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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

"They shall mount up with wings like eagles" (Isaiah 40:31) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

The eagle has fascinated many an imagination because of its extraordinary living. The eagle lives a relatively long life of 70 years. And one particular story goes that when the eagle completes around 40 years, a certain decadence sets in. The wings become heavy with thick feathers and flight becomes wearisome. The bird is not able to rise to usual heights. Its claws lose their sharpness and grip and hence even taking hold of the prey gets difficult. Its beak becomes bent and blunt. At this stage, the bird takes off to a faraway mountain and sits by itself at this lonely height. There it begins to pluck out all its feathers and finally pulls out its claws as well. Finally, it strikes its beak against the rocks and breaks the beak as well. Now shorn of all its glory, it waits. Slowly light feathers begin to grow out. The claws emerge strong and firm. A pointed and sharp beak is formed. And now when the eagle rises to fly, it soars to new and greater heights that it had never touched even in the early days of its youth.

This legend of the eagles’ renewed life has made it a favourite parable for the pattern of death and resurrection in Christian life. In fact, this salvation pattern is what makes our life Christian and boosts our hope in the dark moments of our life. St. Paul tells us that “If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” (2 Timothy 2:11-12)

“I Have Been Crucified With Christ” (Galatians 2:19)

After the historical event of the death of Jesus, every form of pain and sin in human life is in a spiritual but real way connected with the Calvary event.

I remember a beautiful experience of mine during a pilgrimage at the Holy Land. In the ruins of the palace of the Roman Governor in Jerusalem, there is a pavement on which Jesus stood after being flogged at the pillar - falsely accused by the crowds and condemned by Pilate. It occurred to me in a deep moment of prayer that in that difficult hour as Jesus was standing at Gabbatha, He had taken upon Himself all the pain that I endured at certain instances in my past when I was misunderstood and blamed by others. A few such memories flashed across my mind. At Gabbatha, He was also taking upon Himself the sin of those who hurt me by their inconsiderate attitude. Again flashing across my mind were certain sinful moments of my past when I found fault with others. On that pavement, two thousand years ago Jesus stood with His body and mind burning with pain, accepting my experience of pain and sin. I was reminded of Isaiah’s prophecy, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

When I stood there touching that holy stone, my heart was flooded with comfort and forgiveness. For me personally it was a moment when the death-resurrection pattern was being inscribed on my heart.

When we are able to relate and connect our experiences of pain and sin with the Passion and Death of Christ, the anointing of the Holy Spirit comes upon us - effecting a spiritual renewal in our lives. In the words of St, Paul, if we sow our experiences with Christ’s, He will ensure that we are raised up to glory with Him. “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

“Whether We Live Or We Die, We Are The Lord’s” (Romans 14:8)

The challenge and glory of Christian life is not to see the dark moments of our life in isolation – rather to see our whole life and every moment of it as connected to the life and death of Jesus. When we bring our crosses to the venue of Christ’s suffering, we shall be caught up in the glory Christ received. So Jesus invites the believer, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) And if we faithfully follow Jesus to even offer our deaths, the promise is sure: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:4-5)

It is the promise of this Resurrection Glory that follows the Cross which shall even give nobility to our ignoble struggles. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11) So the Scriptures invite us to ensure that no pain or sin in us remains unrelated or isolated from the Passion and Death of Christ.

The Death of Christ is accomplished to give life to our death - to bring value to our apparently meaningless sufferings; to bestow victory to our every failure. It lets every tear that fell from our eyes to mingle with the tears of Jesus that flowed from the Cross and thus become prisms through which the Light of God will shine on our lives in manifold and joyful hues of Glory.

St. Paul while regarding his daily crosses writes in this way - “We are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:36-37) After every instance of suffering and death offered to the crucified Lord, we will definitely share in the glory of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

“Looking To Jesus The Pioneer And Perfecter Of Our Faith” (Hebrews 12:2)

The gospels are filled with this life-giving hope. As soon as Lazarus of Bethany fell ill, his sister Martha sent word to Jesus, offering the sad plight of the family to Him. Immediately Jesus took that impossible situation of the family into His control and redeemed it from the destructive power that had taken over it. He declared that the illness was not unto death but was to the manifestation of the glory of God (John 11:4). By the time Jesus reached Bethany, Lazarus was already dead and buried in the tomb for four days. Martha came complaining about the delay, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21)

To this complaint Jesus responded, “If you would believe you would see the glory of God.” (John 11:40) This was the invitation for Martha to abandon into the hands of Jesus the grief and the tragedy, trusting in what He was going to do. Standing at the tomb of her brother, Jesus declared to Martha - “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” (John 11:25) She responded by affirming, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” (John 11:27) This was the faith commitment of Martha. This faith surrender ushered in the glory of new life for a dead man.

In fact, Jesus challenges every one of his followers to die to their old self and take hold of this grand offer of new life. Nicodemus was a Pharisee - a man of knowledge and sufficient experience. Yet he had come to realize that within him and the culture around him, there was a certain decadence. He sought out Jesus by night with a seeking that Jesus had recognized. Hence the Lord made it clear that the one way to stop the rotting process in our life is to be born again as a new person. We cannot settle for what must lead us to death. No matter how steeped we are in our ways of life there is just one way to life that Jesus indicates for the seeker, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God… That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:3,6)

“Those Who Belong To Christ Jesus Have Crucified The Flesh” (Galatians 5:24)

A complete break needs to be made with the darkness of the past. It may seem a frightful prospect but the one assurance is that the Hand of God will hold us firm and lead us to the sure goal of a higher and fuller existence.

One evening as I was walking in the campus of the retreat centre, a retreatant caught up with me and began making a friendly conversation. I was a little surprised because the sessions were going on and he was supposed to be inside the retreat hall. He had introduced himself as John and mentioned that he was a software engineer, doing rather well in life. He continued to say that he was still wondering why he was here at the retreat because all was going well in his life. He was respected and successful in his workplace, had a happy marriage and a lively little son.

He then asked me to bless him. As I prayed for him, I got a clear vision of a young woman crouched on one corner of the bed and crying inconsolably. I shared this with him and he laughed and said, “Oh! That must be my wife. She cries all the time and for no real reason.” I enquired again about whether all was well in his marriage. Immediately he exclaimed, “Of course Father! We are like any other family. Once in a while we have a difference. And at such times she speaks rather arrogantly. I have raised my hand against her but that was the only solution I found.” We stood quietly for awhile. Then he spoke again at length, “Actually we are not as happy as we used to be. But I guess this is how it is in every family. Some months ago we had a very serious conflict. I had come back tired from work. She spoke too much and that was the first time I slapped her. Then she walked away. I had dinner by myself and went to sleep. She slept in the next room. The next morning I was rushing to office and I realised she has not made breakfast for me. I walked out very upset. I thought to myself that if she does not want to cook for me, I too do not want to eat her food. That day at office I was very disturbed. And I guess my colleagues too noticed it. One of my colleagues asked me if something was wrong and I just told her that I had only a headache. She offered to get me a coffee but I refused. Still I was consoled. A few days later, we again had a fight at home. Somehow this time again at office, this friend of mine seemed to be so sensitive to my situation she enquired again if all was well. I again put it as a headache. She offered to take me out for a coffee. But I was too preoccupied to take that offer. A third time, we had another explosion at home and I was fed up. At work Carol, my colleague, again came by my side and we went out for a coffee. I told her about the situation at home and she was very sympathetic.” He continued to describe his situation.

Things did not get much better at home. And at work many more coffee meetings followed. I then asked John, “Now you surely look forward much more to being with Carol than with your wife and child.” He looked down for a moment and then spoke rather openly, “It is a fact that I feel I have found a friend. I begin my day wondering when I can get to meet her. I look forward to our coffee outings. We do spend some time together relaxing. But she has her commitments and I have mine and I am mindful of that. So there is nothing wrong happening in our friendship.” I then asked him again, “Surely you don’t look forward so much to going home or being with the family.” He replied, “That’s true Father. Earlier I used to look forward to holidays. Now holidays are the most frustrating periods. I feel tied up to the house. My child gets upset with me. But I don’t find much interest in playing with him anymore. All I actually look forward is to being with Carol. But Father you must know neither Carol nor I have any evil intentions.”

“For Out Of The Heart Come Evil Thoughts…That Defile A Man” (Matthew 15:19-20)

Since he had shared this much I took the freedom to tell him openly, “It is true that neither you nor Carol have any evil intentions. But there is someone else who does. What you see as a harmless friendship is breaking up your marriage and your family. In fact, an emotional divorce has already taken place since all the thrill of love is already drained out of your marriage. It is a matter of time and a few more differences - and you would be considering a legal divorce. There is already a distance between your wife and you. The evil one has already set your heart to think of a separation. You do not wish to be united with your wife and you fantasize about another. If you do not make a complete break with your way of living, satan will destroy you and your family. Submit yourself once more to God! Commit yourself once more to this marriage that has God’s blessing on it. The greatest intimacy and friendship for you must be inside your marriage.”

He looked downcast but said, “I know what you are saying is true Father. Of late, I have found myself wishing my life had been with her instead. And I know she feels similarly towards me. I have felt afraid about my feelings but I have been trying to ignore it all along. Please pray for me because it seems difficult for me to face this.”

I told him, “Surely it will be difficult for you. Impossible perhaps - but go and place your life in Jesus. It is to Him that you belong! It is to Him that you are responsible. And it is His desire to restore you and make you a new person. He will make you strong and make your marriage a heaven again.”

“Out Of Darkness Into His Marvelous Light” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

John sincerely followed the retreat that week. At the end of the week, they came as a family to meet me. Both he and his wife shared that they had the happiest days of their life here at the retreat. John’s face was shining with joy and he said, “I never imagined I could once again dream of a rebirth in our relationship. The joy I feel is so great! All I had to do was to offer my helplessness and emptiness to my Jesus. When we gave ourselves, He has molded something more beautiful out of our lives. Now I know the joy of being a husband and a father.” Truly there is beauty and joy in life when we surrender our lives and our ways to God. The testimony of this family gives a great hope in our world that fallen for the lies of the enemy.

Evil is deceptive. As it sets in to destroy, what we notice is a rather subtle and gradual destruction. We begin to make compromises and settle for more and more of less and less. The Lord has made it clear - “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) The one purpose of the Lord is to restore us to life in all its fullness. All we are required to do is to hand over our lives totally into His hands. And the Word assures us that “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We shall not be afraid of the powers of darkness as these are already defeated on the Cross. The Lord is waiting for us to partake of that victory. That is when we would be able to exclaim with St. Paul, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Divine Updates

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

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby, Sydney

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

Retreats in Divine Retreat Centre, UK

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

POWER 2019 at Divine Retreat Centre

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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