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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

"You are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

The mission of Jesus on earth was completed with the grand commission that He issued to His chosen disciples. Before ascending to His Heavenly Father, He gave His final command to the disciples gathered about Him - "You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8) They were to remain on the earth to continue the work of their Master and Lord, to live His mission and to establish His Presence. The lamp Jesus lit was to be stirred and kept shining, held aloft and taken to every corner of the earth.

“Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10)

As Jesus visualised it, the raison d'être, that is the one reason for existence, for a disciple, is to bear witness to the Lord. Wherever he is, be it in Jerusalem, Judaea or Samaria or any part of the world, his life is to be moulded by this mission - to bring the Father's love to everyone everywhere.

In fact, this was the one goal of the life of Jesus. Scriptures record that “When he came into the world, he said: “Behold I come to do your will." (Hebrews 10:5-7) And He left the world by offering His life in the hands of the heavenly Father, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46) To the disciples He revealed this was the fulfillment of His being - "My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to finish His work." (John 4:34) What was ever before His eyes as His one concern was the will of His Father and Jesus explained this in very clear and accurate terms, saying, “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but to do the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the One who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what He gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.” (John 6:38-39)

No one shall be lost. This was the one fire in the heart of the Lord which finds expression in all His parables, teaching and works, in all His life and in His death too. Jesus spoke of the Good Shepherd who will leave the ninety-nine other sheep in the desert to go and rescue the one lost sheep, no matter what it might cost him (Luke 15:1-7). The life of the one soul was so great that He would even say how the “Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11)

In everyone who came to Jesus, He recognised the son or daughter of the Heavenly Father. They were drawn by the Heavenly Father to Him that He may lead them back to where they belonged – to the Heart of the Father (John 6:37) The evangelist John describes in detail the meeting of Jesus with the Samaritan woman (Gospel of John, chapter 4). She came to draw water and begins to debate with Jesus. She talks about her own Samaritan religious identity as against the Jewish claims. But Jesus was not interested to debate and win or impress. His concern was to win her over to the Father and to impress on her, her identity as a child of the Heavenly Father. Ultimately she left her water jar, the symbol of her sinful life, at the feet of Jesus, and went to the city to proclaim that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. Whether it was Nicodemus, the Pharisee or Zacchaeus, the tax collector, or even those who sought to destroy Him, the one concern of the Lord was to offer them the salvation of the Heavenly Father’s Love.

Finally Jesus could claim before the Heavenly Father that no one whom the Father had entrusted to Him was lost. “When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost” (John 17:12) Every moment, every word and every step of Jesus was geared by the mission He received from His Father. This mission had to continue. It is for this purpose that Jesus appoints the disciples to go and bear witness to the Father's love.

“As you sent me into the world, so I sent them” (John 17:18)

It was this mission that Jesus entrusted to the disciples before ascending to the Heavenly Father. When the disciples heard it, they would have wondered how they would be able to fulfill this mission. They were only too aware of their own inadequacies and limitations. Simon Peter, the leader of this group, was painfully aware of his denials. All the other disciples remembered how they failed their Master right from the time of His arrest at the Garden of Gethsemane. All of them left Him and ran for their life, at an hour when their Master needed them the most! They did not have the courage to stand up for Jesus or the love to share His pain.

Jesus knew the human impossibility of this mission that He was entrusting the disciples with. Therefore, He instructed them not to depend on their own strengths or weaknesses but to look to the Power from above. “Behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) Again He explained, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." (Acts 1:8) Together with Mother Mary, they waited in prayer. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and these disciples were transformed to live radical lives of commitment to the Father’s will - declaring His Glory to the ends of the earth!

“The Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth” (John 16:13)

With the anointing of the Holy Spirit, two convictions were written into their hearts which would mould all their proclamations and govern their very existence.

First, they were given the clear revelation and understanding of who Jesus was. For three years, they were with Jesus enjoying a great familiarity with their master. They knew that He was the Lord and saviour. Simon Peter had even acknowledged this - "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16) And personally he had pledged his commitment of love to Jesus, "I love you more than anything else” (ref. Jn 21:15-17) St. Thomas touching the wounded but glorified side of the risen Lord declared, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28) And yet, the whole truth was not revealed to them! With the anointing of the Holy Spirit, they became deeply rooted in this conviction - that Jesus is the Lord and master of their lives and of the whole world and that man has salvation only in accepting the lordship of Jesus. In the first sermon on the day of Pentecost, Simon Peter proclaimed - "Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified…Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of yours sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:36-38)

The second truth impressed in the hearts of the disciples at Pentecost was the necessity to proclaim Jesus because there was salvation only in Him. In the Sanhedrin, Peter was questioned, warned and flogged; yet he felt the urgent necessity to proclaim the salvation in the Lord Jesus. Fearless and clear was he about the mission - “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20) and he continued proclaiming “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4: 12)

Since Jesus was perceived as the only source of salvation, the disciples felt an urgent need to proclaim Him no matter what it must cost them. The book of the Acts of the Apostles is filled with the missionary zeal of the Apostles and the members of the early Church. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, even when he was threatened of being stoned to death, did not desist from proclaiming this message of salvation in Jesus. St Paul was charged with the same zeal and considered everything futile, other than knowing and proclaiming Jesus. "Woe to me if I do not preach" (1 Corinthians 9:16) The martyrs of the Church did not consider even the price of their own life as too great to be given for this mission. The Church has always considered as priority the mission to bear witness to Jesus. Pope John Paul II of Blessed Memory has written and spoken much on this. He once said, "Evangelisation is not the most important task of the Church. It is the only one."

“How lovely are the feet of Him who brings glad tidings” (Isaiah 52:7)

Jesus uses two little parables to explain to us our life mission on this earth. "You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:13-14) These two similes are very significant illustrating that in all circumstances our concern must be to spread the flavour and goodness of Jesus to everyone.

Salt is meant to be an ingredient of food. As such salt is a welcome factor in every food item because it enhances the quality and taste of the food - by adding a flavour and by preserving it from decay. As salt to the food is precious, so is salvation in Jesus to every individual. The joy of living for any man or woman is to have Jesus in them. Without Jesus, life becomes meaningless and empty. The full flowering of human life comes from man's union with Jesus.

I remember a young man telling me, "For a long time I ignored Jesus and lived in the ways of the world. That was the freedom I imagined. The pleasures of the moment were more vital to me than any thought of prayer. Responsibility to my duties did not occur to me as bearing any importance. Relationships did not mean much to me. To grab the pleasures and gains that anything could offer me was the reason of my life. Now I realise I wasted my life. Guilt and insecurity darkened my heart. I became a bundle of useless passions. Futility and emptiness darkened my days. During the retreat after the confession, I realised that my heart was longing for the assurance of forgiveness that my Jesus offered me. Every time guilt burdened my mind, my heart was reaching out to the salvation of Jesus. But I stubbornly held on to the meaningless ways of sin. Now I know it’s only in Jesus that I can find the joy of living."

A scholar once confided in me that he always had a craving for knowledge. He picked up and read anything that could give him more information. But the more he knew, the less wisdom he possessed and the less he understood. He had many bits of information but he could not piece them together for a healthy vision of life. When he came to know Jesus, he experienced a new awakening and his knowledge found fulfillment in the Lord. All that he held as bits and pieces, the Spirit of God brought together to become a richly meaningful and beautiful mosaic of the vision of life that Jesus was all along offering him.

Everyone who comes to Jesus finds in Him the fullness of life. Jesus declares, "I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6) To find Jesus is to find life and truth and the way to authentic living. He is the cornerstone on whom all the aspects of life stick together. Hence, to give Jesus to anyone is to give the meaning and joy of living.

“Preach the word…in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

However we need to bear witness to Jesus not only where He is accepted but even in unfavorable circumstances, we have the mission to proclaim Him. This responsibility is given to us by the declaration of Jesus - "You are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14) Light shines in darkness by dispelling it. Darkness refers to the powers of evil that enslave humankind. Since darkness is frightened of the light, it will fight against the powers of light. Jesus wants us not to be afraid of such evil powers but rather to proclaim Him even in the most unwelcome and unfavorable situations. The assurance is “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5)

The history of the Church is strewn with courageous exploits of saintly martyrs who fought against the evils of the time - bearing witness to Jesus. They refused to curry favor with the prevalent powers of the time and instead stood up for Jesus. The young Saint Maria Goretti of Nettuno is a daring example. No matter what attractive offers were made for the future or how fearsome was the threat of a gruesome death, she did not for a moment waver against her commitment to Jesus. This young girl always knew that she had a mission to save Alexander and that she had the power to dispel the darkness of lust in him. Even when she was brutally attacked, she would pray for him and finally the light succeeded to dispel the darkness in him. Alexander had approached her with the intent of destroying her in lust and violence. He would spend his years in prayer and service in a monastery after his term of imprisonment – a life testimony of light that must overcome darkness.

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9)

It is significant that the Lord who commissions us to be the light of the world at one point says, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12)If we are to shine this redeeming light, we need to be united to Jesus passing on what finds its origin in Jesus. Hence Jesus would say, “Whoever abides in me and I in him will bear much fruit” (John 15:5)

The life of Jesus was centered on the Father. His passion was the will of the Father. Consequently, His actions flowed from this will of the Father. He would only give credit to the Father for His marvelous deeds - "I cannot do anything on my own…The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works I perform…" (John 5:30, 36) Again He affirms when He says even His words are not His own, “I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak” (John 12:49)

His commitment of love to His Father was a reciprocation of the Father's Love for Him. The only confidence He had was in the love of the Heavenly Father. Even while speaking of the loneliest moment of His abandonment, He would declare to the disciples of the one love He was confident of, “You will leave me alone. But I am not alone because the Father is with me” (John 16:32) And this great unshakable conviction He had in the Father’s love was received when He waited in prayer - uniting Himself with the Father. When He in obedience to the Father's will, stood in line with sinners by the River Jordan to be baptised by John the Baptist, the heavens were opened to Him and the words of the Heavenly Father resounded through the horizons - "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." (Mark 1:11) This would explain His great joy in being with His Father. After having preached the whole day, He would retire to lonely places, spending the whole night with the Father in prayer. With the Father He shared all the joy of the success of His ministry. When He healed the leper and His popularity increased, it was to the Father that He turned to share that joy in His prayer at night (Luke 5:16) When the disciples came back reporting their great success in their preaching ministry, it was to the Father again that he turned, "I give you praise, Father…for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike” (Luke 10:21) Thus sharing everything with the Father, He waited in prayer for the Spirit of the Father to strengthen Him and lead Him along the path the Father had set for Him.

“As you, Father, are in me and I in You, that they also may be in us”  (John 17:21)

It is to such an intimacy that Jesus is inviting us. This is the vision Jesus had - “You will realise that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you” (John 14:20) Jesus wants us to carry out our mission of evangelisation where the strength we receive will be from the moments of intimate unity with Him. As we abide in Him, we shall bear fruit that endures.

All the activities we do, Jesus visualises as fruits that we bear in Him. Anything we do and achieve other than from our union with Him is of no use for the Kingdom. Somehow, one feels that much is being done in the field of evangelisation that is not rooted in prayer. The famous theologian Karl Rahner gave voice to this saying, "There is a barrenness of over-activity in the Church among those who are called to work for the Kingdom." Much is being done that is far from being the fruit of the Holy Spirit. One wonders whether this is the reason why even among those who work for the kingdom there is less love and understanding, cooperation with and confidence in each other.

Like Jesus, we need to wait in prayer accepting Him as the Lord and Saviour and receiving a command from Him personally to go and bear witness to Him. We cannot proclaim what the Lord does not give us. One reads in the Book of Jeremiah of the grief in the heart of God about such who live as false prophets, “I have heard the prophets who prophesy lies in my name…From me they have no mission or command, and they do this people no good at all” (Jeremiah 23: 25-32)

We need to be inspired by prophet Isaiah who waits in the temple to be sent by God (Isaiah, chapter 6) He is overwhelmed by His own unworthiness but he is strengthened by being purified by the fire of the Lord. This should be a constant experience in working for the Lord. We need to come to the Lord in prayer and submit ourselves humbly trusting in His Wisdom, waiting for the Lord to determine the course of our action. Then we shall be assured as St. Paul was, "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20) Then our refrain will continue “I work, but not I. Jesus works in me.” Our evangelisation activity will flow from our union with the Lord. Then shall will we be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, living out the mission we were sent to this world for.

Let us pray

Heavenly Father, we thank You for this gift of life. We thank You for counting us worthy to live for You and for trusting us with Your mission. Lord Jesus, today we offer to You our every word, thoughts, deeds, our life and our death. We pray Lord that by Your consecration to your Father, we too may be sanctified and the offering of our life may be acceptable to the Father. Lord we bring to You the many times we were arrogant and refused to depend on You or to seek Your Glory, but went ahead speaking our own judgments and doing our own works and seeking our own glory.

Today, once more we place ourselves in Your Presence and we wait that You may anoint us with the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit who shall convict us and lead us to proclaim Your Word and declare Your glory to the ends of the earth. Thank you Lord for making us Your own and may we always bring You great joy and glory.

Amen

 
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Retreats and Healing Masses in Sydney

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.

Date: 2 - 7 October, 2018

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Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - drcsydney@gmail.com. Hurry, as admission is limited.

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Date: 22 September - October 1, 2018

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