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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

"To Bring The Good News" (Luke 1:19) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

It is a New Year again, another year waiting to unfold with possibilities and offers. The burden of the year that is past could still be weighing down on us. Our hearts may still bear the pain of unfulfilled dreams. The challenge is believe in the promise of the Lord, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 21:5) We need to let the sad memories “of the former things to pass away” (Rev 21:4)daring to believe what God is going to do for us – God who will turn all that is unpleasant and sad, the ‘bad news’ of our lives to ‘good tidings.’ Let us begin the New Year on this note of faith.

"I give you good tidings" (Luke 2:10)

As we read the Bible passages leading to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, we come across the description of an event that appears rather strange but is actually of great significance when reflected upon in the light of God’s wisdom. The Gospel of Luke, chapter 1: 13-14 and 18-20 is self-explanatory. "But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth”; (Luke 1:13-14) And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." (Luke 1: 18-20)

Zechariah was a priest, chosen to serve God in the temple. He was childless for his wife was barren. Amongst the Jews, the belief existed that to be married and not have children was a curse from God. Therefore, his life as it appeared was woeful. Nevertheless, Zechariah persisted in praying to the Lord for deliverance from his woeful state and it was in his old age that God was benevolent. God sent His angel to him with the good news that God would bless him with a child soon. Zechariah who along all was praying for this great blessing in his life was now askance at the declaration of the angel of God. He and his wife being so advanced in age he found it hard to belief how such a thing could happen. Unable to trust in the Word of God, He instead sought for a sign from God to confirm that such a thing would actually take place. Zechariah was a man of reasoning and in the face of reason, His faith, and trust in God faltered. Even though He was a Priest serving God all the time, His sense of reasoning failed to acknowledge the power and might of God. He could not comprehend how God could work the impossible in his life. Since Zechariah did not believe, the angel of God told him that he would become dumb and remain so until the birth of his son.

"Waited patiently for the Lord" (Psalm 40:1)

God in His goodness and infinite wisdom struck Zechariah dumb. God knew that Zechariah did not really believe God’s Words and so each time Zechariah would speak about his experience with the angel of the Lord to other people he would continue to express disbelief in the message of the angel and in the Word of God, conveyed to him by the angel. By doing this, he would be sinning against God by speaking against His Word, cause the faith and trust of other people in God’s Word to decrease and cause his own faith and trust in God to fall. Therefore, even though the angel of God brought Zechariah the good news of the blessing of a child in his life, he Zechariah would become the bearer of bad news each time he expressed disbelief in God’s Word and be instrumental in undermining the blessings God was bestowing on him and others through him. Therefore, God deemed it better for him to remain dumb until the fulfilling of God’s Word when the child would be born to Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth.

"How beautiful are the feet of him who brings good tidings" (Isaiah 52:7)

This situation arises often in every day ordinary lives too. Many things go wrong with us. Often we are sad because not everything happens the way we want it to. We are angry when others step on our toes. We are desperate when our plans do not materialize. We are frustrated and upset when we do not see anything good ahead for us and we lose hope easily. Life will have its many difficulties. Nevertheless, the command of the Lord is to rejoice and proclaim the good news of God’s deliverance, God’s helping hand, God’s saving grace in all situations. "Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). If I am to be the bearer of good news at all times I need to believe that God is working in my own life. I need to experience and understand how God is leading me by the hand changing my sadness to joy. "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) When I realize and acknowledge this in my own life then what I speak to others will bring healing and hope to other weary and wounded souls. If my words cannot bring hope and healing to others it is better that, I keep silent.

"He comes with good tidings" (2 Samuel 18:27)

It is good to introspect on this important aspect of our faith. How much do I really believe in God, particularly when things go wrong? The Gospel of Luke highlights one such situation in the life of the disciples of Jesus when everything had gone wrong. The two disciples of Jesus, Cleopas and his companion were on their way to Emmaus. They were greatly discouraged, disheartened and in despair for they were talking about all the sad events of the past few days – of Jesus arrest, condemnation and crucifixion. To them everything was over with the death of Jesus on the Cross - they found it hard to believe in all that Jesus had taught them now. They could not see the hand of God in any of those events.

It was at that moment of utter hopelessness that Jesus the Risen Lord joined them in their walk and after hearing their woes, spoke to them Words of comfort and hope explaining with the help of Scriptures that through the crucifixion of Jesus God was working great good for the whole of mankind. And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26) At that instant, they experienced a stirring in their hearts. Their faith was renewed and they began to believe in the goodness of God and His infinite love for mankind. Later they spoke among themselves, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24: 32) When faith and hope entered their hearts, it dispelled the darkness from their mind and heart. We have much to learn from this incident in the Bible.

In our families and homes, the parents and elders can speak belief and hope in God into every situation however adverse only when he / she believes in the goodness of God. When something disturbing, upsetting, or stressful happens in the family, an ordinary person will react to the situation with anger, frustration, sadness, or any such negative emotion. However, one who believes in God will continue to hold onto God with the hope that God will see them through it all. That God will turn everything to good and no matter what happens God will work it always for the best. Hence, a person who believes in God and has deep faith and trust in Him will always speak words of hope. I can be a doctor, a teacher, or just any ordinary person – but I have a responsibility as a disciple of Jesus, the responsibility to always speak the good news that God is good and that He turns everything to good.

"Almighty has done great things for me" (Luke 1:49)

This was true of Mother Mary. When the angel of God greeted Mary and told her that she would bear a son and she will name him Jesus, she was perplexed and wondered how it would all come about. When the angel told her that, it would be through the power of God, she humbly submitted to God’s will in her life without any hesitation because she believed and trusted in the goodness of God, "let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) Hence, when she went to the house of Zechariah to minister to her cousin, Elizabeth who was with child, Mary’s very words of greeting to her cousin filled the baby in the womb with joy. That is the effect of the words of one who believes in the mercy and goodness of God, the very power of God flows through when they speak. Elizabeth recognized the power of God at work in Mary and exclaimed, "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." (Luke 1:45)

This is what happens when one is reconciled to every circumstance and situation in life, seeing God’s hand at work, turning everything to good, to serve a higher purpose for the salvation of all. The degree to which one accepts and submits to the will of God is proportionate to the joy one experiences in His comforting and reassuring presence. That is why Mother Mary could sing with joy, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; "(Luke 1:46-48)

"The Good News of Faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:6)

When a person’s faith and trust in God is strong, no matter what adversities he faces or however contrary the circumstances are he will continue to be hopeful in God, always expecting God to bring about a positive outcome. "For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11) Therefore, when such a person gives expression to his thoughts and feelings, it will always be with belief and hope in God’s goodness, love, and mercy. "If God is for us, who is against us? " (Romans 8:31) For what we believe in is what we will speak. Such a message will always be a blessing to others and encourage them to turn to God in times of need. The Word of God reiterates this, "I believed therefore have I spoken." (Psalm 116:10) And St Paul agrees to it “Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke," we too believe, and so we speak," (2 Corinthians 4:13)

Even when friends and loved ones abandon us, the deep conviction that God loves us and is with us, should remain embedded in our heart. "The hour is coming, indeed it has come, 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) Even when all the problems around crush me and everything is going wrong in my life, my confidence in my God will remain unshaken because I know that He will always be there for me. In the adverse and painful circumstances of my life, my God will never leave me alone. I will continue to trust in His love for me. "I kept my faith, even when I said, "I am greatly afflicted"; I said in my consternation, "Men are all a vain hope." (Psalm 116:10-11)

 

Let us pray:
O God give me faith in my heart. Let my faith in you always burn brightly within me, giving me the light and warmth of hope even when everything goes wrong around me, especially in those moments of life when the people I trust let me down and when the people I count on humiliate me. When each day dawns anew , let me look to you and learn to put my trust in you and believe that you will never let me down, so that boldly I can proclaim the good news of your goodness, love and mercy to all around me who are weary and worn with life and fill them with hope.
Amen
 
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