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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

I have come to set the earth on fire" (Lk 12:49) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

God so loved the world - Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

Christmas is a festival of love – the pouring of God’s love in abundance into our hearts. The Word of God explains this mystery of God’s love as the descent of Christ into our midst,"For God so loved the world that he gave His only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life". (John 3:16) Christmas is therefore the celebration of God’s love for each one of us. It is also a time to examine ourselves and gauge our self worth in the light of this love.

The problem of poor self-esteem is common in all circles of society. The bruise and shocks inflicted on sensitive hearts and minds in a sustained manner over a period of time, lead many to believe that they are worthless and of no value to anyone. Every human being longs to love and be loved in return. In an environment where love abounds, life thrives but whenever love is denied, life is stifled, leaving the heart and mind wounded. Hurt or wounded feelings accumulated over the years weigh down on an individual burdening and wrecking him/her emotionally. Into the dark recesses of such hearts and minds comes the exalting and refreshing message of Christmas – the immeasurable love from God our Father, to whom my life is of such immense value that, "He did not spare His own son but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32) so that with God, I too might share in the glory of eternity. Hence the babe in swaddling clothes lying in a manger is a sign from God, reassuring each one of us our self worth in His eyes.

"Thank you for the wonder of myself" (Psalm 139:14)

A young lady once shared with me a prayer experience that she had and what had led to it. At one time, she was deeply in love with a man who loved her in return and eve promised to marry her. Being in love she was in the seventh heaven of delight and was always building castles in the air of their life together. Those days she found life beautiful and meaningful. To be the object of somebody’s affections and the great happiness she derived from being accepted and cared for in a special way was a boost to her morale and self-image. Each time he told her that he loved her, a thrilling sensation coursed through her veins and she felt heady with joy. However, suddenly one day everything started going wrong between them and that led to a rift in the relationship. The rift widened into cold silence and became unbridgeable. Soon she came to know that he had developed interest in another girl and was planning to marry her. The news tore at her heart and shattered her completely. All her dreams lay crumbled at her now. Life seemed to have lost its charm and she started to loose the will to live. In the face of his open rejection of her love and trust, her self-confidence and self-esteem took a severe beating and she felt as worthless as a worm trampled upon by others.

"O taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8)

In utter despair and frustration, she opened the Bible for Words of hope to strengthen her and her eyes fell upon a Psalm. While reading the Psalm, she felt strangely drawn to a particular verse, "I thank you for the wonder of myself". (Psalm 139:14) The Psalmist was thanking God for the wonder that he a human being was in the eyes of God. She read and re-read the verse and started experiencing a sense of elation each time she read it and then a great and wonderful realization dawned on her. With quickening heartbeat, she repeated the verse aloud to herself and suddenly felt God was in front of her in person, telling her how immensely valuable she is to Him. It opened her heart to the fact that she was very precious to God and so very dear to Him. When she pondered on the fact that God considered her a wonder, her life appeared brighter, more meaningful, and definitely purposeful. Great joy filled her heart when she understood that she was of special value not because a human being loved her but because God loved her!

Earlier when she was in love, she felt a great sense of self-value whenever the man who loved her came to meet her, whenever he said he loved her or whenever he bought her a gift. Nevertheless, when he could not spend time with her or neglected her for some reason, she would feel dejected and hurt. In fact, unknowingly she was building up her self worth on his words, his love and on their relationship. She did not give much importance to God then and so when the man ditched her, her worlg turned dark and gloomy and she had no reason to continue living. After reading verse 14 in Psalm 139, her whole world brightened up She knew then that God loved her and considered her very precious because God valued her greatly. Whoever we are, whatever we may do, and wherever we may be living, all of us need to come to this realization as to who we are and what is our worth?

"Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour" (Hebrews 2:7)

It is important for each one of us to establish our identity and self worth in the context of our relationship with God. It is only when we know who we are in the eyes of God, will our rightful identities as – A PRECIOUS CHILD OF GOD become clear to us. God declares His great love for us when He says, "You are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you". (Isaiah 43:4) In the opening Book of the Bible, we are told "God created man in His own image". (Genesis 1:27) God who fashioned the magnificent heavens with the sun, moon and the stars; the seas with all the creatures in it and the earth with all the creatures on it has moulded us with His own hands. God through the Prophet Jeremiah reiterates, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you". (Jeremiah 1:5) Therefore, I need to convince myself that I am created by a master craftsman - who is none other than God Himself. Therefore, I am a unique work of His art irrespective of my colour, my stature, my features, or my intellectual abilities. This is what St. Paul confirms for us, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus". (Ephesians 2:10)

"Thou hast made him a little less than God" (Psalm 8:5)

When we are firmly rooted in our identity as a precious child of God, we will not feel inferior, insecure or jealous when we come across another child of God who is more able, more good looking or more talented. Rather our identity in God will help us to acknowledge and appreciate the other as a precious work of God’s infallible creation. Seeking our identity as a child of God helps us to establish our self worth and self-esteem, making life more joyous. However, very often our self worth is conditioned based on the evaluation of others. For example, if someone speaks a word of appreciation then we feel elated and thrilled. On the other hand, if someone ignores us or is indifferent towards us we feel hurt, low in spirits, and depressed. The only way to overcome this tendency towards negative conditioned thinking is to look to our God, to wait upon Him and let Him reassure us as to who we are. Then we will understand our true worth.

"Thou art my son" (Psalm 2:7)

Jesus Himself carried out this spiritual exercise often. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9:18-20, we find Jesus praying alone. Soon after praying the question He asks His disciples is, "Who do men say that I am?" He heard from them what people thought of Him and He asks the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter then said, "You are the Christ, Son of the Living God." On hearing this emphatic declaration Jesus says, "Simon, son of John, you are blessed for it is my Father who has revealed this to you". (Matthew 16:17) Jesus had waited in prayer for the Father to reveal to Him, His identity as the Son of the Heavenly Father.

Time and again Jesus’ identity was made known to Him by the Heavenly Father, on different occasions. The time when He went down to River Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist, the heavens were opened and Jesus heard from the Father’s lips, "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased". (Mark 1:11) When he went to Mount Tabor, He heard the same voice saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased". (Matthew 17:5)

"My steadfast love shall not depart from you" (Isaiah 54:10)

While celebrating the Passover, with His apostles for the last time, Jesus could see ahead the pain and suffering that lay in wait for Him. The agonizing time in the garden of Gethsemane when none of his closest disciples would keep awake with Him to pray but instead would fall asleep leaving Him alone to pray to the Father. Then there would be the moment when one of His own disciples, Judas, would betray Him and then again the time when Peter the leader amongst them, would deny Him. For Jesus, his self worth came by identifying Himself as the Son of the Heavenly Father. Therefore, even in the weakest moment of His life, Jesus remained undeterred in spite of what awaited Him. He was strongly convinced that "when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me". (John 16:32) His real identity as the Son of God gave him the strength to bear all His sufferings with equanimity.

"Look to him and be radiant" (Psalm 34:5)

We must rejoice and praise God for the person that we are. There are people, regrettably, who compare themselves with others and refuse to accept themselves. They are stuck with the notion that they are not ‘good enough’ – not clever enough, not handsome enough, not rich enough. Here sets in the destructive habit of self-rejection. This loser attitude is the root of all negative postures of the mind. True self-esteem is the fruit of a grateful self-acceptance.

When friends speak ill of us or when the ones we trust deceive us, we would become angry, frustrated, and sad because we make the mistake of evaluating our self worth based on how much others appreciate us, love us and how important we are to them. Jesus has shown us how important it is to look to God and come into His presence often to seek our real identity and to confirm it for ourselves. For it is only in God’s presence we will know who we really are. In His presence alone will we realize the wonder that we are. He alone can help us understand how beloved we are to Him. Only such an experience of God’s love will root us in our identity as a child of God. Then with St. Paul, we too can say "the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me". (Galatians 2:20) The Omnipotent God in offering His own son as a ransom for each one of us was affirming not only His love for us but also our worth and stature as His own children. E cannot want anything more nor can anyone give us a better certification than this priceless identity as "CHILD OF GOD".

 

Let us pray:
O God, often in the past I felt abandoned, betrayed, and neglected when others were indifferent towards me. I felt life was meaningless when the loved ones I relied on rejected me. My God, now I understand that each time this happened, you were inviting me to turn to You and allow my heart to be filled with Your love and come to the realization that it is You who gives meaning and worth to my life. As the light of your love seeps into our hearts and minds this Christmas, let it inflame in us our true identity as your child and let us be reassured of our worth in the warmth of your presence.
 
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