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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

"We are God's children" (1 John 3:2) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Whoever we may be, wherever we are or may go to, we are required to carry some proof of our identity. For any facility I am to gain access to, I need a specific identity card. As a citizen of my country I am required to hold my voter identity card which will indicate which electoral constituency I come from. Anywhere in the world, I need to hold my passport which clarifies the country I belong to. It is counted a most serious offence if I do not have such a proof of identity. The world demands to know who I am. But deeper and more demanding is the quest within our hearts to discover who we really are.

"Who Do You Say That I Am?" (Matthew 16:15)

"Who am I?" This question is central to my life, my feelings and the way of my living. I live according to who I understand myself to be and what I feel I should be. By our lifestyle and our dressing and even from the opinions of others, we try to define ourselves. The documents of identity proof that we are given to carry holds the details of where we belong. Beginning with my name that reveals the family and beliefs I come from - the identity proof goes on to give details of the names of my parents, the place I come from and the date of my birth. By this, we can conclude that my identity is formed by my belonging to the particular family, locality or city, country and by such details. When my identity is described by such details it means that all that I am and can become is confined and decided by my belongingness to certain people and place and culture and the circumstances of my birth. Does such categorization really describe all that I am?

The Word of God however, has a great revelation for us. It says to us something very different that will radically change everything of our living and perception. The Word declares that we are not merely the children of our human parents or citizens of one corner of this world. We have a higher existence and identity. "To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12,13) The Almighty God has taken up parenthood and we are spiritual entities with a Heavenly Father. Our citizenship is in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. Our natural circumstances no longer have a bearing on us. There is no earthly limitation to tie us down.

Our faith is in fact a grand celebration of the revelation of who we are. Jesus, the Son of God, came down to the world to raise us up to our heavenly citizenship. The descent of the Son of God to this earth is meant for our ascent to the Heavenly Kingdom. That is what the Word of God is revealing to us. In Jesus, the Son of God, we are made the children of God. Jesus took our human nature and became one of us to sanctify and divinize our nature, making us the children of God.

"If Any One Is In Christ, He Is A New Creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Jesus specifies that we need to be born again - not of the flesh but of the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit makes us a new creation with altogether new possibilities. To become the children of God is a great privilege that we must celebrate. This privilege should determine our way of thinking and style of living. That is why the Word of God is telling us that we are not indebted to living merely as citizens of this world. Even when we live in this world, we should know that as the children of God, we are in transit to a higher existence. Our ways of thinking, our style of living should be moulded accordingly.

We have as a model before us Jesus, the Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father. He came down to this world with a mission. His one concern always was to feel the loving Presence of the Father. The Gospels reveal to us that whether He was happy or sad, lonely or surrounded by crowds, troubled or distressed He first turned to the Father. His life was a constant turning to the Father.

The one joy of Jesus was to feel and hear and experience that He was the Son of the Heavenly Father. We find Jesus going down to River Jordan, standing in a line with sinners before John the Baptist for one purpose - to see the heavens opened. Here He heard the voice of His Father clearly declaring to Him, "You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17) On the way to Jerusalem to His crucifixion, He climbed up Mount Tabor and there He remained in prayer. Here again the Father’s voice was heard by the Son who waited for this - "You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased."(Matthew 17:5) This was the joy and comfort for His heart and the strength for His journey.

"The Joy Of The Lord Is Your Strength" (Nehemiah 8:10)

The evangelist Luke records Jesus healing a leper (Luke Chapter 5). Though Jesus strictly warned the leper not to tell anyone about this healing, the news was spread everywhere and there was great rejoicing! The crowds flocked to Him. He healed all of them. His popularity was increasing. Everyone looked at His works and heard His words with awe and astonishment. At this peak of His ministry, we are told that Jesus left the people and went to a lonely place to pray and remained in prayer the whole night. The joy of Jesus was not in the success that He achieved or that people spoke well of Him. His joy was that the Father was pleased with Him. Our success and achievements will become our joy only when those we love appreciate us and join in the celebration. For Jesus the most important and central aspect to His living was the Father’s good pleasure in Him.

We need to at this point remember that all the life of Jesus was not about success and popularity. Right after the incident of the healing of the leper, the evangelist Luke describes another healing, that of the man with the withered arm (Luke Chapter. 6). It was the Sabbath day and it was in the synagogue that this happened. The Jewish leaders took offence at the seeming violation of the Sabbath laws by Jesus’ act of healing. The evangelist describes that right after this healing, the Jewish leaders went out of the synagogue and began to plot the end of Jesus. We are told that the Herodians and Pharisees never looked eye to eye. But when they were plotting to kill Jesus, they were united. Jesus was distressed and isolated. When He gave life to a troubled man, He was condemned for breaking the Sacred Law. The misinterpretation of the Law and the hardness of their hearts grieved Jesus. How He responded is recorded clearly. He went down to the mountain to pray and He prayed the whole night. The comfort of Jesus in the moment of sadness was the love of the Father. When He was lonely, He turned again to the Father for strength and communion.

"He Who Loves Is Born Of God (1 John 4:7)

At the Last Supper Jesus was sitting with His dear and trusted disciples. All the while, His heart was burdened by the painful knowledge that all of them would abandon Him. Yet even in this dark hour He would declare in faith, "The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me" (John 16:32).

Even at this moment of his impending abandonment, even though He was aware that His most trusted disciples would deny and betray Him, His concern was for their restoration. Simon Peter was chosen to be the rock on which the Church would be built. To him was handed the keys of the kingdom. Now Jesus knew that Peter would be tempted and would fall for this temptation. But He was concerned for Peter and offered His prayers for this weak erring disciple in the hour of His own agony. To Peter who would deny Him, Jesus offers consolation and assurance: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren." (Luke 22:31-32)

When Jesus saw the trial of His companions in utter helplessness and extreme agony, He turned to the Father shedding tears of blood and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39) Finally on the Cross, He made His offering complete - "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" (Luke 23:46) He lived this way. He died this way.

Jesus, the Son of God shows us the way we must be living as children of God. We also go through the same seasons of life - success, glory, popularity, and achievements alternating with sadness, misunderstanding, loneliness and death. There are the difficult hours when even the best of our intentions are misinterpreted, when we have failed; we are lonely and helpless. Whom do we turn to? Naturally we had turned to the closest people in our life. But today we remember that every one of them in some way or the other has failed us in the past. The Lord has seen our tears and heard our cries and now He offers Himself for me to turn to. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) He is the one who loves us the most. His care covers all our needs. Even a hair that falls from our head is counted by Him (Matthew 10:30). He is busy turning everything to our good (Romans 8:28). This is our God who is indeed our loving Father! We need to experience Him as the joy and power of our lives.

"Whom Have I In Heaven But Thee?" (Psalm 73:25)

We have turned to others and have become more distressed. A story is told of a woman. One day she had an argument with her husband. She was very distressed. She felt her husband did not love her. The whole night she did not sleep. The next morning her friend who was living in the next apartment dropped by her home. With a long face and sad heart she shared her woes to her friend, "Life is so miserable. This is the kind of man I am to live with. He is heartless. You know what he said... You know what he did... after all that I have done for him..." Her friend sympathized with her and attempted to console her by sharing her woes, "I can’t imagine that he should do something like that. But I must tell you how miserable my husband is..." Both the women came to the conclusion that all the husbands are bad men. This may seem as timely consolation. But in fact such cheap comfort is the seed of darkness that brings depression to the mind and heart. A week later, this woman heard from another neighbour the comments her friend had made about their marriage and her husband. The little difficulties became the talk of the neighbourhood.

Sadly this is what happens when we trust others. If we were mindful instead that we have a caring God waiting to comfort and console us, His power and love will transform the difficulties of our life situations. We need to come to this realization that His love is more real than any other love in this world; more comforting than any concern that can ever come our way; more reassuring than any security of this earth. When I realize that my tears are collected by the Lord (Psalm 56:8) there will be a great joy that shall lift me up.

"Like A Wave Of The Sea That Is Driven And Tossed By The Wind" (James 1:6)

A young lady once came to me and said, "This is the fourth retreat I am making here. Whenever I make a retreat I feel so happy and good about everything. But when I get back home sadness takes over." When I enquired what the reason for this sadness was, she began to pour out her heart to me - "I am so worried and see no hope for myself. I am thirty years old and am not married yet. If I do not find someone now I do not think there is ever a chance of my settling down. How terrible it would be to live alone a whole lifetime!" Then she pleaded, "Please pray for me that God may bring to me a good husband." I prayed for her and I promised to continue to pray.

Two years later, this lady came again for the retreat. She was very happy. She approached me cheerfully and said, "Do you remember me, Father? I had come asking you to pray for me. God heard your prayers. Just three months later, a young man came into my life. What a wonderful man he is and I am happily married now. Thank you for your prayers, Father." After having said this, her face suddenly changed. Tears filled her eyes and she said, "There is something burdening us now. We are married two years and I have not yet conceived. If I do not get a child now I will never get a child. I am getting old. Father, please pray that God may give us a baby." I prayed for her.

Five years later, this lady came again for the retreat and approached me very joyfully and said, "Father, do you remember me? I had come to you five years ago and you had prayed for me. Three months after that retreat I conceived. I have a wonderful baby. She is an angel. She is the joy of our living. Thank you Father, we are so grateful for your prayers!" She had just finished saying this and slowly her face changed. Sadness began to cloud her face and in a changed tone she continued to speak, "But we are so worried. Our child is not getting admission in any good school. In our city it is so difficult to get into a good school. If right at the beginning she is deprived of a good education her future would be bleak. These days, you must be aware there is no security. She must be able to stand on her own feet. Father, please pray that my child may get admission in a good school." I prayed for her and I promised to continue praying for her. It has been quite a while since she came here for the retreat. But I am sure, twenty years from now she will come again to me, if I am still alive. She will be a very happy and proud mother. She will tell me, "Father, do you remember me? I had come to you because my child was not getting admission in a school and you prayed for us. How can I ever describe to you what has happened since. Three months later my child got admission into a very good school and she excelled in her studies. She is very highly educated and very happy. We are very proud of her." Then she will become sad and then between sobs she will tell me, "But we are so pained. My child is thirty years old and she is not yet married." The story will go on this way...

This is what happens to us as well. We are tossed about from sadness to sadness, from one crisis to another. This is because we are not anchored in the love of God. Hence St. Paul tells us that his earnest prayer for us is that we experience this love, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father... that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14,17-19) This must be the feeling of a fish in the sea. Wherever the fish swims, it is surrounded by life-giving water! This should be our abiding experience. We are the children of God. Wherever I am, I am protected, provided and surrounded by the Presence of God. This was the joy and confidence of the psalmist - "Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" (Psalm 139:5,7)

"He Who Is In You Is Greater Than He Who Is In The World" (1 John 4:4)

This confidence of faith is our privilege and our birthright when we realize our identity as the children of God. It also follows that our style of living should be fitting as God’s children. Jesus told us to "be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) It is clear then that in all the moments of our life, our one concern should be to resemble our Heavenly Father.

There are people who come to me in a desperate situation asking me how they can handle their parent or husband who comes home drunk every night. I tell them to respond as children of the Heavenly Father with confidence in God’s power, with forgiveness, understanding and compassion. We are not belonging to the world to bite the dust. We are citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom vested with the power of sonship. This is the message of the gospel where Jesus offers us the power to be the children of God. This is a power to be exercised in the daily situations of our life. Any fool can give in to sadness and despair. Any fool can take a pistol and shoot and destroy when he is angry. But the child of God even when he is sad, remembers there is a power in him greater than the situation. Nothing will be impossible to us because we are the children of our Heavenly Father!

"We Shall Be Like Him" (1 John 3:2)

When we are sad and abandoned, when we reach a difficult situation, when our plans fail and people hurt us, I shall need to live as a child of God and not as an orphan. We have a Father to turn to.

Every child carries the characteristics of the parent through the genes. The qualities and characteristics of the Father should be in us as well. We do expect the son of a musician to have a natural flair for music, the daughter of a poet to have a poetic bent and the son of a philosopher to be logical. If I am the son and the daughter of my Heavenly Father, the power, love and compassion of my Heavenly Father should be there in my spiritual genes. When someone dear does something hurtful to us, we get disturbed and grieved. At such moments, we should know that we have the spiritual genes in us to be strong and strong enough to forgive and encourage the other.

The psalmist tells us, "Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed." (Psalm 34:5) All we need to do is to look at our Father. Then the spiritual genes in our soul will be awakened. That is why Jesus is constantly urging us to pray without getting weary. Like Him, we need to always be looking to the Father in prayer. As I am thus united with the Father, I shall begin to respond as He would. In the helpless moments, I shall find the power of my Heavenly Father. When I am hurting and hateful, the compassion of the Father shall remind me that I cannot react like a man or a woman of the world. My impulse may be to hit back. But the light of the Father’s face shining down on me shall lead me to respond in the power of the compassion of the Heavenly Father.

 

Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us Jesus to make us Your own. Give us the grace to experience our love in every situation. In the past when we lived as orphans, we plunged into despair because we thought we had no one to turn to. Open our hearts to receive the flow of Your Love so that we may live in the confidence that You are there for us at all times.
Amen

 

 
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39th National Youth Retreat

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