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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

"Power from above" (Luke 24:49) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

The Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of man's aspirations and that is the promise of God for everyone who commits his life to Him. Significantly the Lord while speaking of the Holy Spirit to the pious Jews in the Temple presented the promise that the thirst of mankind shall be quenched (John 7:37). He said "If any one thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:37-38)

While talking to the Samaritan Woman, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit as the living waters that this woman lost to her sin shall receive in order to experience salvation. The living waters of the Spirit could alone quench her thirst that led her from person to person and pleasure to pleasure - leaving her more emptied and desperate. True enough in accepting the promise, the woman experienced the anointing of the Holy Spirit and was radically changed. She left the water jar at the feet of Jesus and went about proclaiming that Jesus is the Saviour of the world! Her thirst had been quenched. Jesus had promised her that "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14) She now had indeed become a channel of the living waters.

This imagery Jesus uses of thirst is very revealing. When the water content in the cells of the body decreases, initially we would feel it in our mouth as a slight dryness. As the water content continues to decrease, the dryness is felt more acutely. At one stage there would be a craving for water – a stage that reveals that the water content in the cells of the body is has lessened so much, there is a danger of the body collapsing. This stage is what is referred to as thirst.

"As A Heart Longs For Flowing Streams" (Psalm 42:1)

Applying this imagery to the spiritual level, we can understand that there is in the three levels of the mind a thirst that is felt. Jesus offers to quench this thirst through the living waters, the Holy Spirit.

Firstly there is the layer of the intellect. The intellect is meant for us to gather the truth. All of us seek the truth about everything. And we search out and study much in order to reach the truth. The unfortunate fact, however, is that it is partial truths that alone are available to us. We are then led by these partial truths. Partial truths are partial falsities. This means that we are led by partial falsities. A feeling of desperation takes over us and our hearts are left empty.

There is something very alarming about the science. Science at one time claimed to answer everything. But with the passage of time, strangely every hypothesis that science proposed is later disposed by the later findings of the same science itself. One begins to wonder how real is the knowledge that science claims to validate. Man gives in to despair that he can never know the whole truth surrounding him. This despair is the thirst of the first layer of the human mind - the intellect to know the whole truth.

The second layer of the mind is the volition or will. The will power is meant to enable us to make decisions and to keep the decisions that we make. It is the decisions that define a person. Invariably we come to realize the sad truth that after taking all the efforts to make a decision, we just do not have it in us to keep the decisions. St. Paul confesses to this struggle in his letter to the Romans, "I do not understand my own actions…For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members." (Romans 7:15-23) There is a power of evil residing within me that compels me to do evil and does not allow me to do the good that I want to do. Once again there is a helplessness taking over me. I am not able to rise up to my decisions, my determinations and my commitments. This helplessness is the thirst at the second layer of the mind to fulfill the purpose of its existence.

The third layer of the mind is the emotional layer. All of us have an emotional life. The emotions make human life beautiful. An affection for others, a certain attachment to dear ones, a desire to be happy always and to make others happy and other such emotions are always giving a melody to our heartbeat. Yet the tragic fact is that it is our emotional life which is responsible for leading us to disaster. We want to be happy but most often our emotional demands lead us to intense sadness. We become agents of discontent and despair. We want to live in peace and tranquility. Yet we get disturbed and we go about disturbing everyone. We want to love others. We end up hating them. Our emotions go out of hand and we become angry, bitter, frightened and guilty. Our emotions that cause us to desire fullness lead us instead to feel empty and confused.

"Whoever Drinks Of The Water That I Shall Give Him Will Never Thirst" (John 4:14)

In all these three capabilities of the mind, we are led to a point of despair. We realize we are led to partial truths. We stand helpless as we find ourselves incapable of doing what we had set ourselves to. We are distressed for our emotions get out of hand and work against our very basic longings for happiness. This is really the painful dryness - the emptiness of the human existence. Here Jesus promises the Holy Spirit as the living waters to quench the thirst. The Holy Spirit flows into all the three layers of the human mind and we are anointed and made holy. Now we come to realize the significance in Christ giving three names for the Holy Spirit.

"The Truth Will Make You Free" (John 8:32)

The first name Jesus gives to the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. While preparing the disciples for his departure from the earth He presents for them the Holy Spirit as "the Spirit of truth" with the assurance that "he will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). We are not to settle for partial truths. We are given the option of receiving the whole truth. What is the whole truth in our lives? The whole truth is understood in the context of God's plan for us. Every one of us is created according to a specific plan of God. None of us is being born by chance. Everyone is sent to the world with a purpose. And whatever happens to us is the unfolding of the plan of God. Every event that takes place, every relationship that happens to our life is according to a definite plan as a flower unfolding its petals. In every moment of our life, there is an unfolding taking place of the plan of God. Therefore if we want to understand what is the meaning, the purpose, the real truth of whatever is happening to us, we need to understand it in the context of the definite plan of God for our life. If we try to understand the events of our life outside the context of God's plan it would only be a partial truth. It will never satisfy us. Moreover it will lead us to confusion and disaster.

The Gospels present for us the beautiful example in the case of St. Joseph – the man chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus. Joseph was betrothed to Mary, a beautiful girl from his own village Nazareth. Joseph was dreaming lovely dreams of a wonderful family life with Mary. That is when Mary was found to be with child. Joseph was shattered! He could not understand this unexpected turn of events. He surely questioned in his heart, "Why is this happening to me?" He wanted to understand the full truth about this fact. He went to the synagogue authority who was just as shocked by the news about Mary. Joseph said - "I know Mary is not a bad girl. And yet why is this happening to me?" The synagogue authority presented what he knew which was according to the Law of Moses. This was that Mary is to be stoned to death. Then Joseph would be free to follow his dreams with another girl. Joseph could not accept that solution. The synagogue authority was trying to interpret the phenomenon in the light of the Mosaic Law. But Joseph waited. He refused to react. His waiting had a surrender attached to it. He decided that Mary must live. This required that Joseph had to leave Nazareth. If he continued to live in Nazareth he would have had to declare that Mary is pregnant without his consent and knowledge. So Joseph decided to go to a foreign country. A painful option for in those times to live as a foreigner was a cursed existence. Painful also as it sounded the end of his dreams. Joseph however waited in that self-surrender.

This is when the revelation came – the full truth that this was according to God's plan. Mary has conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Son will be the Saviour of the world. Joseph understood the God-ordained mission would be accomplished through the uncalculated sequence of events. That was the full truth that no human intellect or law could perceive. It was the liberating truth that Joseph received. And this enabled Joseph to be a powerful link in the history of salvation. Joseph was able to know this because he waited in prayer. One thing is definite - that if Joseph had not waited in prayer, Joseph would have wrecked the salvation history. If Joseph had blindly followed the Mosaic law, he would have handed Mary over to be stoned to death and the baby in her would have been killed. We do not know then how God would have intervened. But by human calculations, we can understand that if Joseph had not waited to receive the whole truth which was received in the understanding of the plan of God he would have wrecked God's grand plan of salvation for humankind. It is also a fact that we wreck God's plan of salvation by our hurry in settling for half-truths. If I do not wait for the revelation of the whole truth, I am sure to misunderstand the events of my life. And I wreck God's plan of salvation in which I too have a crucial role.

"For I Know The Plans I Have For You" (Jeremiah 29:11)

I remember a young man who had come to the retreat very disappointed in life. He was an IT engineer. He had passed the exams in flying colours. Before that he had already got through a campus interview and had received his appointment into a company. Just as he was about to join work, for some reason, the company had to close down. He applied for other jobs. But every door was closed against him. All his classmates meanwhile were taken into other good companies and were earning well. He who came out excelled academically had still not got a job. So he applied for a job in the U.S. He got through and was very happy. But then when he went for the visa, he was denied the visa without any reason. He felt cheated. In this confused state of mind, he came for a retreat. When I prayed for him during the counseling session, I got a vision of him standing at the altar in priestly vestments with a chalice and the paten in his hands. I asked him if at any time in his childhood he wanted to become a priest. He was shocked and described how even as an altar boy he had begun to dream of becoming a priest. Later after his SSLC exams this desire did surface again. But since he was very intelligent, his parents compelled him to go into college and earn an engineering degree. Even there this desire to become a priest persisted. But he was scared to entertain this dream because now he was a professional and there was no way anyone would accept his abandoning his career for the vocation. As he prayerfully remembered the voice of God that was guiding, his heart he told me, "Father, now I know why all the doors were closing against me. God was opening a beautiful door for me." He joined the seminary and today he is very close to his ordination date.

Often young people come and tell me that they want to get married but they are not able to get the right partner. Proposals come. They go and meet the girl or boy. But somehow the decision does not happen. I always tell them, "Surrender your life to God and when you do that God will see to it that you get married only to the right person. Till such time God will prevent others from getting married to you." This is God's plan unfolding.

I remember a very successful businessman who had come to meet me. He recounted he was blessed in every way and yet there was a deep sadness within him - for the one thing he was longing for was a child. He was married 15 years and still had no child. He had grown desperate, angry and confused. He stopped going to church and hated God. I asked him to pray and seek God's will. At the end of the retreat, he came and shared with me the light he received in prayer, "It is clear to me why God did not give me a child. I was not prepared to be a father. If God had given me a child right after marriage I would have wrecked the life of this child because I was far away from God. I was an angry person. I used to come home drunk. There was no prayer in the family. And the family was far from being a divine family. I am happy God did not give me a child. But now if God gives a child I will bring up that child as God's own child." His revelation was proved right as two years later he came again to the centre and this time with a beautiful baby in his arms. We often become desperate, angry, depressed and confused because we do not wait to understand the whole truth. The whole truth will be revealed to us through the Holy Spirit.

"My Power Is Made Perfect In Weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The second title Jesus gives to the Holy Spirit is "the power from above" (Luke 24:49). The power of the Holy Spirit is most known as the gifts of the Spirit bestowed on the human person to build up the Church and the kingdom of God. But as St. Paul concludes describing these amazing powers, he places love as the supreme power – "a still more excellent way." (1 Corinthians 12:31) The following chapter is all about this supreme power of the Spirit. In fact, love is the power that the Holy Spirit showers upon us. "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." (Romans 5:5) This power is manifested in our daily life circumstances as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23) This is presented by St. Paul as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit enters a human soul, it manifests itself in all these powers. We often understand love as a sentiment. It is a sentiment and more than that. It is a power to nullify hatred and emptiness with the power of love. When we are refused love, we usually get bitter. At Calvary we see Jesus surrounded by evil powers destroying his life. But he could overpower all the evil around him with the power of love in one prayer - "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) He could overcome all the evil with love. This is the power the Holy Spirit gives us.

"As One Whom His Mother Comforts, So I Will Comfort You" (Isaiah 66:13)

Repeatedly in the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of the coming of the Comforter and Counselor (John 16:7). He assures us that the Father "will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever." (John 14:16) In the moments of our distress and despair, confusion and guilt, the Holy Spirit will comfort us and give a tranquility to enable us to feel the security of God's presence in our hearts. We refuse to be sad or angry and slip into despair. When we are shattered by reverses, we can become insecure. But if we wait in prayer, the Holy Spirit will comfort us and give us security. Thus in all the three layers – knowledge, the will and emotions - we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit comforting us that we may feel the tranquility of the Lord.

"Receive The Holy Spirit" (John 20:22)

Jesus Christ was crucified so that all of mankind might be saved. Yet we see the culmination of the Paschal Mystery is at Pentecost. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the saving work of Jesus was completed.

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. The Father is the fullness, the sum total of everything real, good and full. From His fullness the Son forms. Jesus said, "I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father." (John 16:28) The Son, after receiving everything from the Father, gives everything back to the Father. From the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father, there is this flow of love. This power of love between the Father and Son is where we recognize the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit, this really means we are enveloped in this flow of love. In Baptism, we are intimately and vitally united now to the Trinity. We are taken up into the flow of love and we are totally transformed, sanctified we become godly. So the Holy Spirit is given to make our human life divine on this earth. Our human nature is transformed and made supernatural by the interior life of the Holy Trinity.

Lord Jesus, we praise and thank you for Your most precious gift of the Holy Spirit. We are made for You and we realize that Your Holy Spirit shall fill us and unite us with You. Lord we offer to You our dark and empty hearts and our weakened will. As we wait on You, O Lord, pour out Your Spirit on us - transform us and use us as Your instruments that we may live for You, for in You is true and abundant life.
Amen

 

 
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