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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

"Become fishers of men" (Mark 1:17) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

As we enter the New Year the Lord is directing us to the way He has prepared for us. He calls out to each of us, "Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men" (Mark 1:17). This New Year is a gift given by God to fulfill this mission. Many people have been brought along our way in the past year. Some blessed us and we are thankful for them. But there were those who we have lost in the past year because of the hurts and bitterness we received from them. Our faith reveals to us that every person has been brought our way that we may be a blessing to them. Every person was given to us for us to fulfill a mission. This New Year we need to ensure that "not one is lost" by us.

"If Any One Strikes You On The Right Cheek" (Matthew 5:39)

Simple everyday natural events rarely are remembered and recorded. However when an apple fell on the head of Sir Isaac Newton, history was made! The scientist discovered the great law that determines this material world - the law of gravitation. He went on further to formulate the principle that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This law determined every movement in the universe. The same irrational law is dictating terms to the world of animals. If you go to a dog and feed it, the dog will come and lick your toe. Even the brute will return a sign of affection. If however, the animal feels you are about to attack it, it will come in full force charging at you. That is the power of instinct developed in them for self preservation.

The material world is governed by the irrational law of action and reaction. The animal world also exhibits the same law of instinctual power - loving those who love, hating those who hate. When we look at human beings, the rational superior creation, it is quite unfortunate that we too are ruled by instincts and the same primitive brutish law of action and reaction. We are in all our relationships in the 'retaliation mode'! When someone does good to me I smile at him or her and I even find an opportunity to return the good. But if this person hurts me, then my 'real colours' are flashed. I will put on the aggressive attitude and find an opportunity to suitably hit back at the person.

What God however desired and planned for us is different. In the gospels, Jesus reveals that we have a call to be different. "But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Luke 6:27-28). We shall not be slaves under the tyranny of the irrational and primitive law of action and reaction that rules the material world. We shall not be as other creatures, as the brutish world is. How different shall we be then? Jesus places the model for our behaviour - "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:35-36)

"See What Love The Father Has Given Us" (1 John 3:1)

To begin understanding the depths of the mercy of the Heavenly Father, we need to go through again the pages of the scriptures. Jesus explains that "God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) The Heavenly Father sent His only Son to the world to save us that we may not be lost. St. Paul beautifully clarifies the value of this act, "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) While we were enemies of God, we rebelled against Him, rejected him and were languishing under the curse of sin. At this time, He looked on us with compassion and sent his only Son to die that we may live forever.

The Heavenly Father took such a step of extreme love in the face of extreme rejection because in His heart rages a fire. That fire in the heart of God that caused Him to call us into being, compels Him to love us, to care for us and save us. It is with that fire that God the Father sent the Son to the world into our midst. "Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said... 'Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God'" (Hebrews 10:5-7) The will of the Father for Jesus was clear "that none of them may be lost." (John 17:12) And we see right through his life to the very last breath, all the encounters he had with the least and the greatest, the healings even if it were to create scandal, were all directed by his one motivation: "Not one shall be lost. Everyone whom the Father has given me, I will save him. It's the compulsion in my heart that no one shall be lost. This is my food and my glory – the will of my Father who sent me that not one will be lost." This was the fire in His heart, the only mission before Him - to save everyone, to ensure at all costs that not one shall be lost. And so He would speak of the Good Shepherd who would leave all the other ninety-nine sheep and risk all else he had to rescue the strayed sheep lost in the wilderness.

"The Son Of Man Came To Seek And To Save The Lost" (Luke 19:10)

Jesus to the end was meticulous that no one shall be lost. Whether it was the one who betrayed Him or the one who denied him or the one who condemned Him, even those who flogged and broke Him on the Cross – He went all the way to ensure none of these were lost. So even when Judas betrayed Him that fire of love within Jesus prompted Him to respond in a welcoming love as He addressed Judas, "My friend." That was the last chance He could get to save him, to invite him into His love. Of course Judas did not respond to this. Still the fire could not get quenched or even lessened.

Simon Peter denied Jesus thrice, vehemently swearing at that. That is when Jesus felt the fire warming up His heart with love. Jesus looked at him with love and that look opened up the floodgates of repentance in the heart of Simon Peter. He went and wept bitterly. He was saved.

Pilate condemned Him but Jesus would not condemn him for that most unjust sentence ever pronounced in the world. Instead Jesus would reach out to save him and offered consolation that he was not that guilty - "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin." (John 19:11) The hard hearted politician was shaken up and he would try to advocate the cause of Jesus as he declared to the violent crowds, "Ecce homo! Behold the man!" (John 19:5)

"He Shall See The Fruit Of The Travail Of His Soul And Be Satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11)

The gaze of compassion would shift even to the centurion who oversaw the atrocities done to Jesus right up to His death, who led the procession to Calvary, who commanded the soldiers to flog Him though He was broken, bruised and burning with pain, who directed the soldiers to strip Him and drive the nails into His hands and His feet. Jesus looked up to heaven and cried for him, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) That prayer emerging from great brokenness and pain but directed to the need of another, transformed the heart of the centurion who would now look up to Jesus and declare, "Truly this man was the Son of God.!" (Mark 15:39) This centurion has crucified many criminals and all of them died, spitting, cursing, kicking back and filling the atmosphere with the stink of hatred. Jesus was different. In His hour of agony, He spread the aroma of love and hope to all who were standing in the shadow of evil. He surely had to be the Son of God!

The gospel tells us of two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus. They were ridiculing and challenging Jesus, "If you were the son of God save yourself and save us too." Yet the look of love from Jesus surely had transformed one of them for we find him turning to Jesus with a prayer, "Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Luke. 23:42) He would be accompanied by Jesus Himself to Paradise.

When the thief challenged Jesus, He did not challenge him back. When Pilate condemned, Jesus did not condemn him. When Peter abandoned Jesus, Jesus did not abandon him. When he was beaten and bruised, he did not hit back. There was a fire in his heart, "No one, no one whom my Father has given me shall be lost. Even he one who breaks me, and him who condemns me, I shall save. I have the fire placed in My heart; in My hand is the mission, the responsibility to save." And He saved them all.

It is this Messiah who calls us to be fishers of men. This mission has been handed to us. St. Mathew places the command of Jesus to forgive just after the great mission - "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14) We shall be the light of the world by getting reconciled to those around us. Through our commitment to reconciliation, we shall be fishers of men and women.

"I Bear On My Body The Marks Of Jesus" (Galatians 6:17)

We have a brilliant witness in our own century. During a General Audience, Pope John Paul II of blessed memory had been shot in the Vatican Square itself. No world leader who was shot at such point blank range had ever escaped. It was the Lord God who saved him. It was a well calculated murder attempt. The Pope knew the evil powers of the world were against him. But he did not hit back at the darkness. Two days after the surgery, he spoke to the Vatican Radio and this was also relayed by all the channels in Italy. I was in Rome then to see that. John Paul II was lying on his bed, unable to move even his hand because of the many bottles hanging all over and many tubes fitted into his body. He could only speak with effort and he spoke a blessing, "I pray for my brother who wanted to kill me. I pray that God may save him." There was a fire in the heart of this man of God to rescue the killer from the clutches from the powers of darkness.

When he recovered, he expressed his desire to the Italian Government to meet Mehmet Ali Agca, the hardcore terrorist in his cell. Today we know the government warned John Paul II against it for this terrorist was still angry, arrogant and unrepentant. There was no gun in his hand but there was a gun in his heart. But the Pope insisted saying, "I will go to that cell. I want to tell him that I love him and that I pray for him." Pope John Paul II went and sat in that cell together with Ali Agca and gave his hand in reconciliation to him and told him, "My brother, you are my brother. I love you." The powers of this world could hang this man and destroy him. The bombs of this world could burn him to ashes and retaliate for that act of cruelty. But it was only this holy Pope who could reach out to change his heart and save him.

This was not a stage managed show. Today we know this - that the Pope suffered all his lifetime because of that cruel act. A considerable segment of his intestines were removed. Till the end of his life, John Paul had a serious digestion complication. His impressive gait had become bent. It must have been quite a painful inconvenience for a world leader and public figure like him having a problem with his stomach when he had to appear in public for hours. Yet he was a disciple of the Master. Every year on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the day he was shot, he would invite the family of Agca to dine with him to emphasize his commitment to love them and to live the call of his Lord.

He went all the way to Fatima with that bullet that had shattered him from within and he encrusted that dark rough bullet on the crown of Our Lady of Fatima. The bullet is there today glowing much more brilliantly than the diamond on the crown of Mother Mary. He went to Poland carrying the sash stained with his blood and torn by the bullet and he expressed his desire to hang it on the side of the altar, near that famous picture of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. When I saw that sash hanging there I realized this was to make us understand how the Lord would treasure our offerings of forgiveness.

"A Fragrant Offering, A Sacrifice Acceptable And Pleasing To God"(Philippians 4:18)

Today we need to come to Mother Mary and we want to entrust the many bullets that tore us apart, that were intended to destroy us. There are words and deeds that hurt us deeply which we want to encrust on the crown of Mother Mary. Our hearts are wounded, bruised and bleeding even today. We want to take all these blood stained experiences and hang it by the altar close to the Mother who stood beneath the Cross. One can wonder who was more grievously wounded. The Son or His mother who had to helplessly watch her precious Son bruised, bleeding, abandoned, despised, condemned and dying. As the sword pierced her own heart she did not curse or condemn anyone.

This is the choice before us. We also have dark bullets weighing down our hearts. We have bruised and blood stained experiences casting shadows in our soul. What shall we do with these? Do we leave them to rot and remain as dark, bruised stains in our hearts? We will then be hating and waiting to hit back. The choice is ours.

As God said to Moses, "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19), He places before us the choice: 'I place before you love and hatred, light and darkness. Make the choice for life'. This choice we shall make today whatever be the price we have to pay. We have lost our good name, our chance for the future of our dreams, our ministry, our money, our dear ones... It is true that much has been lost. Maybe I am bruised for a lifetime as Pope John Paul II was. If we hold on to those bullets that burden our hearts down we are choosing death for ourselves and destruction for the world today.

The Lord however has entrusted you and me with a mission to this world today to be the light shining in the darkness. Our Christianity is in vain otherwise. Every one of us in our life situations is a prophet and missionary sent to the world. A husband is a missionary sent to the wife. The wife is a missionary sent to the husband. To everyone in my family and community, in my workplace and wherever I go, I am sent forth with this mission of salvation. Our mission is to save... that not one should be lost. The one who hurts me is the one I am sent to save.

"Perfect Love Casts Out Fear" (1 John 4:18)

Today with all its advancement in defence, the world has become more insecure a place than ever before. The world today is in the grip of fear. A couple of years ago when I went to America, at the airport, there was a rigorous security check. As we entered after the check-in, everything was again checked with most modern techniques. And just before entering the flight, there was a tighter security check. I had my Roman collar and the security man asked me to remove my shoes. I removed my shoes. He asked me to remove my belt. I removed my belt. He asked me to remove my watch. I removed my watch. He asked me to remove my spectacles. I removed my spectacles. He checked me thoroughly. I was amused. I was in fact impressed that the superpower America was frightened of a poor Catholic priest from India. I could shake up the security system of this great country. I could not help smiling at the officer. After checking me, he apologized, "Father, I am very sorry. I am helpless, this is my job and I have to do it." This is where the world is – sorry and helpless. The world is standing helpless before us, the servants of Jesus Christ. They have to make bombs and missiles. The superpowers being governed by this primitive law of retaliation is paying a huge price. You and I, as servants of Jesus Christ, we have the answer. The world is realizing it.

In the 1960s, the world had suddenly come face to face with the possibility of the worst disaster that could happen. Khrushchev, the then Prime Minister of Russia sent a ship to Cuba, the country neighbouring to USA. This ship was packed with highly destructive missiles. Kennedy, the then President of the United States of America, got information of this, sensed the crisis and challenged Khrushchev to get the ship back to Kremlin in twenty four hours time. If it did not happen he threatened to declare war - the Third World War. Atom bombs shall bombard Russia. Twenty four hours to the greatest catastrophe and the world waited trembling. Everyone looked on helpless. A philosopher and humanist from London, Betrand Russell stepped forward and kept the line open to Khrushchev and Kennedy, bargaining with them for peace. At the last moment, Khrushchev relented. The ship turned back to Kremlin. A great sigh of relief went up all over the world. Bertrand Russell had declared that the only hope for the world today is the forgiving love of Jesus Christ.

I am a philosopher myself. I have read all the writings of Russell. In fact one of his authorships is titled - "Why I'm not a Christian". This man who declared that he did not believe in anything went on to say, "I am ashamed to say that the only salvation for the world today is 1) a world Government which is impossible, 2) that everyone accepts the teaching of the forgiving love of Jesus Christ." An agnostic world is turning to Jesus to save the world. Where are we turned to? Are there missiles in our hearts? Unfortunately we, the prophets to the world today, are not particularly known for our love. Petty rivalries, running after vain glories, trampling on others to achieve one's goal, destroying ruthlessly another's reputation to fulfill our agenda - is not this that dominates our days, our thoughts and our relationships - both personal and professional?

"Sown In Dishonor... Raised In Glory" (1 Corinthians 15:43)

Mahatma Gandhi was pushed out of the train in South Africa. He fell down, breaking his head. Lying down there, he looked at that white South African and called out to him in love. The train passed by. Maybe the man never heard it. But some years ago the whole world heard it when the former Prime Minister of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, conferred the highest honour of the South African Government to Mahatma Gandhi. On the 100th anniversary of this event, Nelson Mandela said the highest honour of the country to Mahatma Gandhi and said, "South Africa repents".

After this incident, Mahatma Gandhi had written in Harijan, the newsletter, "On Mount Calvary, Pilate thought he was the victor. He managed to condemn the most innocent. On Mount Calvary, the centurion thought that he was the victor. He tried to eliminate the Son of God but later they realized that Jesus was the victor. Lying there near the train bruised and bleeding, I realized the love in me had defeated the hatred in that white South African." This humiliating incident became a glorious moment in history. Was it historic that the stronger pushed the weaker out? Impossible, for that happens all the time. What made that moment historic was the smile of Gandhiji and his whisper of love. We are called to make history today, by saving the world. It's for you and for me to decide how we are going to go about this. In our families, our communities, our workplaces, our parishes, we need to make history today. We can do so by forgiving. Retaliation and ill feelings, there is nothing new about these. This has been the bad news from the earliest of time.

We shall be different. We shall make history today. We shall change the course of destruction the world has set itself to. We shall love, bless, do good and pray for those who have persecuted us. We shall adorn the altar of God with the worthy sacrifices of our experiences of brokenness. This is the challenge offered to us to make this New Year a new epoch of salvation in our lives and in the world.

Heavenly Father, Your Love is a fire that we long to be consumed by. It is this fire that we see manifested in the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was torn open by violence but spread the Light of Love on this dark and thirsty earth. We realise as we stand before the depths of Your goodness that it is love alone that has meaning and salvation for every human person.

With Jesus, we commit ourselves that we shall not lose anyone You have given us. We shall pass on the Fire of Your Love to everyone who comes along our way - even to those who have hurt us. Lord we pray, anoint us with the Fire of Your Holy Spirit that it will be from the Power of Your Love that we shall live and move and have our being. May your kingdom come!


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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

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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

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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, 2019

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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

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