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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

"Thy Kingdom Come" (Matthew 6:10) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

Christmas comes once again to reassure us of God’s constant engagement with the world to make it a better place for all of us to live in. The holy Babe in the manger is a vivid reminder that God is present with us to strengthen us in our struggle to build a heavenly city on this earth. It is He who brings to completion our efforts to mould a just and happy society here. He started His work in His coming as man on earth by defeating the powers of evil definitively in this paschal event. As Emmanuel, He is "God with us", still present here strengthening us to continue His mission of saving the world. "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." (Revelations 21:3-4)

During the liturgical season of Advent the urgent call of St. John the Baptist rings in our ears, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew. 3:2). It is an invitation to turn to God to work with Him in His mission to bring about a just humane society in this world. Christmas reminds us that we should never be tired in our battle against the evil forces that would try to thwart God’s work of salvation.

"Seek First His Kingdom And His Righteousness" (Matthew 6:33)

Recently a known Marxist leader made a statement distinguishing Christianity and Marxism. Christianity, he said, is focused on a heavenly paradise after the earthly life. His charge was that because of this other-worldly preoccupation Christianity is not concerned about improving the quality of life in this world. Marxism on the other hand held no belief in this supernatural destiny of man. Its sole effort is to make this world a paradise.

This statement is misleading and far too simplistic. The Marxist leader betrays his ignorance of Christianity. Christians are people who have taken seriously the first command of God to man, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it." (Genesis 1:28) While exploiting the resources of the earth, unjust structures have crept into human society. The distinction between "the haves" and "the have-nots" arose down the centuries. The solution proposed by Marxism is violent war of the classes. The unjust structures are to be uprooted by eliminating the bourgeoisie class by violent struggle and ushering in the rule of the proletariat.

"The Kingdom Of God Is At Hand" (Mark 1:15)

Christian theology also accepts that unjust economic systems are unworthy of man and are to be done away with. However this should be a spiritual process of inner transformation by which the heart of man is turned to God and to his fellow human beings in love. As a result there will be on the face of the earth a just society rooted in sharing love. The Bible testifies that at one time there was such a heavenly society taking shape in this world - the early Christians who accepted Jesus as the Lord and Saviour of their lives. Of this early Christian community the book of the Acts of the Apostles says, "All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need." (Acts 2:44-45)

Again there is another description - "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands 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 4:32-35)

This is a remarkable testimony of the change of the heart. Until the heart is turned to God and to fellow-men, man would cling on to his possessions, finding His identity and security in what he possesses. The moment man is set free from the clutches of this inner slavery of selfishness by making God the centre of His life, his heart would be open to share his belongings with his brethren. This was the miraculous transformation that took place in everyone who believed in Jesus. In Christian theology this is the realization of the kingdom of God in this world.

"Glad Tidings Of The Kingdom Of God" (Luke 8:1)

In fact God’s plan for the world is characterized by the Biblical concept of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God was central to the message of Jesus. He started his public ministry by preaching the good news of the kingdom. (Mark 1:14) He himself testified that this preaching of the kingdom was his life-commitment, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose." (Luke 4:43) The gospel also reveals that every proclamation and every activity of Jesus be it healing or preaching or casting out unclean spirits was to usher in the Kingdom. "He went on through cities and villages preaching and bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God." (Luke 8:1) It is amply clear therefore that the plan of God for the salvation of humankind is centred on the theme of the kingdom of God.

What does the kingdom of God mean? Scripture scholars tell us that we need to understand this phrase from the prayer that Jesus taught us, "Our Father." (Matthew 6:9-1) The petition "Thy Kingdom come" is to be understood in the light of the next petition "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." The latter, in fact, amplifies and explains the former. Understood in this manner, we get the perfect definition of the kingdom of God. It is a just society on earth where God’s will is as perfectly done as it is in heaven. For this heavenly setting in the world that Jesus asked us to pray. Jesus proclaimed and worked for this dream during His earthly life. This is God’s dream for the human race. The realization of this dream is what we must be working for.

The citizens of this kingdom are those who do God’s will perfectly. It is a concept beyond space and time. Anyone who in his life is committed to do God’s will is within the kingdom. Hence Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God as a past, present and future reality. He spoke of the Biblical patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets as being already within the kingdom. (Luke 13:28) Hence God’s kingdom cuts through history.

Jesus also said, "The kingdom of God is in the midst of you." (Luke 17:21) It is therefore a present reality wherever people obey God’s will. Jesus taught us to pray for the coming of the kingdom. (Matthew 6:10) This amounts to the admission that the world is actually far from God’s expectation. God’s will is not perfectly and universally obeyed. Hence the fulfillment of God’s kingdom is to be waited and prayed for. The promise of God is that at the right moment He will intervene to establish the kingdom perfectly. Before the ascension of the Lord, the disciples asked Jesus, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom." (Acts 1:6) The answer of Jesus was that the time of the culmination of the kingdom of God was a secret hidden with the Father.

"Fellow Workers For The Kingdom Of God" (Colossians 4:11)

One thing Jesus affirmed. It was the duty of those who believe in Him to work for the coming of the kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8) The command was given to work for the realization of the dream of God for the coming of the kingdom by bearing witness to Jesus, by continuing His mission on this earth. And the promise is that our efforts will be fulfilled by His definite interventions, "Surely I am coming soon." (Revelation 22:20); "Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5) Now arises the question - how to work for the coming of the kingdom?

"Proclaim the Kingdom of God" (Luke 9:60)

Firstly, we need to share God’s dream to the whole of humanity by the proclamation of the kingdom. Jesus said "Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations." (Luke 24:47) The whole world should know God’s vision of salvation of humankind. Political ideologies rooted in hatred and denial of God is bound to fail ultimately. Human history bears witness to the atrocious cruelties and infinite miseries that such wrong methodologies have caused in the world. Christianity has a mission to offer the world the way to its salvation. And the world longs for this good news. This primarily means that I as a disciple of Jesus have to take my faith seriously. The Chinese Christian prayed the well known prayer, "Lord, revive thy Church, beginning with me." We might as well paraphrase this prayer and say, "Lord, let thy kingdom come, beginning with me."

"You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 19:19)

The second crucial step lies in the opening of my heart to my neighbour in sharing love. "Love one another" is a command to everyone committed to Jesus. This love takes flesh in being concerned with everyone in need. In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus spells out in detail what it means to love. (Luke 10:29-37)

The priest and the temple servant are condemned because of their cold indifference to the wounded man lying by the roadside. Perhaps they were rushing to the temple for the sacred services. But their preoccupation with the service of God will not save them. Their piety was unacceptable to God Himself because they had closed their eyes to a neighbour in need. The Samaritan, on the other hand, offered himself for the salvation of the fallen man. His attitude and act were commendable in the eyes of Jesus. Pointing out to this Samaritan Jesus issues this command to the disciple: "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:37) My commitment to my God should bear fruit in this world in my commitment to my neighbour.

This then is the world-vision of Christianity – the whole of humanity saved from the tyranny of slavery to evil forces in committing itself to God’s word. This end is achieved not by eliminating those perpetuating evil designs here by bloodshed and violent class war. In fact there is only one "class" here – those who should belong to the kingdom. I have to be a witness of Jesus Christ to them, patiently trying to bring them to the fold. It is the sin that is to be eliminated and not the sinner. Immediately we understand the kingdom of God is not something which primarily has to do with territories and nations. It is something which has to do with each and every person, with an inner decision to commit one’s life to God. The kingdom will come into me when I submit my will, my heart, my possessions and my life to my God. It will spread from me to my neighbour when I witness Jesus to Him, gently leading Him to the same commitment. It is only when each one of us makes His personal decision and submission that the kingdom comes. Hence the invitation and offer of Jesus is His first proclamation, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17)

This Christmas as I receive the Babe into the inn of my heart, I accept Him as the Lord of my life. I commit myself to continue His mission of building His kingdom on this earth. By inner conversion and sharing love I can sow the seeds of heaven on this dry thirsty earth. These heavenly seeds shall take root, sprout up and bear rich harvest of the kingdom. God’s dream for this earth shall find fulfillment.

Let us pray:

O Lord, we want to offer our whole past with the transparency of the Holy Spirit – we have nothing to hide, nothing to cover up. We want to open up and offer hearts and minds for the infilling of the Holy Spirit so that in a magnificent way, the Holy Spirit will help us and mould us and make us NEW creations.

We know that You have great plans for our lives. Whatever plans You have, O God, we know You shall fulfill our plan. Help us, O God, that we shall never again be a hindrance or an obstacle to Your works in our lives.
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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