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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
"I dwell with the crushed and the dejected“ (Is 57:15)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

United With Jesus in Life and Death - Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

My dear brothers and sisters, let us pray for a moment as we are about to read God's Word and to understand the mystery of life and death. The mystery of life and death will be understood only in the context of Revelation. And Revelation in its turn will be grasped only in the power and light of the Holy Spirit.

Spirit of God, come to enlighten us. Let us feel Your Light in our hearts - that we may be able to open ourselves to the truth of the Word of God. Amen.

My dear friends, death is a rather gloomy phenomenon. We do not want to talk about death. We hardly think about it. And we avoid thinking of death. And yet we know, death is a sure thing. Perhaps if there is anything certain in this uncertain world, it is death. - you and I will die. Though we do not think of death, there is one time in the year when we think joyously with a lot of hope about death. And that is this month - the month of November especially on All Souls Day (2 November).

This is the month we think joyously of death because we remember our dear ones who are dead. Of course, we have sadness when we think they are dead and yet we feel one with them this month. We pray for them, we go to church and pray with them and we go to the cemetery to pray over there.

Thus one of the articles of our faith comes alive in our hearts. What we believe and recite all the time in Our Creed, "I believe in the communion of saints." What does that mean - "communion of saints?" All those who are united with Jesus are united with us as well. A saint is a person who is united with Jesus. And all of us are in faith and in baptism united with Jesus. Not only those of us who are alive but much more, those who are dead, those who are victorious in heaven and those who are being purified waiting to enter heaven. We who are struggling in this world to live a saintly life and those who are in purgatory being purified waiting to enter heaven and those who are victorious in heaven, all of us are united with Jesus and therefore we are united with each other.

The closer we come to Jesus, the closer we come to each other. And this experience is felt tangibly during this month. There are people who do not believe in praying for the dead. They do not believe in praying for the dead because they cannot understand the beauty of praying for the dead. What does it mean, I am praying for the dead? When I am in prayer, I am united with Jesus. When I am united with Jesus, I am united with everyone who is one with Jesus. My father and my mother are dead now but yet they are one with Jesus. And all of us who are united with Jesus will feel that union lovingly and joyously. How close we are to each other - that is the experience of praying for the dead and all the saints have said it.

St Dominic, a great saint, said to those who were sad when he was dying, "Do not weep for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you more effectively than during my life on this earth." He had that intention, that love to be in union with those who were his friends and disciples on this earth. Another beautiful saint, St, Therese of the Child Jesus said, "I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth." Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, when I say I am united with the dead, I am united with them in prayer. I go to them as they pray constantly for me and for all of us. Those who are victorious are selflessly enjoying heavenly bliss. They are constantly in love praying for us and that is their joy. I remember this and I praise God for that - for giving me such wonderful friends in heaven who are interceding for us, for me in this world.

St. Paul tell us in his letter to the Philippians, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Well, this saint tells us to die is a gain, not a sorrow, not a loss! To die is a gain for him. "If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for you. Yet which I shall choose, I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and to be with Christ for that is better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account." Well, the clue is to remain one with Jesus. When I am one with Jesus, it does not matter whether I live or whether I die. In fact, to die is better for then I shall tangibly really look at the face of Jesus in heavenly bliss. But then St. Paul is telling us, "If God wants me to live, it is only to work for you that Jesus will be formed in you, to proclaim the good news of salvation."

To make death a victory, a gain - the secret is to be united with Jesus all the time. And that's why the saints' saint, St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15, "For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable. And we shall all be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable and the mortal nature must put on immortality. Death is won over. I am not afraid of death anymore because I am one with my Jesus.

Jesus tell us in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 6:53-57, "Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up a t the last day. For my flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him. As the Living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me." To live being united with Jesus. Jesus said, "You will abide in me and I will abide in you and you will live forever. My dear friends, this is the mystery of life and death.

I was talking to a friend of mine who was a businessman. He had really made it big in life. He had achieved a lot and made a lot of money. Once I invited him to come for a retreat and he laughed. Perhaps he did not want to offend me so he did not ask me to get out. He told me, "Father, okay, you believe in God and you live for God. I appreciate that. But for me, I do not need God anymore. Why should I need God? I have everything. I have a lot of money. I made it all by myself and I know I will make more money. I have a wonderful wife and beautiful children and a prosperous future ahead of me. I am not a poor man. Neither am I a sick man to cry before God. I do not need God."

I told him, "My friend, I appreciate you are a hardworking man and you made it big in life. But I told him, "I find something wrong with your philosophy of life. It is wonderful that you have everything. But suppose something happens to you, God forbid, something terrible where your wealth cannot help you and neither can your wife, your friends, or your children help you. What will you do then?" I quickly reassured him that I was not cursing him but such things do happen in this world and we must be realistic. I told him we could not bracket such things and mould our philosophy of life. When I think of my life, I must think of my death. I must think of sickness. I must think of calamities and such terrible things of life must enter into the very make-up of my vision of life. Well, he dismissed me. But the fact is you and I need to know this. We need to know that such terrible things happen in life.

There is one place when Jesus called a man "a fool" - perhaps the only one time that Jesus did so. This is in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 12 and Jesus told them a parable, "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully and he thought to himself, "What shall I do? For I have no where to store my crops." He said, "I will do this. I will pull down my barns and build larger ones. And then I shall store all my grains and my goods." And I will tell my soul, "Soul, you have ample goods laid out for many years. Take your ease - eat, drink and be merry!" But God said, "You fool, this night your soul is required of you. The things you have prepared, whose will they be?" Now we shall not be fools. We shall not be fools to imagine this earth will last forever - my wealth, my health, my property, all that I earned will be enough for me. You and I shall know, this perishable shall put on the imperishable; this mortal will put on immortality. And that happens when we are united with Jesus - when we live for Jesus.

When I live for Jesus, I know Jesus is there for me as my eternal life. We really remember this during this month of November. My father, my mother, my brothers and sisters and my friends - they lived for God and they died in the Lord and they are with the Lord. I remember that and I pray for them. I pray with them and I understand that I should live as they lived, being united with Jesus all the time.

Let us pray:
O Jesus, thank you for making my life beautiful; for making my death a gain, a victory. Thank you for giving a lot of confidence to me - never to be afraid of anything in this world. Rather to be constantly united with you. That in life and death I may be in You, victorious as You were victorious over life and death. Saints of God, pray for me, pray for us who are struggling in this world to be saints. Praise God!
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