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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
"I dwell with the crushed and the dejected“ (Is 57:15)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

"TO LIVE IS CHRIST" (Philippians 1:21)- Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.

St. Paul uses a very significant word "symphitos". As the foetus in the womb is vitally linked with the mother so is a Christian united with Christ. The relationship of this baby with the mother is so deep that the baby lives because of the life of the mother. So also a Christian thrives in his loving relationship with Christ.

St. Paul charged into salvation history with an episode that would mould the future of Christian faith in a very definitive way. He was galloping full speed, towards Damascus fuelled by the fire raging in his heart to wipe out the name of Jesus from the earth. He rushed determinedly to persecute those who clung to the Way of the Nazarene.

"I Gird You, Though You Do Not Know Me" (Isaiah 45:5)

A man of power and determination, his boast had been, "If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in flesh, I have more: of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of the Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless." (Philippians 3:4-6) His pride was his Roman citizenship. His glory was his Pharisaic status. He was trained under the much revered Gamaliel and lived up to the highest Pharisaic traditions. Here was a man who was sure of himself and riding high in his righteousness. But on that road to Damascus the light of Jesus struck him and he was blinded. When he was thrown to the ground in that one instant he received the revelation that Jesus is Lord. His one pursuit from then was the Lord and His will. He cried out, "Who are you Lord?...What shall I do Lord?" (Acts 22:8,10) This encounter had wrought a complete turnabout in his life. From then on, for him, to live was Christ! His one goal ever since then was to understand the manifold implications of this great revelation of the Lordship of Jesus. He spent ten years in the deserts of Egypt to take hold of the full meaning of the truth and mission handed to him. And here, in his intense prayer, the depths of this truth were unveiled. The life vision was formed indelibly and clearly for him here - and that he writes extensively about can be summed up in this one declaration - "To live is Christ." (Philippians 1:21)

"I Press On Toward The Goal For The Prize Of The Upward Call" (Philippians 3:14)

With his first encounter with Jesus Christ, it dawned on him that life is to be built around Christ. Christ is the meaning and goal of living. Everything else that he had considered precious was lost in oblivion. He writes, "Indeed I count everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For this I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him." (Philippians 3:8-9) Indeed he had found the pearl of great price and was joyfully casting away all to make this prize his own (Matthew Chapter 13). He was thrilled by the choice that he got to belong to Jesus. He knew that this was not in any way the choice of righteousness he made but the option of love Jesus made for him. "Christ Jesus has made me His own." (Philippians 3:12)

It was his conviction that this call that had come to him had its roots in the eternal Plan of God for the salvation of humankind. "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." (Ephesians 1:4) Paul finds his identity in this personal call of love. At the beginning of every epistle he introduces himself as "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God." (Romans 1:1) The pride and joy of his life now was in belonging to Christ. His one ambition was to live for Christ and make Him known to everyone. He could settle for nothing less - "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel." (I Corinthians 9:16)

"It Is No Longer I Who Live, But Christ Who Lives In Me" (Galatians 2:20)

In his ecstatic love for his Lord Jesus, his life vision was entirely reoriented. Jesus became the answer to his problems, the 'Amen' to his hopes, the joy in his moments of sadness, the forgiveness and peace in his struggle with sin, the comfort in the moments of sufferings, the presence in the moment of death. Jesus became his eternity! Every experience was conformed to Jesus Christ. "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." (Romans 14:8)

I remember a young man confiding the strangeness of his experience of being madly in love. He shared how the whole world and how he saw and lived every moment was changed. "When I see a flower, I want to pluck it for my friend. When I see a beautiful sunset, I begin wishing she was there by my side to share my experience. Every experience is incomplete and has its relevance only with the presence of this person who has come into my life. I want to grow old with her by my side. I want to die the same moment that she does." St. Paul had made such a similar love offering of his life to Jesus. Like the spokes of the wheel that point in different directions radiate from the same point, so also for Paul the different moments and emotions all had its root and significance in Jesus.

Hence everything was transformed. As St. Paul assures us, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) Even his sufferings were not bitter memories but exhilarating expressions of his love for His Master. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians Chapter 11, he lists out his sufferings for the sake of Jesus - far greater labours, far more imprisonments, countless beatings, near death experiences, toil and hardship, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, shipwrecks… And he concludes that these are his achievements, "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness." (2 Corinthians 11: 30)

This intimate relationship of love for Jesus gives Paul great confidence about his eternity. Death no longer intimidates him. "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (I Cor. 15:55) Rather he looks at death as the glorious passage to an everlasting union with the Lord. "There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the Righteous Judge will award to me on that Day." (2 Timothy 4:7) "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) He had found the fulfillment of his life in the person of Jesus.

"Be Imitators Of Me, As I Am Of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Patterned on his own life experience, St. Paul visualizes the life of a Christian as being centred on Jesus. In baptism one becomes united with the Lord. "All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death… If we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His." (Romans 6:3-5) In this passage St. Paul uses a very significant word "symphitos". As the foetus in the womb is vitally linked with the mother so is a Christian united with Christ. The relationship of this baby with the mother is so deep that the baby lives because of the life of the mother. All the nourishment it requires is received from the mother. So also a Christian thrives in his loving relationship with Christ. Paul extends this simile to say that as the mother dies, the child also dies. By the same rule, if the mother should rise to life, the child also shall rise to life. Similarly a person who lives united with Jesus, dies and rises with Christ. This becomes the lifestyle of the disciple of Christ. "If we have died with Christ we believe we shall also live with him." (Romans 6:8) As Christ died, a Christian constantly strives to die to sin so as to rise to life in Jesus Christ.

For a believer who is united with Jesus, Jesus is the joy of his living. St. Paul specifies, "Rejoice in your union with the Lord." (Philippians 4:4) Jesus is also the peace (Ephesians 2:14). This life of loving union with the Lord is fulfilled in heavenly bliss. "We shall all be with the Lord." (I Thessalonians 4:17)

A young lawyer had come for the retreat in Divine. He was working in a renowned law firm that specialized in divorce cases. With his training and excellence, he was gaining a name in the profession and earning a lot. More and more cases were being referred to him. His record was that he was securing divorces in all the cases he took up. During the retreat, he was touched by the Word of God, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6) He was struck by the clear will of God - "I hate divorce." (Malachi 2:16) He realized that divorce is a matter that has the stamp of God's hatred. And it dawned on him that he who encouraged and obtained divorce for sacramentally married couples, shared the same Divine curse. He was deeply distressed and the option came sharp and clear in his mind as being between Jesus and this lucrative line of the profession. That is when a question came to him, "Who is Jesus for me?" All the while, as a young legal professional, his one ambition was to become successful and established in his profession. Now he was made to stand before the question of whether he could continue in this profession the way he was practicing it, against the clear word of Jesus. In his prayer, he struggled hard with this option. And the Face of Jesus came before his heart in a clear vision. He committed his life to Jesus and responded in his heart with the words of Simon Peter, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (John 21:17) He decided to accept Jesus as the Lord of his profession and the meaning of his life. The experience of St. Paul finds its echoes in every generation. When we come face to face with God and the love of God takes over us we find life in all its fullness.

"Make Love Your Aim" (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Central to the mission of St. Paul was the fostering of Christian communities. The life and growth of the believer was tended and nurtured by the community which is the Church. All of St. Paul's writings and journeys were to guide the formation of the Christian communities and bring to them the Divine perspective of what the Church was to be. Clearly the Church is not a legal structure governed by the ways of the world. St Paul presents it as the living body of Christ Himself. Jesus is the head and the believers are the members of the body of Jesus. The gifts that each have, are received from the head and are to be exercised for the good of the whole body. Obedience to the laws is not the basic orientation, but love for Jesus and for each other is the governing principle. After listing out the different gifts and charisms like of apostles and evangelists, prophets and administrators, St. Paul categorically asserts that love is above all these. Church is a community of those who belong to Jesus, living for Jesus and for each other.

Paul visualizes all human relationships as centred on Christ. It is from the Lord that each member receives his life and orientation. Each person will be different but his role is divinely ordained to be vital for the functioning of the whole. Thus St. Paul was ascertaining the divinity of each member as he is related to Christ and affirms the belongingness to Jesus and each other. This is the basis of love. In the famous Chapter 13 of the First Letter to the Corinthians, "Love" is clearly described as the self giving attitude that enables one to respect the other. Love is placed as the good to be manifested in every action, gift and service, if it is to have any value. And while placing it above every other spiritual gift and service, love is described in the concrete expressions of daily relationships. "Love is patient and kind… it is not arrogant or rude… Love bears all things, believes all things…" We cannot judge or condemn. We must be patient and pure - parameters transforming the human person to divine attitudes.

The crisis of modern life is that man is dispersed. While his personal ambitions pull him in one direction, his family commitment would suffer. While his moral principles direct him in one way, the pressures of the culture drag him in another direction. While his political affiliations compel him to take ideological postures, his religious traditions would dictate another loyalty. This conflict within and around him have torn him apart and he has lost his very sense of self and of God. At this juncture, St. Paul's spiritual tradition sheds light on our way of thinking and style of living. It is Jesus who gathers all the dimensions of life and reconciles everything in Himself. Successes and failures; joys and sorrows; life and death become part of the grand and beautiful pattern woven by the love of our God. This is the heritage that St. Paul bequeaths to us!

Lord Jesus we come to you with thanksgiving today for this marvelous gift of life. More precious for us O God is to know that in this life we are not alone. You are there with us to make life a celebration. Your life and death and resurrection has brought to us life, and life in all its fullness. Your love has transformed our life - making every moment a moment of blessing and grateful remembrance because by your presence with us you have turned all things for our good. We thank you for the Church, the community of love that you have placed us in. Here O Lord we have seen your mercy and power manifested. Here it is that you have called us to love and serve you and be channels of your loving presence.

Today as we come before you O God, we place everything in our life, our families and our work, our future and our past at your holy altar. May your purifying love remove from us every attitude and aspect of our living that does not glorify you. We live for you O Jesus for in you is life. May your glory be magnified by our life and our death. Amen.


Divine Updates

39th National Youth Retreat

Our annual National Youth Retreat will be held at the Divine Retreat Centre. Come and let the word of God refresh you. Simultaneous retreats for couples, children and Bible nursery to be held. Contact Divine Youth for more details.

Date: May 19 - 24, 2019

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2018 - December, 2018

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, 2019

POWER 2019 at Divine Retreat Centre

DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 14th International Youth Conference - POWER 2019. The very best international preachers and gospel bands will be here to lead us into worship. Be there to experience a totally different atmosphere of prayer. A Couples' Retreat and a Kids' Retreat will be held simultaneously. Don't miss it.

Date: July 21 - July 26, 2019

Divine Retreat Schedules


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.


Inner healing retreats, growth retreats, couples' retreats and youth retreats in Malayalam, are led by Fr. Joshi Kochukudiattil, 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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