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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Hallowed be Thy name"(Lk 11:2) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

"We Have Beheld His Glory" (John 1:14) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

It is Christmas - the most wonderful time of the year! A sense of joyful anticipation floods the hearts. Families gather, friends reach out to each other and there is much celebration everywhere. In the midst of this great merrymaking, we need to pause for a moment to consider the reason for the season.

Christmas has a message - the grand celebrations have a meaning that is meant to be received into the heart. The festivities are not meant to end as an external expression but are to become a joy entering deep into our hearts to remain with us at every moment for the rest of our life. Life is hard for every one of us and in the midst of our hardships a light has appeared in our skies, the Light of Christmas.

"For To Us A Child Is Born, To Us A Son Is Given" (Isaiah 9:6)

There is a charming Italian story that gives us a beautiful insight about our celebrations. It was Christmas time and the children in the neighbourhood were all playing together in the meadow. As they were playing, Jesus visibly appeared in their midst. They recognized Him and rushed to Him. They were so happy. They danced around Him and acknowledged Him. They showed Him around the meadow. At one time, one of the children cried out to him, "Jesus, it is Christmas. What have you brought for us?" Jesus did not answer. And slowly everybody joined in the chorus "Where is my gift? What have you brought us from heaven?" Jesus remained silent. Then He opened out His arms in front of them and stood still without uttering a word. And then one of the boys stopped. His face had turned sad and he said to the others, "Look at His hands. His hands are empty. He has brought nothing. And it is Christmas. No wonder my dad told me religion is of no use. It does not give us any happiness or any blessing." And then another boy said, "No, look at Jesus. He is opening His arms out in front of us. What does that mean? That means He has brought Himself to us. He is offering His whole heart to us. He is the gift from our God. He has become part of us." And everybody chorused, "Yes, He has become part of us and we have become part of Him." And they were very happy and began their celebration! This is the meaning of Christmas.

God has become part of us. He is not anymore high up in the heavens. He has entered into our brokenness, to hold our hands and walk with us in our hour of trial. He’s Immanuel - God with us. And that’s why Christmas affects every one of us. After the birth of Jesus things cannot be the same anymore. God is breaking into our life and our problems, to turn everything to our good.

"The People Who Walked In Darkness Have Seen A Great Light" (Isaiah 9:2)

St. John leads us deeper into this rich mystery of Christmas when he writes for us, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." (John 1:14) The Son of God has come into our midst and has become our glory. The glory of the Father has appeared in Jesus Christ. To understand the full import of this revelation, we need to look deeper at what the word ‘glory’ means right through the ages of salvation.

In the Old Testament, God was considered far away and unapproachable. And yet there in the desert at the showering of manna from Heaven, the children of Israel looked towards the wilderness and beheld the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud (Exodus 16:10). Again at the giving of the Ten Commandments, the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:16). When the tabernacle was raised up, the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34). Once again when the temple of Solomon was consecrated, the priests were so overwhelmed, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God (1 Kings 8:11). Prophet Isaiah heard the angels singing of the holiness of God and the whole earth was full of the glory of God (Isaiah 6:3). Similarly Ezekiel has an ecstatic vision in which he saw the likeness of the glory of God (Ezekial 1:28). Therefore in the Old Testament, the glory of God really meant the tangible and visible presence of God in the midst of His people.

In the New Testament, John speaks repeatedly of the glory of God in connection with Jesus. In the person and in the miracles of Jesus, the glory of God is manifested. At Cana, water was turned to wine and after describing the miracle for us, St. John says that in this way Jesus "manifested his glory." (John 2:11) Once again at the raising of Lazarus from the dead, Jesus promises Martha that she will see the glory of God (John 11:14). Jesus describes further that this glory is not from us or even of His own making, but it is the glory that He receives from the Father(John 8:54).

"His Name Shall Be Called Emmanuel [God With Us]" (Matthew 1:23)

Jesus was the glorious presence of God in the midst of the people. And that glory was the splendour of God. And the heart of that splendour was love. The wonder of God’s presence was manifested in His love. The glory of God was what poured out of the heart of Jesus to every one of us. In Jesus the truth is revealed that God is for us. At every moment of our life, especially in our troubles and sufferings, our God is the closest to us. God is on my side. This is the meaning of Christmas.

There have been moments in our past, when we thought God was against us if not far away from us. There was perhaps an unfortunate occasion when we committed sin. And we despaired, thinking, "I’m a sinner. God has walked away from me. God will punish me. He has given up on me." The Word however reveals to us that this thought cannot be true. St. Paul declares, "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) In the moment of sin, when I rebel against God and reject Him, the gospels reveal that even then God is keenly seeking after me. At such moments His heart wells with compassion and mercy towards me.

I remember a drunkard telling me, "Father I know what I do is wrong. I am doing injustice to my family, to my wife and children who depend on me. I am wasting money. I am causing a lot of problems, fear and anxiety in the family. I know this and therefore all the time I’m burning with guilt. My family is against me. My neighbours despise me. Even God is against me. At times, I feel even the earth beneath my feet resents my existence. Everybody and everything in the whole world is against me." Jesus came to clarify the truth that, even in the moment of sin, God is not separated from me. He cannot keep away from me especially in my hour of need. God is there on my side to defend me, to justify me, to forgive me and to take my sin away."Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?" (Romans 8:33-34)

There are other moments in our life when crushed by tragic failures, we feel we are of no good any more. A businessman once shared with me his great anguish, "I had made one wrong decision in my business and that cost me dearly. The memory and price of this failure haunts me all the time. I lost a lot of money. My wife blamed me. My children lost their respect for me. I felt even my God was nowhere with me." I opened out to Him the Word which reveals to us that it is especially at such moments, God who is unchanging in His goodness, is turning everything for our good(Romans 8:28). When we understand the nature of God’s love for us, then this revelation shall become real to us. There are always such difficult moments in our lives, when everybody seems to be against us and we feel abandoned. We begin to doubt the value and meaning of life itself. Even the best of our intentions are misinterpreted. At such moments we could begin to believe that God too has no purpose in our lives.

We have been living in a certain trend of thinking. When sickness or accidents happen, when people turn against us, when our children fail, there is this tendency in us to immediately interpret this as the punishment of God. I stand no chance when God is against me. It is time we clarify whether God punishes anyone. It is not a punishing God that Jesus spoke of. He came down to the earth to reveal to us the face of a God who was mercy. In my needs and troubles, it is His love that waits to fill my heart. As St. Paul points out, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?" (Romans 8:32)

"Arise, Shine; For Your Light Has Come, And The Glory Of The LORD Has Risen Upon You" (Isaiah 60:1)

It is for such situations that the celebration of Christmas breaks in to speak to us its life- giving message. At every moment, my God is there on our side. God is never against us. It is for us that He was born, as the angels declared to the shepherds - "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day… a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11) He has pitched His tent in our midst and His Presence and Glory is manifested to us. This message should heal our wounds and set us free.

Therefore, the celebration of Christmas is meant to radiate unceasing currents of joy into all the days of our lives. God is Immanuel - God is for us! In that little babe lying in the manger, this great truth dawns on us. God has come down to live with us. His glory and splendour is manifested in our lives. We have nothing to fear or be ashamed of. Even in the moments of our sin and suffering, our God is there to turn everything to our good. And in the spirit of that liberating revelation, let me wish you from the Divine Retreat Centre, a Very Happy Christmas! Let the peace and joy that Jesus came to bring us, fill our hearts and our families.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, as we stand before the manger, we open our hearts to receive You. Let Your Peace flow into us. There are many corners in our hearts that ache. There were moments we even questioned the very meaning of our existence. In our families, there has been much distress. We said many things which we should have never said. Bitter memories crowd our minds. We bring it all to You, O Jesus, as our offering. Let Your Peace and Joy enter into our hearts so that our celebration may really be meaningful. As we come to realize that You are there for us, Your Presence in our midst will heal us.

We offer our future to You - the New Year that awaits us. We do not know what our future holds for us. But one thing we know is that it is You who holds our future and You will turn everything to our good. If You are there for us, what can stand against us? At every moment in the future, Your Presence, Your Glory will always go with us. Place in our hearts this assurance that we may live by the confidence of Your Love.
Amen

 
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