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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

Follow Me - Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

The story of the Magi makes very fascinating reading in the Gospel of Mathew 2:1–12. The three wise men of the East! They saw a star in the horizon. A very unusual star, they thought! They knew the ways of heaven. Astronomy has always been highly popular in the East. Such a star should not be there in the sky at that time of the year. A strange star indeed! They prayed over the appearance of the star.

I am sure they were men who were sincerely seeking God, ready to do His Will at all times. The star, they recognized, was a sign of God’s special intervention. As the Psalmist says, "The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork." (Ps.19:1) Since the Magi were wise men, they could interpret the sign of the sky in the right way.

"We Have Seen His Star"

Many for sure, saw that star. A star shining up in the sky could not have been hidden from anyone. Some spotted the star and were fascinated by the beauty and strangeness of it. To them, the significance of the star was not more than a curious fascination of the moment.

Others saw the star and made it a topic of discussion and debate. The star did not lead them beyond the horizontal dimension. Some others might have interpreted the appearance of the star as an auspicious moment and would have built an altar to worship the star to gain favours. The scope of this common practice of idolatry in the East was only up to the domain of the material needs of this world.

None of these responses changed their lives because they did not take the concerned people beyond the star. All of them stayed with the star. They were ordinary men and women with a mere worldly perspective. Their study and religion were confined to the concerns of this world. They all remained with the star. "Claiming to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:22)

The Magi were, however, wise men indeed. They were always searching for God everywhere. They were ever ready to follow whatever would lead them to God. Hence, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy." (Matthew 2:10) and asked the question, "Where does this star lead us to?" In prayer, they understood that the star was a sign pointing to God. They could not any more remain with the star. They were prepared to start off with the star, wherever the star would lead them to. They were sure that it would lead them to God. The only concern in their mind was, "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews. For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2)

When they were told to move with the star, the star began to move before them showing the way to the manger of Bethlehem. Their pilgrimage of faith took them to God, who was born as the Saviour of the world.

The Fools Blinded By The Glare Of Success

The story of the Magi inspires us to make our life on this earth a constant pilgrimage of faith. God sends us stars all the time into the horizons of our life to challenge us not to remain bogged down to the concerns of this earth. Often, we ignore such stars or, worse still, misunderstand them.

A successful event in our life is one such star. Things went well with us; the people around were good to us; the events came in the right order and we succeeded! We get ‘a kick’ out of it. A conceited sense of self-sufficiency creeps in gradually, attributing the whole credit to ourselves, making us feel highly puffed up. We call our friends together to celebrate the great success and stop with that.

How unfortunate! The star of success is very badly misunderstood here. It was meant to lead us to the Giver of success. Such lack of faith makes people more and more worldly. Their eyes and minds get so focused and fixed on the glow and glare of their earthly achievements that they fail to look ahead to the glorious presence of the One "who turned everything to their good." (Romans 8:28) Jesus calls them fools! "Fool!" Jesus said of the man who, in the glow of his success, lost sight of God, the giver of success. (Luke12:20) It was the parable of the farmer whose fields yielded rich harvests. His immediate preoccupation was to build up the future in the strength of the gains of his success. "I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones and there store all my grain and my goods." (Luke 12:18)

The future looked secure for him, for sure. His achievements were enough for him for a long, happy life. "You have ample goods laid up for many years." (Luke 12:19) Pleasures of this earth came looming large into his heart. "Take your ease, eat, drink and be merry" (Luke 12:19) He did not need anything else or anyone else for his blessedness, he imagined.

Not an old story indeed, but the usual way of thinking! Shattering this worldly wisdom come the thunder peals of the Word of God. "A man’s life does not become blessed with the abundance of his possessions…" (Luke 12:15–20)

Who are the blessed then? "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3)

The "poor in spirit" are those who wait for God for their blessedness, whether in the midst of abundance or scarcity. At all times, whether good or bad, they look up to God as the source of their security and cause of their blessedness.

The Wise Find The Light

The Gospel speaks of such a man of wisdom for whom success was a light showing the way to the Lord – St. Peter of Galilee. He grew up amidst the waves of the Sea of Galilee and made a living from the fish of its waters. He was an expert fisherman. He knew where to cast the net to get the fish of his choice. But that night, all his expertise at fishing and his familiarity with the depths of the sea failed him. The hard work of the whole night was futile.

"Master, we toiled all night and took nothing" (Luke 5:5), Peter finally admitted in frustration, giving a glance at his boat and net. The old boat and the withering net were empty—more so, his weary mind. At the instruction of Jesus, he let down his net once again to the depths of the sea. This time, the catch of the fish was great! The net was full, the boat was full – and so were the eyes and mind of Peter. There could not be a greater occasion of rejoicing for a fisherman.

However, Peter’s eyes did not get fixed to the abundance of his catch of fish; they were raised to the face of Jesus. The gift soon went out of focus and the Giver came sharp into the glow of his rejoicing heart. The decision was instantaneous—Peter "left everything and followed him." (Luke 5:11) Curious though it might appear, this is the pilgrimage of faith. Peter was able to look at success as a star leading him to the Saviour. He did not remain with the star, but knew where the star was leading to—to an encounter with, and a personal commitment to Jesus.

Bogged Down By Failure

Life is not all success. There are moments when everything goes wrong with us. Calculations fail, projects flop, friends let us down—nothing really works. Often enough, the powers of sin haunt us from within; embarrassing weaknesses drain off long built-up self-confidence.

The normal attitude to such failures in life is anger and depression. People brood over the unfortunate moments of their lives and in the process negativity gets fermented inside. Anger breeds more anger; sadness breeds more sadness; guilt breeds more guilt. All these negative attitudes come into our lives because we remain with such negative emotions.

A typical example is that of Judas Iscariot. He betrayed Jesus with a kiss. In fact, Jesus had given him sufficient warning during the Last Supper. But he was bent upon his decision of betrayal. Even at the moment of the betrayal, the Lord had invited him to his love with the words, "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" (Luke 22:48) This was the star that Judas ignored or was indifferent to. He became guilty and guilt soured into depression. He said, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood" (Matthew 27:4) This resulted in his total destruction about which Jesus commented, "It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." (Matthew 26:24)

Trust Is The Way

A failure or a sin need not push anyone into such a calamity. St. Peter is a clear example of this. He denied the Master three times. This was an even worse offence than that of Judas. But Peter turned to Jesus after the sin of denial. The third time when Simon Peter blurted out his denial of Jesus, the Gospel tells us, "The Lord turned and looked at him." (Luke 22:61) This was the star! Peter saw the light of love. He responded to that love with his tears of repentance. He woke up from the frustration of failure to reach out to the dazzling light of the Love of Jesus. All the love in his heart gushed forth, "Master, you know that I love you" (John 21:15)

At every moment of life and in every experience, whether good or bad, success or failure, anger or anxiety, the Star of the Lord will twinkle in our hearts. That is the promise of Jesus. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and make life a celebration for him." (Revelations 3:20)

As we look into our past, we will understand that life has been anything but a celebration—not because Jesus did not knock, but because we did not hear the knock and open the door to him. The story of the Magi inspires us to wait for the knock of God and see His star at all times.

Let us pray:
O Lord, open our hearts and our minds that we may see Your Star at all times throughout our lives – leading us to You, our True Light.

Help us to recognize the stars that You send to guide us in our journey of faith. Let us never be blinded by the worldly light of success that stops us from fixing our gaze upon You.

Let us be like the Three Magi – to constantly search for You and to follow You.
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

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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.

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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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