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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

"Behold, I Am Doing A New Thing"(Isaiah 43:19) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

One more year has passed us by. We stand at the threshold of a New Year. A New Year is always a grace given to us. Grace indicates God's intervention. God is intervening into the life of every one of us by placing this year in our hands. And we need to accept this gift from the loving hands of God. To receive this gift however two attitudes are necessary.

"One Thing I Do, Forgetting What Lies Behind And Straining Forward To What Lies Ahead" (Philippians 3:13)

Firstly we require the attitude of letting go of the old. There are people who are adamant about holding on to the past. Many things have happened to us in the last year that caused us pain, guilt and regret. We have a store of unhappy and unholy memories. Absolutely nothing good can come out of keeping alive the past that is dead. Yet we have a tendency to cling on to this past. We end up then living our life from the premises of our past experiences. If this is so, we are incapable of living this New Year in the vision that God has for us. Therefore along with the New Year, God is offering us the grace at this blessed moment to forget the past.

This precious grace is ours for the taking. But to forget the past we too need to make a deliberate act of the will. We must decide not to recall the past precisely because God does not want us to. The Lord God assures us, "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:18-19)

"As A Father Pities His Children, So The Lord Pities Those Who Fear Him" (Psalm 103:13)

God has a reason in asking us to remember not the things of the past. Perhaps we have made a mess of our life. Failures, frustrations, sins and sufferings, hurts and offences have marked our journey. With this heavy burden we cannot move forward. Whatever might have happened, we need to leave it all to the ocean of the mercy of God. We are called to trust Him for He promises us to meet us where we are. The Lord God says, "I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins." (Isaiah 43:25) We can dare to leave our blemished past in the grand mercy of God. For He assures us not only that He will not remember our sins but that He will blot them out from our hearts.

And we do so by taking up the journey of true repentance. We need to open our hearts to our God and confess, "My Lord, I am sorry. I have made mistakes. I could not rise up to your expectations of me." Once I repent and sanctify my decision at the Sacrament of Confession, I am entrusting my whole past in the hands of God. The Scripture again gives us another marvelous promise that "in everything God works for good with those who love him." (Romans. 8:28) Everything, even the mistakes that we made, even the unbearable sufferings that we underwent, even the hurts that were unjustifiable - when we leave these in the hands of God, He moulds it all to bring a greater good into our lives. Every painful memory is transformed to become a blessing for us. This is the grace of this hour - God's mission to free us to receive the gift of His love in this New Year.

"Cast All Your Anxieties On Him, For He Cares About You" (1 Peter 5:7)

People carry a great burden of complaints. Their bitter experiences of the arrogance of the offensive words and deeds of others leave them disillusioned. People never rose up to their expectations. When people linger on with these thoughts, many linger on in time, they are consumed by the fire of anger and bitterness. They slip into self pity or languish in guilt. When we provide room for such ugly emotions and attitudes, the peace of our heart is quenched. God does not want us to dwell in the past.

And once we make the deliberate decision to forget the former things God promises us that we are sure to witness something. "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:19) There is immediacy about this promise. "Can't you see it? I am doing a new thing," the Lord asks. He continues to direct our gaze saying, "I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." There can be no way in the wilderness which is why it is a wilderness. And there cannot be rivers in the desert. And yet it is the impossible that the Lord promises for us.

"When You Pass Through The Waters I Will Be With You" (Isaiah 43:2)

God will intervene. And in this New Year, whatever we are anxious and depressed about, our God will work it out for us. Indeed "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, is what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9) The Lord is offering us the grace to place our trust in Him, to hope in His salvation. We trust God for a reason. He will be there by our side, to participate in our struggles, to fight our battles and lead us to victory and joy - "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31) He will walk with us, never leaving us alone or unwatched even for a moment. "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you." (John 14:18)

"I Am Like An Evergreen Cypress, From Me Comes Your Fruit" (Hosea 14:8)

When we claim this Promise and take up the journey of our life in the assuring Presence of God, then we can enter the New Year with a note of rejoicing. We rejoice not because we trust in our abilities or calculations. Our resources and calculations have failed us in the past. But our trust is in the unfailing love of God. And when this is so, our one determination is to do God's Will. God's gracious will is clearly outlined for us by St. Paul as he writes, "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) Here are three things asked of us. In fact, these are not three separate exercises. All these three form one attitude.

To rejoice always I need to be connected to God. To understand this we only must look at the electric bulb that gives out light and warmth even in the dark night. The bulb is able to do this only because it is connected to a power supply. Once that connection is cut, the bulb will become a part of the darkness, empty and useless and will be swept aside as trash. Perhaps that is how we felt about ourselves in the past. We could neither rejoice nor were we good news to those around us. This was so only because we were not connected to the Source of our power. We were not united with God. Hence God is inviting us to be united with Him in prayer. When I am one with my God in prayer, I will rejoice and praise God in all circumstances. I can have no complaints or anxieties. Such an attitude of trust and hope should be my apparel as I enter this New Year. Such an attitude can only be a decision. When people fail us and things go wrong with us, naturally we become sad. This is but a natural reaction - an outcome of our temperament. But faith rises above temperaments and natural attitudes.

"Blessed Is She Who Believed" (Luke 1:45)

Faith is a supernatural posture which enables us to trust in God and rejoice praising God in all circumstances. Mother Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, shows us the way of this attitude. She was anointed with the Holy Spirit. Yet, right at the beginning of her mission she was in deep trouble. She conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. This she knew and had accepted. But the whole world did not know this. Joseph had no way of knowing this. Her parents did not know this either. How was she to explain this to everyone? Why should they accept her word? Yet her impossible situation caused her no anxiety. She was not concerned about herself. She did not try to hide herself. She went to serve Elizabeth as she was led by the Holy Spirit to do so. And the gospel records for us that as she entered the house of Elizabeth, she opened her mouth only to sing the praises of God, "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour." (Luke 1:46-47) She who should have been drowning in her anxiety was rejoicing greatly. She could do so precisely because she left everything in the hands of God. Jesus assures us such fullness of joy, "I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11) St. Paul exhorts us, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) St. Paul insists that we must rejoice always and that this will be made possible when we are united with the Lord.

It is indeed a radical call that we have when we are asked to adopt the attitude of praising God. St. John in his gospel reveals this aspect in his account of a very disturbing and distressing situation in the ministry and life of Jesus. Lazarus was dead and buried four days in the tomb (Gospel of John Chapter 11). The sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary are in tears. They are shattered and both of them complain, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21, 32) The neighbours were all criticizing Jesus, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" (John. 11:37) Jesus himself was moved to tears. That was a natural expression. But then Jesus rises above the criticisms, the tears and the complaints. He rises above the natural and raises His eyes to Heaven to thank and praise the Father. "Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank thee.'" (John 11:41) When He praises and thanks God in this totally adverse situation, power goes out and the dead man is raised to life.

This New Year is a call to take on this attitude of faith and trust and hope. We shall not to be bogged down by the actions and reactions of those around us, or to the demands of our temperament. We shall raise our hearts and minds up to God. This New Year, we make a decision to take on a supernatural attitude, to trust in God, to remain connected with God and to rejoice, praising and thanking God!

Let us pray:

O Lord we come to You at the beginning of this New Year to offer You all that we have and hold. We bring to You the year that has gone by. Many things had gone wrong. And we come to You to ask Your pardon. We bring to You all our hurts and aches. We offer it all in Your mercy.

O God, it is Your faithful love that has sustained us through our journey this last year. You have always been close to us though we had often lost our way. We were not able experience Your loving touch in our busy and burdened existence.

O God, we enter this New Year and all that it holds, claiming Your promise that You would be there to do a new thing for us. We do not know what that this could be, but we know it is for our salvation and we will then celebrate Your Presence.

In the New Year, we know You will be there for us and we want to be there for You. Open our hearts to feel Your Presence, to hear Your voice and to be filled with Your love. Hold us close to Your heart and never let us be parted from You.
Amen

 
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