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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

"I Will Pour Out My Spirit On Everyone" (Joel 2:28) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

The feast of Pentecost was celebrated by the Jews to commemorate the handing down of the Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. God’s people were stiff necked, disobeying the will of God manifested to them. That is when in His infinite wisdom God promised through Prophet Ezekiel, "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you." (Ezekial 36:26) This was clearly the promise of the Holy Spirit. This prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when Mother Mary and the apostles were gathered in prayer.

The Holy Spirit convicts us - making us aware of the sin in us. The moment I enter God’s presence, God convicts me of my sin. Why does the Holy Spirit need to convict me of my sin? The sin in me blocks the flow of God’s Love into my heart. As long as I am holding on to any form of sin, I can never be rooted and grounded in God’s Love. When I am in the state of sin, the evil powers of sin will distract me from God. In salvation history, the life of David reveals this best. God was so pleased with David that the Bible describes him as being after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). But David was vulnerable to all weaknesses like any other human being and fell from grace when he committed sin. One moment of sin led him deeper and deeper into the clutches of sin taking him away from God. Yet God being so full of love, sent prophet Nathan to convict David of his sin and to lead him back to God in repentance. David repented and became once again a link in salvation history. The Holy Spirit always convicts us of our sins. A sin not convicted by the Holy Spirit is dangerous and will surely lead us to disaster. Sin by itself has not the final word because Jesus died for us to save us from sin. In the Blood of Jesus, our sins will be washed away. A sin that is convicted by the Holy Spirit will take us closer to God. That is why there is the need to confess our sin. When we confess our sins, forgiveness will flow into us and we will become new persons. Convicted sin is a means of grace for us.

"The light shines in the darkness…darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5) When we do not allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of that sin, the end is disaster. Judas is an outstanding example of this consequence. The Gospels of Mathew and John describe how the Holy Spirit tried to convict Judas of his sin on five different occasions. The first attempt was when Judas went back to Jesus after having agreed to betray Jesus for the price of thirty silver pieces and Jesus said to his disciples, "One of you will betray me," (Matthew 26:20) Judas felt convicted but he did not accept that conviction of the Holy Spirit as pertaining to himself. All the disciples were distraught and they asked Jesus in turn, "Is it I, Lord?" (Matthew 20:22). Finally Judas also joined the chorus and asked Jesus, "Teacher, is it I," and Jesus said "You have said so." (Matthew 20:25) A second warning was when Jesus said, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it" (John 13:26) and Jesus handed the bread to Judas. Knowing well the crafty nature of Judas, Jesus told Judas, "What you are going to do, do quickly." (John 13:27) The fourth and final warning was when Judas blistered the kiss of betrayal on the face of Jesus. Jesus said, "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" (Luke 22:48) Judas did not accept any of these convictions by the Holy Spirit. He had a disastrous end. He hung himself from the tree, abandoned by everyone.

We human beings live in a sinful world. It can happen that we slip into sin. But when we sin, we shall not ignore the conviction by the Holy Spirit of our sin. We will not grieve the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin and I do not accept that conviction of the Holy Spirit then I will be filled with fear and like Judas, could be paving my way to disaster. On the other hand when I allow myself to be convicted by the Holy Spirit and I accept that conviction I will receive salvation. Therefore, we must allow the Holy Spirit to continue to convict us. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin not to embarrass us or to put us to shame. God never ever does that. The Holy Spirit convicts us not to expose us, not to push us into depression or self pity or guilt. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin to take away our sin away from us and to save us.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart!" (Psalm 139:23) The third movement of the Holy Spirit in us is to convince us of righteousness and judgment. Righteousness is the way we are right with the people around us. We need to be right with everyone. If I am a son, I must be in the right relationship with my parents - loving, obedient and respectful. If I am a husband, I must be in the right with my wife. If I am a wife, I must be in the right with my husband. But often we are not. If I am a friend or a partner in a business, I must be just: I must be right, giving each one his or her due. That is what righteousness is and the Holy Spirit will lead us to that righteousness.

I remember a woman who used to come here frequently to participate in the retreat. She used to complain that her husband never joins her for a retreat. I told her to pray and assured her that I too would pray and her husband would surely attend a retreat. One Sunday she came running to my room and said, "Father, finally my husband has come for the retreat. But I know he will not go for confession." On the day of the confession, this lady would keep looking to the side where her husband sat waiting for her husband to go for confession. On the third day she came and told me, "Father, he went for confession, I was behind him but he did not know that. I saw him kneeling down before the priest and confessing. I was very happy. But now Father, he will never go for counselling and he told me already before coming for the retreat that he would not go for counselling." The fourth day, she came and told me "Father, yesterday he went for counselling but I doubt whether he has revealed everything to the counsellor." Finally I intervened and asked her, "Tell me honestly, did the Holy Spirit convict you of anything during this retreat? In tears she told me, "Father, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that I have been after my husband trying to change him all the time. But I never loved him, I never cared for him, I never held any affection towards him. I have been complaining all the time. My one obsession was to change him and he was irritated. He was upset because I was nagging him constantly. Now the Holy Spirit has convicted me. I know that I need to love my husband. It is because I do not love him that he does not do what I tell him to, that he does not go to the church. I do not care for him enough."

Apparently there were many faults with the husband but the real problem was with the wife. The Holy Spirit convicted her of righteousness. She was to be right with her husband. The problem was not with the husband, the problem was with the wife. When she was ready to accept him from the hands of God and to love and care for him, a lot of change came about him. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us - to convict us of righteousness.

"He will convince the world concerning judgment" (John 16:8) The fourth action of the Holy Spirit is judgement. What is ‘judgement’? Jesus is the judge. He has come as the Lord and Saviour of human lives and He stands in the centre of history as the norm that sets standards of the good and the bad. What Jesus says we must be doing is the good, what Jesus says we should not be doing is the bad or the evil. After His resurrection Jesus asked Simon Peter, "Simon do you love me, more than everything else?" Simon said, ‘Master, you know that I love you.’ (John 21:15) A second and third time, Jesus asked Simon Peter the same question. Peter was grieved! But whether Peter was grieved or not, Jesus made him stand before Him and look into His eyes and continued to ask the question, "Do you love me more than everything else?" It was to make Peter aware that from that moment onwards he was to proclaim that Jesus is the highest and the supreme, that Jesus is Lord and Saviour. This became the theme of the first sermon of Simon Peter, after he was anointed with the Holy Spirit. After the Holy Spirit had come upon them at the Pentecost in the Upper Room, Simon Peter and the other disciples went out and began to preach. Peter told the 3000 Jews gathered there "God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." (Acts 2:36) It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to us that Jesus is the Lord and Saviour of our lives. When we know this we understand how we should be living. The centre of our life should be Jesus – our Lord and Saviour!

It is for him that I live. It is for him that I am ready to die. That is why St. Paul says, "I consider everything else as refuse compared to Jesus Christ." (Philippians 3:8) Jesus is the highest, the greatest and the supreme. And everything else is refuse. St. Paul was a Roman citizen and a Pharisee. He enjoyed the close friendship of the high priest. Yet, these were all nothing compared to gaining Jesus and to be found one with him. To gain Jesus was like obtaining a jewel of great value. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a pearl of great price found by a merchant who sells everything to buy that particular pearl. (Matthew 13:45-46) This is Jesus – the pearl of great price! The Holy Spirit will reveal to us that for Jesus, we should readily and joyously give up everything. This is because of the love for Jesus poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

"I am He that comforts you" (Isaiah 51:12) The Holy Spirit is given to comfort us. The name of the Holy Spirit is the Comforter. (John 15:26) What is different about the ‘comfort’ the Holy Spirit gives us? The comfort that the Holy Spirit gives is the heavenly comfort of God’s Love. When we are troubled or distressed, we only need to turn to our God in prayer and our God will anoint us with this Heavenly Comforter, the Holy Spirit. There was something uniquely characteristic of the early Church. The early Church was a persecuted church - persecuted both by the Jews and the Romans. Yet the early Church was bold and powerful! In spite of all the persecutions, the early Church was never disheartened. They did not abandon Jesus. They did not stop proclaiming Jesus because the comfort of the Holy Spirit flowing into them sustained them. There is the instance where the high priest warns Simon Peter and John, never to speak in the name of Jesus. Peter’s immediate response to them was to assert that they would continue to declare boldly the Name of Jesus, because only in His Name, there is Salvation. The high priest was angry and commanded Peter and John to be beaten up. They were bruised and shamed. Still there was neither any complaint nor any trace of self pity. Instead they rejoiced and praised God. The Acts of the Apostles records that they went out praising God because they felt privileged to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name of Jesus. (Acts 5:41)

We should know this - we will have to suffer in some way or the other, in some form or the other while on earth. St. Paul declares, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (Galations 2:2) Our God is a crucified Lord and what Jesus asks us is to take up our daily cross and follow Him. On television, sometimes we hear a "Prosperity Gospel" preached. Howerver, the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is not a gospel - it is a betrayal of the Gospel. Jesus said "Take up your cross daily, and follow me." (cf. Luke 9:23) A daily cross – there is something or the other that we suffer daily. The cross could be my husband not understanding me, my wife nagging me, my children not caring for me, the people in the office finding fault with me, or my getting sick. But when I go to my God with all these aches and troubles, it is the Holy Spirit who comforts me. I feel the Heavenly Touch of Jesus through the comfort of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, He could see the Cross staring into His eyes and knew that in a few hours He would be betrayed, condemned and laid on the Cross, and nails would be driven into His palms and He would be hanging on the Cross. Jesus saw it all and He was deeply distressed. He cried aloud "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me" and that is when the Holy Spirit came to console Him, to comfort Him. He was strengthened to be able to say, "Father let your will be done."(Luke 22:42-43) Only when we are thus comforted by the Holy Spirit, will we be able to fulfill all the responsibilities of our life.

A man came to me once during a retreat to say that he had filed the papers for the divorce. He described his situation saying, "Father, I cannot live with that woman, my wife. She always nags me. I come from my office and she can not even offer me a smile, she is always there to find fault with me. It is becoming unbearable. I do not want to bear that burden anymore. I want to be free of her. I will let her go and do what she wants. I am ready to give her whatever sum of money she wants towards her maintenance but I can not live with this burden." I assured him that I understood his situation perfectly well - that it must be extremely difficult to live with a woman who nags, who is not understanding and loving. But I reminded him that it was his mission in life to save her. If he were to abandon her, she would be lost. On hearing this from me, the man told me that he was not able to accept this mission in his life. I replied that even if he was not able to, when he prays for the situation he will receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit. In the comfort of the Holy Spirit, he would be able to feel the Heavenly Power flowing into him and then he will be able to fulfill the responsibility God entrusted to him. Accordingly, he prayed and the Holy Spirit comforted him. He was reassured and in that comfort of the Holy Spirit he made a decision to carry his cross – that of accepting his wife, whatever be her nature. He accepted his responsibility and his mission to save her. He withdrew the divorce papers and worked to live together with her as a family.

"I can do all things in him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) There could be situations in our life which dishearten us. Often we are desperate and we slip into self pity because we look for comfort from others. I look for comfort from my spouse or children and even from colleagues. When they reject me, I am shattered. My self esteem suffers a blow and I consider myself as good for nothing. At such times what is needed is to wait for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God to descend into us that we may be able to feel the comfort of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. This heavenly comfort will bring a lot of cheer into our hearts and we will be able to rejoice even amidst the problems and sufferings of life.

The Holy Spirit is the Power of God. Jesus said, "Wait in prayer until you receive the power from above." (Acts 1:8) The Holy Spirit is this power that descends into us filling us. This Power of God is manifested in us in nine ways and St Paul refers to them as the fruit of the Holy Spirit - "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, faithfulness and gentleness." (Galatians 5:22-23) These are the manifestations of the Power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It can be likened to a ray of light entering a prism. The ray of light enters the prism and passes out as seven beautiful flashing colours. Love is a power. It is not a mere sweet sentiment or a pleasant feeling. The Bible speaks of love as of being beyond emotions or feelings. Love is that power which was manifested on the Cross by Jesus. Jesus was betrayed, condemned, despised, and reviled. He suffered not only bodily but also mentally when He hung on the Cross. However, in the power of the Holy Spirit He prayed with love for everyone who did this to him - "Father, forgive them for they do no know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

This is the Power of Love! It is more than sentiments. It is more than emotions. It is more than feeling. It is a commitment. It is a decision - a decision to love, to respect, to care for the other, even the one who broke me. That is the power of commitment to each other. It is this same power of love that we need in our families.

Often there are problems in our families because we look for the fulfillment of emotions and sentiments. Emotions and sentiments are important, but emotions and sentiments come from commitment. When there is a mutual commitment between husband and wife, peace flows down into their hearts. Again, peace is a power. It is not just a beautiful feeling when everything goes well. Everything will not go well all the time. Things are bound to go wrong.Yet even when things go wrong in my life or in my family, I hold on to my God because I know that in Him, I have security. When I know my God is there for me, it brings great peace to my heart. "My peace I give you, not as the world gives and the world will not be able to take it away from you." (John 14:27) The peace of Jesus will fill our hearts with tranquillity.

Joy is a power! "I said these things that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11) – Jesus promises us the fullness of joy that cannot be taken from us by anything. Joy is the power of the Holy Spirit, a joy that shall vanquish all sadness, self-pity and despair. Peter exhorts us, "Rejoice when sufferings come your way." (1 Peter 4:12 -13) Again, St. James says, "Count it all joy when suffering comes your way." (Jas. 1:2) In my sufferings I could be abandoned by everyone but I stand firm in the knowledge that my God is there for me.

Gentleness is a power but is often misinterpreted as a weakness. In fact arrogance, cruelty and hot temper are all weaknesses. A weak person would get angry. But a strong person would remain gentle even when the other is angry. With my gentleness, I should be able to conquer the other’s anger. That is the confidence of a person anointed with the Holy Spirit.

Let us open our hearts for the Holy Spirit to come and fill us with His power. This power shall lead us closer to Jesus, uniting us with Him, making our lives more beautiful. Imagine the power of the Holy Spirit filling us with love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control, faithfulness. This is the culture of the Holy Spirit that we must be living.

Let us pray:

Mother Mary, be with us as we wait in prayer for the Promise of the Holy Spirit to clothe us with the Power from Above. Holy Spirit, Spirit of truth, comfort and enlighten us!

We open our hearts to You, Spirit of God so that we shall be made into new creations. The old shall pass away and the new life that Jesus has promised us will come to us.
Amen

 
Divine Updates

MAGNIFICAT in Chennai

Divine comes to Chennai with the 'Magnificat on October 21,2017. Fr. Jacob Arimpur VC will lead the services. Music by Worship Culture. With special sessions for children.

Venue: Stella Maris College, Cathedral Road

MAGNIFICAT in Bangalore

Celebrate an evening with our Lord in Bangalore at the 'Magnificat' on October 14, 2017. Services to be led by Fr Jacob Arimpur 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 2017 - December, 2017

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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, 2017

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