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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

"Raised in Glory" (1 Corinthians 15:43) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! He has conquered death and He lives forever. He lives that He may enter our dark nights and turn them to bright mornings. He lives that He may walk with us through the valley of darkness and lead us to the heights of radiant joy. This is in fact the good news of Easter and the reason for the great joy of this season! The journey of the disciples in the turbulent times after the death of their Master is central to the gospel narratives on the Resurrection of Jesus since it shows us the way to make the salvific experience of Easter our own.

"Jesus Himself Went With Them" (Luke 24:15)

One of the most descriptive and elaborate Easter experiences in the gospels is the Lucan account of the journey of two disciples - Cleophas and his companion (Luke 24:13-35). They were broken and disillusioned by the shocking and tragic event of the death of Jesus and the circumstances surrounding it. They were leaving Jerusalem and heading to a village called Emmaus at a distance of seven miles. It was perhaps the catastrophe of Calvary that had set them on this journey. All along they discussed with each other everything that had gone wrong, everyone who failed them, every calculation that was now proven false. They were traversing the dark valley of the shadow of death. This is when Jesus joined them on their journey and in their discussions. Interestingly, they did not recognize Him. What follows reveals to us how the Risen Lord lives and manifests Himself in the broken situations of our life.

Jesus after enquiring of them what had happened and listening to their detailed account, explained to them the Scriptural understanding of the events. He gave them the Heavenly perspective and assurance that God’s higher plan for our salvation had prevailed and had actually been worked out through whatever had happened - painful and tragic though it seemed. After speaking the Word of God to them, He broke the Bread for them. At this Eucharistic table, their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. The thick cloud of gloom was lifted. They rushed back to Jerusalem to tell everyone the Good News - that Jesus is risen from the dead and is alive indeed! At every Eucharistic celebration, Jesus leads us to healing and restoration through these two movements of the breaking of the Word and the breaking of the Bread.

"Come To Me, All Who Labour And Are Heavy Laden" (Matthew 11:28)

It is the Lord Himself who draws us into every Eucharistic celebration. As we enter His Holy Presence, we are able to recognize everything that has gone wrong in our life. And in His love, we are emboldened to pour out all that is unacceptable in our lives - within and around us. All that we are mad and sad and scared and feel bad about, we hand over to the Lord.

Here indeed our salvation begins - as it was for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They began to tell Jesus everything that had happened or rather had gone wrong in their lives. Their lamentations reveal that there were four specific areas where the Lord needed to intervene.

They were sad and disappointed with their hopes that were shattered when Jesus was put to death. They had left everything and followed Jesus believing that He would establish a Kingdom. They had hoped for a secure and prestigious future in that Kingdom.

They were angry and frustrated at the way Jesus was arrested, condemned and crucified. The Jewish leaders had conspired with the Roman rulers and Jesus was handed over to the most unjust and cruel death. They were very bitter for they were let down by all whom they trusted and respected.

They were guilty, for in a way, they found themselves responsible for what had happened. They did not stand by Jesus when perhaps they were most needed. In fact, one of their numbers, Judas, had betrayed the Master and their leader, Simon Peter himself, had denied Jesus. They like all the rest of the chosen disciples had run away from the side of Jesus in His most difficult moments! They were guilty and depressed that they had failed Jesus.

Now they were scared for themselves. They were on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus - a very strategic route in those days. The Roman Governor, Pilate, had kept the army in Emmaus. Whenever there was a riot in the city, the army would be called in to quench the revolt. The Roman soldiers were now on the alert in the aftermath of the Crucifixion to check any revolt. There was a very good possibility that the disciples of Jesus could be identified and accused as unjustly as Jesus was and meet the same end.

It is significant that psychologists have identified four expressions for all of human problems - loneliness and despair; bitterness, hatred and revenge; Guilt and depression; anxiety and fright. These basic complexes lead to all sorts of health problems and more serious complications. It is these negative emotions that the two disciples had shared with Jesus. In response to this, Jesus broke the Word. He spoke to their hearts revealing to them that all things were according to the perfect plan of God for the glorification of Jesus and the sanctification of the people of God. The fire for life began to burn again - in their hearts.

"He Spoke To Us On The Way And Opened The Scriptures To Us" (Luke 24:32)

We enter the Eucharistic celebration with the breaking of the Word. God speaks to us in the readings from the Scripture and the Homily. Before this, we are led to the act of Confession. Here we allow the Lord to touch everything that is wrong in our lives. Importantly in this Act of Confession, we not only acknowledge the sins in our life, we also offer to God everything that has gone wrong with us - our sickness, our sadness and hurts, our fears and frustrations. That is when Jesus will speak to us through the Scripture readings and the Homily. What is read from the Scriptures is not only about something that happened 2000 years ago or earlier. More than a historical meaning, the Word of God has an existential relevance of God speaking to us personally. I need to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to me. This is the beauty of the Bible. It is not a mere printed book. It is the Word of God "living and active"! We must realize the sanctity of the moment - the Lord God who spoke all of creation into being is now speaking to us! Whenever we open the Bible and read or when the Word of God is announced and explained to us, we must be prepared to receive the Word addressed to us.

It is important for me to listen because God is speaking to me where I am, to my life, to my sin and sickness, to my questions and troubles. As we enter the Eucharist, we need to carry the attitude of Prophet Samuel who prayed, "Speak, Lord! Your servant is listening." (1 Samuel 3:9) As we wait in faith and anticipation in the Presence of God, His Word will surely reach us personally. This is the promise of the Word of God. The Word alone can plumb the depths of our heart and bring light and comfort there. We will then experience what Cleophas and his companion did - our hearts on fire again!

"He Was Made Known To Them In The Breaking Of The Bread" (Luke 24 : 35)

From the breaking of the Word, Jesus led the disciples into the breaking of the Bread. He took the bread in His hands, blessed it and broke it and then gave it to them. The words used here are the same that Jesus had pronounced during the Last Supper instituting the Holy Eucharist - "then He took the bread , said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying 'This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.' And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.'" (Luke 22:19-20) The two disciples were fed with the Sacred Body and Blood of the Risen Lord as a re-experience of the Last Supper. It was in this Eucharist event that "their eyes were open and they recognized him" (Luke 24:31) - indeed the ultimate manifestation of the Risen Lord and the eternal significance of the Last Supper for us.

It is in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist that we encounter the Real Presence of the Risen Lord as He enters into our hearts and becomes one with us. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." (John 6:56) It is here that love is complete - God and man become one. Hence the command of the Lord at the Last Supper, "Do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19)

We take part in the Holy Eucharistic experience to do what Jesus did in memory of Him. What do we remember? We remember how our God was broken for us; how He was betrayed and condemned and crucified for us. In fact, it can be misleading to say "for us" in the plural. For this can throw up before us the image of an entire crowd and we can never experience anything personally in a multitude. Instead we need to understand the event with the expression of St. Paul who speaks of "the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) The sacrifice of Christ should be our personal experience for, then, we shall be able to experience the depth of the love Christ held for each one of us.

"He Brought Me To His Banqueting Table, And His Banner Over Me Was Love" (Songs of Solomon 2:4)

There is a beautiful hymn titled "Above All". The hymn narrates the different events of the Passion of Jesus. It recounts how Jesus was betrayed in Gethsemane by Judas, how He was rejected and stood alone, condemned at Praetorium by Pilate, how He carried the Cross through faltering steps, was crucified on Calvary and finally buried behind a stone. After narrating the different heart-rending events in the Passion and Death of Jesus, the song climaxes in a beautiful little verse that declares that at every moment "Above all, He thought of me!"

"Above all, He thought of me!" That little verse reveals to us the whole meaning of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. It is for me that my Jesus was condemned, crucified and buried. And it is me that Jesus thought of throughout that unbearable journey! When Judas blistered that kiss on His face and the sword pierced His heart, it was a great agony. But in that moment of agony, He thought of me for He knew that I would be betrayed and deceived. He knew I would be in agony and took it all upon Himself that I may receive comfort and strength in that hour of my life. When He was condemned at Praetorium and stood there like a criminal - despised and plotted against by everyone - He thought of me! He knew the best of my intentions would be misinterpreted. I would be misunderstood. In His hour of condemnation, He offered up to the Heavenly Father that I might receive vindication and salvation. Finally when He was stretched out on the Cross and nails were driven into His hands and feet, he thought of me! At the Cross, He took upon Himself the pain of all the moments of my sufferings and offered it up for my healing and restoration. This is what Jesus calls me to remember at the Eucharistic table. It is when I meditate on this is that I shall realize how much I am loved.

Lord Jesus We can never thank you enough O Lord for Your gracious limitless love for each one of us. You have invited us to Your banquet of salvation to experience Your Love and be saved. You wait there to receive us, heal us and appoint us as Your missionaries. Above all, O Jesus, we thank you for Your saving Love at Calvary that You allow us to participate in by feeding us with Your Body and Blood at the Eucharistic table. We place our hearts and our lives in Your Hands that as You transform us, we may give our lives for our brothers and sisters and thus give You all glory!
Amen

 

 
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