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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC
"Life in all its fullness“(John. 10,10)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

"The Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

The Holy Season of Lent is a very special time of God’s intervention. The Grace of God is released to work in us and bring about supernatural transformation. At this season, the Church directs us to the great offer of love from God. We constantly hear from the pulpit the words Jesus spoke as His first proclamation. After having fasted forty days and forty nights in the desert, the Lord came down to Capernaum and began His public ministry. His message to all peoples was this - “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

"Know The Secrets Of The Kingdom Of Heaven” (Matthew 13:11)

In fact the one passion of Jesus throughout His three years of ministry was to declare the Hour of the Kingdom of God. Every miracle was to raise the eyes of people to recognize the ushering in of the Kingdom. Ever so often, we hear Jesus introducing a parable saying, “The Kingdom of God is like…” Every teaching was to give a glimpse of this Kingdom and so draw the hearts of the people to what their hearts were made for.

At one point the Lord cautions the seekers, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20,21) And at this season of Lent, the one current in the liturgy is to draw us to experience the Kingdom of God through repentance. Our response to the Grace of God begins by understanding what exactly is the relevance and significance of this proclamation. Only then will we value the special offer given to us by God and receive the graces of the season in full measure. When Jesus issued this call to repentance, the longing of His Heart was to bring into our lives the glory of the Kingdom of God.

What is this Kingdom of God? If it is at hand and in our midst, how then do we identify and enter the experience of the Kingdom? The Kingdom of God is where God is King - exercising dominion and control. And when God is in charge, He turns everything to our good.

“Do Not Be Overcome By Evil” (Romans 12:21)

One may wonder what the urgency is for God to take control. The greatest misery of human existence is our helplessness. We often find ourselves standing helpless before those very areas which are precious and crucial for us. Sad but true is the reality that so much is gone out of our control and we have to some extent given up on ourselves. We are helpless spectators passively observing everything going haywire - the desires and leanings of our heart, the powers influencing our lives, the ways of our thinking, the dealings of our business, our life in the marriage, the situation in our families. We realize we are being controlled by destructive powers and that is the despair of our hearts.

St Paul expresses this pain so articulately as he writes, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:18-19) All of us notice and we can easily identify with this pain of helplessness that St. Paul confesses. Here was a man committed to God so totally that he lived and longed to die just to be with Jesus (Philippians 1:21-23). So spiritual a person was he that even during his earthly sojourn he was taken up to experience the third heavens (2 Corinthians 12:2). And yet he opens up his heart to reveal that things were going out of his control. He confesses that evil powers had taken charge of his life, “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.” (Romans 7:20)

Sin is not a human power because man has no control over this. Once we open our lives to an evil act we have no way of rejecting or dismissing this evil. Even when we do not desire it we are obliged to submit to the passion of sin. When we consent to the satan of anger or lust or drug addiction or any other addiction, we are handing over the reins of our life to destructive forces. All these are demonic powers. They are beyond human control. When I allowed them into my heart, they enter in and I lose control. I cannot do anything about it. I am a helpless slave to these passions. No wonder Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34) That is the sad predicament St Paul speaks about of a man sold to the powers of evil. And it is in such helplessness that he cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

When he calls out in misery the Face of Jesus glows before his eyes, filling his heart with the assurance of deliverance and he exclaims, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) No matter how crippling or deeply lodged the power of sin may be in our lives, Jesus promises us, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) However wretched a sinner I may be, by the Word of Jesus I am freed indeed. The power of holiness is far greater than all the powers of evil. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

“Flee From Sin As From A Snake” (Sirach 21:2)

St. Peter exhorts us, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) We need to be watchful against the evil power trying to gain entry and taking hold of our life.

A very important and basic question we need to ponder over at this juncture of our journey is to see how we became slaves of sin in the first place. When we commit a sin, we are rebelling against God, rejecting His Love. Here is where I give entry to satan in my heart. Revealing indeed is the warning of St Paul, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27) All of us get angry. This in itself could be a matter of temperament. I flare up and say things I should not have said. I may have had no choice at that instant. But after that I have two choice: Either I can understand that I have hurt the other and have no right to do that and seek reconciliation or I can continue to hold on to that anger and justify myself. We have heard certain persons declaring proudly, “Yes, I shouted at my wife. But she deserves that.” Nobody deserves to be shouted at and in justifying our failure we are making our rebellion against God total. It is here that St. Paul says we are giving entry to satan.

When I choose to nurse that anger or lustful desire or jealousy and any such negative thought and pursue that evil path, willingly and knowingly, I am giving foothold to satan in my heart. And satan comes in with one purpose as Jesus clearly reveals: “The enemy comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10)

“Search Me, O God, And Know My Heart!” (Psalm 139:23)
This great evil onslaught begins not with our actions or our words but with the heart. We need to guard our hearts above all. Jesus clearly tells this - “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man.” (Matthew 15:19-20) He explains further, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment… You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:21-28)

When we nurse in our hearts that strand of resentment or lust, we are allowing the demon of murder and immorality to take over. And Jesus warns us that the consequences of allowing sin into our hearts are so far-reaching that He says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away… And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)

The warning is clear. Every time we consent to sin, we are giving space to satan. It is our own personal decision. Satan cannot come into our hearts unless we let him in. Satan has no power over us. He is a defeated enemy. The power satan has over us is what we consented to.

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

I remember a very grief-stricken lady crying to me about her son saying, “My son is married and having a little child. Now he is gone after another woman. That lady has done some witchcraft and black magic to attract him. He is a slave to her and listens to and cares for no one else.” I explained to her that her understanding was wrong, “The whole world could do black magic or witchcraft against your son but if your son had been determined to hold on to his marriage commitment in the power of the Holy Spirit, he would never have gone after another woman. If he is controlled by this woman, it is because he consented to that evil in the first place. Then the demon of lust possessed him and now he is not able to get free from its’ clutches.”

Even if the whole world and all the powers of evil are set against us, we are more than conquerors when we are rooted in the love of Jesus. In our commitment to Jesus no devil can come anywhere near us. On the other hand when we open our life to satan by submitting to sin, nobody needs to do any witchcraft or send any black magic or spell against us. We are already under the stranglehold of satan by our choice. This consent is the deciding factor. Therefore every decision is crucial to securing salvation for us and our families.

A young man struggling with alcoholism went to a certain place for a retreat. There he was told about the ancestral curse and the counselor confirmed with him that he had become a drunkard because there is the curse that has come through the ancestors. He immediately agreed to that since his father and grandfather were alcoholics. He came to the easy conclusion that since he was not responsible he was helpless. He told me “How can I fight against the curses coming down from my ancestors? Let me drink and die. That is my fate.”

A few months ago a couple of write-ups in a popular magazine spoke of research that points to the role of genes in controlling the addictive and negative behavior patterns in individuals. “If I am good man it is my genes. If I am bad it’s my genes. I am a slave sold to my genes.”

All these are desperate thoughts which Pope John XXIII referred to as the worthless sayings of the prophets of doom who are going about speaking of curses with scientific pretenses. If such prophets of doom put on a spiritual garb, we must still reject them. They do not know Christ or His Good News that “We are no longer debtors to the flesh.” (Romans 8:12) We have the great offer given to us. All that is needed is to repent – to turn back to gaze on the victory Christ has secured for us on the Cross.

“Now Is The Acceptable Time” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

There is something significant about this proclamation of Jesus given at Capernaum which was in the region of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. Of the 12 tribes of Israelites, Zebulun and Naphtali were the devastated, cursed tribes. In 732 BC, the Assyrians came and devastated these 2 tribes. In the territory of Capernaum and wherever they had spread, their name was understood to be a synonym for the curse of God. It was generally spoken of that the people of Zebulun and Naphtali had turned away from God and they merited the curse and so were devastated. It is to this region that the Lord and Saviour Jesus comes and declares the offer, “Turn to me… Repent… the kingdom of God is at hand.” (cf Matthew 4:13-17) Even the cursed will be blessed. Even in Capernaum, the Kingdom of God will come. So the prophet spoke “The land of Zebulun and Naphtali… the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:15-16)

The failures of our past could have led us to imagine that we are lost and cursed and we may have given up on ourselves. There may be many curses that we have earned or inherited. Whatever may be our life situation, we are asked to forget the past and look to this season of grace. It is the time to turn to God for He is waiting to take over our lives and turn everything to our good. Nothing can withstand that great power of goodness coming in. This is an offer we cannot afford to ignore or miss out. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, ‘Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree’.” (Galatians 3:13) When we look at the Cross of Christ, we must know that we are redeemed and living the life He gave on the Cross. It is His life and not ours - so we need to live in holiness, declaring always the Glory of God!

“For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free” (Galatians 5:1)

A young man came to meet me towards the end of the retreat and said to me, “Father, much that you speak does not make any sense to me.” Sensing that he was quite tensed I joked with him, “Thank you for telling me that. At least you dared to be sincere. You are not far away from the truth - from the Kingdom of God. You are a sincere man. But tell me what is it that did not make sense to you?” He said, “I'm a homosexual by birth, by choice. This is my sexual orientation. How can you condemn me?”

I reassured him “My brother, I am no one to condemn you and God loves you a lot. I understand that you are a homosexual by choice and sexual orientation but do not tell me you are a homosexual by birth. No one is born a homosexual. That is a lie - a terrible lie spread with the multimillion dollars of the super powers that one or the other is born a homosexual. The Bible tells clearly that God made the human person as male and female. Every woman is created oriented towards a man. In every male, there is a sexual orientation towards the female. This orientation is deposited in every male and female for the purpose of the manifestation of love, total commitment to the other and for the purpose of sharing in the fatherhood and motherhood of God, to beget children and establish families. This is how every human person is created. The Bible says this and this is the Word of God. And Jesus confirms this saying, “Father, thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) If the Bible is the truth, what you have convinced yourself about is not truth. My heart goes out for you, my brother. You are a victim of that terrible lie perpetuated by certain vested interests.” I offered to pray for him. He was too shocked to protest.

“He Has Sent Me To Heal The Brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1)

I prayed over him. While praying for him I got a message in the form of a vision. I could clearly see a little child sitting on one side of a bed crying inconsolably. I gently told him, “My brother, while I was praying for you, I received a message which I believe is from God. It was in the form of a vision. I could see a little child sitting on the bed at night and shedding tears.” He looked at me very intently for awhile and then said, “Father that child must be me.” After a pause he continued, “That was how I spent my childhood - in tears, in anger, in misery.” He explained that his mother divorced his father when he was just a two-year old and she married a very rich man. That was the beginning of a hellish phase for this little boy. He recalled how often at night this man would come to his room and abuse him sexually. He was terrified and wounded and felt so helpless. Finally he mustered all his courage and told his mother. He was shocked to realize that his mother already knew it. He felt more miserable when he heard her response. She told him, “My son, I cannot help you. I myself am helpless. Your father happens to be a very cruel man. But I cannot afford to displease him. If I say or do anything against him, he will kill you and me or he will abandon us. We will lose this mansion we are living in. We will have nowhere to go. No one will accept us. We have to accept this life.”

The young man continued to pour out his pain, “I detested my mother and my step-father. I became so terribly wounded. I spent my days and nights in fear and contempt and shame and guilt. We were living under the same roof. And as I grew up, I saw him using other boys. It is intense hatred that I have flowing within me. How can I get back my life? I am destroyed.” He stood silent. I bowed down and held his feet and spoke to him, “My brother, I ask your pardon. We, the elder generation have ruined you. That is what your mother and your stepfather did to you. But for them and every person who abused you, I ask your pardon.” He broke down in tears. After he was more composed, I spoke to him again offering him the real hope before him, “God has sent me to tell you that you are not to give up! You have been deformed. Your sexuality - the great gift God has given you is distorted. But now God’s Holy Spirit is moving in to recreate you as a male. This is God’s plan for you - that you may have a family and witness the Glory of God in your life.” I prayed for him.

At one time he spoke up, “I strongly feel like giving up. I am ravaged by too many temptations and memories from my past, shame and contempt, anger, hatred and revenge.” I told him “Do not give up. Do not compromise with sin. Sin will never satisfy you. Turn to the Lord. He assures that if you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you. And when He is near to you, He will be your strength. You will hear His voice guiding your heart, His gentle touch lifting you when you feel faint.” He made his confession. He stayed on at the retreat centre, participating in the prayers. After a month he returned to the States. Six years have passed and today he is happily married with two children in the United States.

“Be Strong, Fear Not! Your God Will Come And Save You” (Isaiah 35:4)

What is needed is never to compromise with sin. We must never give up on ourselves or give in to despair. God is on our side, He is the Good Shepherd. He carries us on His shoulders, holding us close to His heart. He comes to set us free. His Word is there for us - “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep… I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice.” (Ezekial 34:15-16)

When He comes in, it is as light coming in to darkness. The darkness is dispelled. We may have imagined that we are too weak to fight. We may be tired of the battle. But today the Word declares this battle belongs to the Lord! When we turn to the Lord, He will take over and win the victory for us. The key to taking hold of victory is to repent. In this Season of Lent, the grace of repentance is given to us even as the arms of God are stretched out to liberate and bless us.

However deep-rooted the power of sin may be in our mind and life patterns, the Lord’s heart is determined and His purpose of salvation for us unchanging; His hands are stretched out to offer us the Kingdom of God. He never gave up on us! So we shall never give in to despair. Rather in hope, let us turn to the Lord in repentance and wait for the Kingdom to come. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

We need to reach for this grace and we shall find our hearts filled. Jesus assures us that when we seek this Kingdom of God, “everything shall be added unto us.” (Matthew 6:33) We shall lack nothing. St. Paul explains to us that the Kingdom of God is “the righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) When I trust in the goodness of my God and turn my whole life over to Him unreservedly, the kingdom of God is ushered in and the celebration of the Holy Spirit shall reign in my life.

“In Your Hearts Reverence Christ As Lord” (1 Peter 3:15)

There is a beautiful incident recorded in the life of Watchman Nee, a great Chinese missionary who lived in the previous century. Watchman Nee was travelling in a little train in rural China. It was late in the evening and the missionary was sitting in one corner of the compartment praying. Three boisterous youngsters got in at one station. The train was moving slowly and they were bored. As one of them was carrying a pack of cards, they decided to play a game. But the only game they were interested in playing required four players and they were just three of them.

They looked around and saw Watchman Nee sitting at the other end. They approached him and asked him to play the game with them: “Sir, aren’t you bored sitting by yourself? We have a lot of time on our hands. So won’t you join us in a game of cards?” Watchman Nee immediately responded to them, “O young men, I would have loved to join you and play the game. But you know I cannot do that. I have no hands to play cards.”

The young men were confused. With their own eyes they could see that Nee had two hands. He in fact had raised his two hands to tell them he had no hands to play the card game. They pointed this out to him rather aggressively, “You have two hands and you are able to move them very well. What do you mean Mister?” Unfazed, Watchman Nee replied, “Ah, these hands! These are not mine. I have no right to use them as I desire now. Years ago these hands I had surrendered to my God and it belongs to Him. Much before that, He had offered His Hands for nails to be driven into that I and you and the whole world may be saved.”

They were dumbstruck and he continued to speak to them about the Love of Jesus that was expressed by the salvific sacrifice of the Cross and about his own life offering to Jesus. Watchman Nee told them, “My life is very meaningful and every moment of it is precious since it now belongs to my God.” The whole night, Watchman Nee talked with them. By morning, each one of them committed their life to Jesus Christ!

“If We Live, We Live For The Lord” (Romans 14:8)

Sometimes we may enquire of a person “Where are you heading?” or “Why do you stand here?” It is not unusual that the reply we get often is “I am simply standing. I am just going.” A man or woman committed to Jesus Christ cannot “just” be standing or going around aimlessly. We cannot simply be “seeing” or “thinking” as we like. Everything we do must have a purpose. We cannot afford to, rather we are not allowed to, go through life as we feel like. We are people bought with a great price - the price of the Blood of Jesus and everything given to us is given for a purpose. Scripture tells us clearly - “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) St. Paul reminds us again - “I urge you to live a life worthy of your calling.” (Ephesians 4:1)

In this covenant relationship that Jesus invites us to, every cell of our body and every second of our time, the deepest motives and the simplest occupations are meant to be given for the Glory of God. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) This Season of Lent, we are given a grand offer of the Kingdom of God. Much has gone out of our control because we have been unmindful of the more minute choices of daily life. We get angry, we allow our eyes to settle on what is impure, we dress carelessly, we say and do things in order to please others. All the time we have strayed from God. This is the moment our Father God is inviting us back. We surrender our life, our body, our mind, our thoughts, our fantasies and all that is in us to God. And God is waiting to take charge to usher in the kingdom of God!

Let Us Pray

My loving God and Father, I come to You with all my heart. I bring You, O God, the offering of my life – my broken dreams, my tainted soul, my sinful heart, my burdened mind, my sick body. Lord, I pray You will receive me into Your own heart and heal me in Your consoling love.

Place Your Hand on me, O Jesus, and make me Your own. Let me be Your servant and give me the grace to always do Your Will. I place every talent, all my strength and every moment of my life at Your disposal. Be my King and do with me what You will! Lord, I thank you that You accept me and cleanse me. In Your unchanging Love is my hope and strength.

Holy Spirit Lord, come as a fire and melt me! Mould me in the Power of Your Love. Flow into me as a healing river and flood me with the Grace of God that every thought, word and deed and all my life will be a pleasing sacrifice.

Praise you Lord! Alleluia!


 
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Divine Australia invites you to healing Masses and retreats to be held across various venues in New South Wales, Sydney. To be led by Fr Augustine Vallooran VC. For details, email Fr Roni George, Director, Divine Australia - drcsydney@gmail.com.

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