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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

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

The Least Of My Brethren"(Matthew 25: 40) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

This month on the 27th of September, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Vincent de Paul. He is the heavenly patron of Divine Retreat Centre. St. Vincent is known popularly as the Father of the Poor. His works of charity to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and the marginalized are admired by generations. But then, his works of charity were part of the mission of evangelization that he set as the aim of his life and the goal of the religious societies that he founded.

It was a precious, though rare, insight that he got in prayer that proclamation of the Word should always go hand in hand with the service of the poor. It is the latter which establishes the credibility of the former. Where the poor, "the least of the brethren" of Jesus (Matthew 25:40) are not taken care of, the preaching of the Word of Jesus is bound to be shallow and empty. As St. Vincent himself said it, "while the bread of the word is broken to feed the soul, the daily bread must be shared to strengthen the body as well".

"I give you what I have"(Acts 3: 6)

The launching pad for the thought pattern of St. Vincent is the Holy Eucharist. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the commemoration or the re-living of the Last Supper. It is a sacred banquet, therefore. After having blessed and broken the bread. Jesus said to His disciples "Take, eat, this is my body" (Matthew 26: 26)."Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22: 19). A meal is a sharing of love. The early Christian Community grasped it well. It was around the Eucharistic (then known as the "Breaking of the Bread") table that the early church was built up. The daily Eucharistic experience taught the first Christians the lesson of love. The Church grew up and increased in number as the community of sharing love. As the book of the Acts of Apostles (2:44-47) testifies, "All who believed where together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day God added to their number those who were being saved".

Because of the powerful Eucharistic experience, loving sharing became the way of life for those committed to Jesus. As a result "there was no one in need among them "(Acts 4: 34). The "have-nots" had always with them the "haves" to take care. "For as many as were possessors of land or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and distribution was made to each as any had need"(Acts. 4:34-35). For them, commitment to Jesus meant commitment to the needy and the poor. The compulsion of "those who had," was not to hoard for the security of the future or to make a show of extravagance, but to give in concern for the needy. This concern of love was held up as the touchstone of salvation.

St. James writes, "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?"(James 2:14-16) The early Fathers of the Church who took up the leadership of the church from the 12 apostles took great care to preserve this love of the poor. St. Ambrose preached, "The grain you have in your box, more than what you need for your supper, does not belong to you the moment you come to know that there is some one in your neighbourhood who would go to sleep starving that night".

"You Shall Love Your Neighbour As Yourself" (Romans 13: 9)

For a Christian sharing is not merely an option but an obligation. "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10: 37) is a command. And it is given as the answer to the question. "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Lk.10: 25)

To inherit eternal life one needs to care for the needy neighbour. For the Priest and the Levite, their vision of God-service did not include service of the dying man lying on the road. Hence they passed by not caring for him, in a hurry to serve God. Such a God- service remains rejected in the gospels, as a means of inheriting eternal life. St. John’s comment is pertinent. "Those who say, 'I love God' and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen." (1 John 4: 20) The Good Samaritan, though not a temple servant because he is a Samaritan, is on the way to inherit eternal life since he cared for the needy person.

"Love Is The Fulfilling Of The Law"(Romans 13: 10)

St. Vincent maintained that the opposite of love is not always hatred or revenge but often indifference and thoughtlessness. In the parable of the rich man and the poor Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31) the rich man was punished with hell fire not because he was a bad man but because he did not care for the poor Lazarus lying abandoned at his gate. The Gospels do not say that he had made money through unjust means, or that he had persecuted any one. The only sin that he had committed was that he had not been concerned about the needy neighbour, recognizing a brother in him. That sin was so grave that he had to pay for it in eternal fire.

"A still more excellent way"(1 Corinthians 12: 30)

At one moment in the growth of our Retreat Centre, God intervened to impress on us that service of the poor should also be our concern. Divine Retreat Centre was originally moulded to cater the Word. We were all the time busy with preaching, personal counselling and prayer. During a prayer session we got a powerful message that the poor and the sick should form part of the Divine Community. The message came as a shock and we were not prepared for it. We continued our search in prayer.

Soon we got a clue. On a certain Saturday our volunteers found two elderly sick women abandoned in the sick room. They were kidney patients in a semi-coma state of consciousness, not even able to tell us where they came from. Apparently those who had brought them for the retreat left them in their sick beds and went away. We prayed over this event and we got the message that we should accept them as God’s gifts for us. They were the first members of our Divine Mercy Home, our hospice for the elderly and the terminally ill.

Some time after that, a mother and two children showed up at our gate at a midnight. Fear was written on their faces. They were chased away from their little hut in the northern part of Kerala, India because the villagers had come to know that they were HIV Positive patients. The man had died of the disease. A good soul gave them a little money for train asking them to take refuge in the Divine Retreat Centre. They were the first members of the St. Vincent’s Home, our Hospice for the Aids Patients.

The Lord was bringing many more- the orphans, physically disabled, mentally challenged, destitute women, alcoholics, drug-addicts, financially broken families, and so on. They are altogether about 3000 in number today.

Each one however is not a number for us, but a precious brother or sister, "the least of the brethren" (Matthew.25: 40) of Jesus, who are "precious" to Him (Isaiah 43:4). Each one has a story of brokenness to tell and tears to shed. We care for them as we would have cared for Jesus - That is what He wants of us. "Whenever you did it to the least of my brother, you did it to me." (Matthew 25: 40)

Divine Retreat Centre is now a Home of Love patterned on the early Christian Community. Proclamation of the Word and service of the poor go hand in hand. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist comes alive and meaningful now. The word of God preached goes down in fertile soil bearing fruits of salvation for the thousands who come here. "A new heaven and a new earth"(Revelations 21:1) is taking shape. It is now that the vision of St. Vincent de Paul is getting realized.

Let us pray:
O God, open our eyes and our hearts to care for the poor and the needy. Each moment of our lives, fill our hearts with Your Love. It is in those most in need that we can truly find You. Grant us the gift of generosity to show our love in action and not just in mere words or good intentions. May Your Blessings be upon the poor, the suffering and the destitute people all over the world.
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

ENGLISH RETREATS

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.

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.

OTHER LANGUAGES

Retreats in Konkani, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi and Telugu

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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