in the person of Jesus. Even in this day, it is often reported that God works to stop rain in a certain area where a retreat takes place while all around it would be raining. This is a way God intervenes where the word of God is preached and the people turn to Him.
“Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (I Jn 4:1)
The gift of the discernment of the spirits enables us to know intuitively what spirits are at work in a certain situation. The Holy Spirit, the evil spirits and the human spirit seek to operate in our life for different purposes. Discernment is needed to enable us to understand and accept the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Bible speaks to us of how St Paul was able to discern that the evil spirit was at work in a slave girl who was trailing after them prophesying. Though it was a prophecy, the apostle was able to judge that it was not from the Holy Spirit but inspired by the evil spirit. St Paul cast out that evil power from her (Ac 16:16-18). St Paul in fact warns us that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (II Cor 11:14). When supernatural phenomena are manifested we need to be in prayer to discern what comes from the Holy Spirit in order that we are not misled into evil ways.
“Not by might, and not by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord” (Zec 4:6)
The Church exists to continue the mission of Christ to the end of times. For this purpose the Lord chooses people and equips them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The work of God is carried out in this world not merely by natural capabilities. Therefore after having told His disciples to bear witness to Him to the ends of the earth, Jesus exhorted them to wait and pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Ac 1:8). On the Pentecost day the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles to enable them to begin the work of salvation. This mission continues in the power of the Spirit. This spiritual power is manifested through the charismatic gifts that God gives freely to His ministers. St Paul bears witness to his own ministry as being based on the exercise of the gifts, “My message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power” (I Cor 2:4). Down the centuries it is indeed the power of the Spirit that has been guiding the Church and her ministers in the work of salvation.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your promise of the Holy Spirit. In our human weakness it is your Spirit that strengthens us in our ministry. As the Pentecost experience showered the gifts of the Spirit on the apostles and all those gathered in prayer, we wait for your Spirit to empower us to be your witnesses. Let us never rely on our own resources and capabilities but only on your grace to carry out your mission of salvation. Let not the powers of the world discourage us. Let not our own deficiencies fail us in our mission to proclaim you. Give us the grace to turn to you for your power that we may never be found wanting. Your grace O Lord is enough for us. Amen.
37th 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 14 - 19, 2017
Kannada Convention 2017
Divine Retreat Centre will conduct our annual Kannada convention next week. The convention will be blessed by the vibrant preaching of Fr. Mathew Naickomparambil, Fr. Augustine Vallooran and Fr Mathew Elavunkal, among many other servants of God. Please come.
Date: May 7 - May 12, 2017
Konkani Convention - Kuttumbutsov 2017
Divine Retreat Centre's annual Konkani Convention will be held at the centre. The convention will be led by Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, Director. Talks to focus mainly on the renewal of the family. All are welcome.
Date: April 23 - April 28, 2017
Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby, Sydney
Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - firstname.lastname@example.org. Hurry, as admission is limited.
Date: January 2017 - December, 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, 2017
POWER 2017 at Divine Retreat Centre
DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 11th International Youth Conference - POWER 2017. 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. Couples' retreat and children's retreat will be held simultaneously. Don't miss it.
Date: July 23 - July 28, 2017
Hindi Convention Ojas 2017
The Divine Retreat Centre will conduct our seventh Hindi convention in 2017. Two retreats will be held simultaneously on the campus; one for adults/couples and another for youth. All are welcome.
Date: May 28 - June 2, 2017
Divine Retreat in California
Answer God's call and experience His burning love for you. A two-day retreat to be led by Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, in California. All are welcome.
Dates: March 28 & 29, 2017
Divine Lenten Retreats in New York and Texas
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, along with Glen and Teresa La'Rive, will lead several Lenten retreats in the US. Please bring your family and friends.
Date: March 24 - 2 April, 2017
Lenten Retreat in Goa
Answer God's call and experience His burning love for you. A retreat to be led by Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC at the St. Francis Xavier Church, Duler, Mapusa, Goa.
Dates: March 17, 18 & 19, 2017