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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 glory of the Lord has risen upon you" (Isaiah 60:1) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

“Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory.” (John 2:11) Jesus while He walked the earth did many signs and wonders – healing the sick, raising the dead, calming the storm, multiplying the bread to feed the hungry seekers and so on. But the first miracle is the changing of water to wine at the wedding feast in Cana. St John makes special mention of this and describes how “thus Christ revealed His glory.” It is for no mean reason that this was the first sign of power the Lord would work - for this event has a special significance. It would hold within it the pattern of God’s mission on earth.

“The old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A family had reached a crisis hour. It was at a wedding when celebrations should have known no bounds. Yet by some miscalculation they ran short of wine and soon everyone instead of blessing the couple would begin to forecast doom. A thick cloud was beginning to hover over this gathering. At this moment, Mother Mary turned to Jesus presenting the need of the hour. She would then turn the servers over to Jesus, saying, “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5) That was a call to obedience.

Then the account continues to describe how Jesus asks the servers to fill the six stone jars meant for the Jewish ceremonial washing with water. The servants could definitely not see the relevance of this command. What was needed was wine. And nobody ever used the jars of ritual cleansing for storing or serving wine. But they must have concluded that surely Jesus intended to call the people once again for a cleansing. They did not understand but they obeyed and filled the jars. And they filled it to the brim. Next the Lord asked them to serve it to the headwaiter. They obeyed only to realize that the water had become wine. To the amazement of the observers, which included the disciples, the headwaiter would declare of the new wine “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10)

The jars that were meant for ritual cleansing were now holding the new wine. The old order had passed. A new order had come. Rituals and human concoctions to earn divine favour belonged to the old order. An order where man was so burdened with sufferings, sins and religious demands, that there was a prevalent sense of despair. The new order was grace. And this grace flowed freely to those who dared to trust and obey. One trusted no longer in his or her own efforts but turned towards the Lord in loving abandonment to the mercy and grace of God. It was about letting go and letting God take hold of life. And when God steps in at man’s invitation, great things happen. This was what the mystery of incarnation was all about – the encounter with the glory of God. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father. From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace…” (John 1:14,16)

“The vats will overflow with the new wine” (Joel 2:24)

The significance of the miracle at Cana is rich as it speaks of the offering of the new wine. Where the old wine had failed, God steps in, offering a new wine. This new wine was found to be much better than the old wine. The new wine in the Bible signifies the great Promise of the Father – the Holy Spirit. That is why in the account of the Pentecost event, it is mentioned how Simon Peter and the other disciples as they were anointed with the Holy Spirit, came out rejoicing, praising God and proclaiming that Jesus is the Lord and Saviour. When the people of different nations saw this they were awe-struck because they saw this set of Galileans disciples speaking in the different languages of the world. But some of the onlookers mocked them saying, “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:13) St. Peter responded quoting prophet Joel’s oracle, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy… on my servants and handmaids I will pour out my Spirit” (Acts 2:17-18)

Here is the interpretation of the new wine symbolizing the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts, there is fullness of love, and life becomes a celebration. This is exactly what happened at Cana. In a moment of need, Mother Mary intervened and Jesus did the miracle. What was the miracle? The Holy Spirit was given and the need was met. The answer to all the problems of human life is the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus promised - “I will not leave you alone.” (John 14:18) In the hour of our need, He is ready and waiting to pour out the Holy Spirit into our hearts. The Holy Spirit will be our companion, comforting and counseling us. He will help and empower us to live life in all its fullness.

Our lives could have reached a juncture where we have felt empty and abandoned. The wine we had calculated and counted on to make life a celebration has run out. The clouds of doom seemed to hover above us. In fact, the most miserable moments of human life when we feel angry, sad and helpless is when we are burdened with the great pain of our heart that we are left alone. There is no one to help us or not even one we can trust and share our burdens with. Our Lord was well aware of this need and hence He assured us that we shall never be left desolate. With this came the Promise of the Holy Spirit. Our plans may fail us. The people we love may not rise up to our expectations. Our own dreams may materialize only to lead us to a deeper emptiness. We ultimately realize how limited we ourselves are. And in this realization of our emptiness, we can slip into despair. But the glory of God is manifested here in that Christ comes to offer us the new wine of the Holy Spirit who will fill and lead us to life in the power and glory of God.

This understanding is crucial in our day-to-day life. Beginning in our homes and families, far too frequently we reach a point of being drained and limited. We find our hearts empty and we do not hope for anything more in our relationships. We can get desperate and we do not know where to turn to. Mother Mary points us to Jesus who shall fill us with the new wine of the Holy Spirit. Here is our hope and salvation. And this is the hope that “does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

“The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

The purpose of the coming of Jesus into the world was to manifest the Glory of God. When He was born in Bethlehem, the angel had already foretold the Divine design of the coming of the Messiah: "Glory to God in the highest and peace to men of goodwill on earth." (Luke 2:14) Men of goodwill are those waiting for God. Those seeking God will experience the glory of God shining upon them, restoring them to peace.

Peace is the total welfare of human existence. Jesus was born into a world under the reign of chaos. Politically, the Jewish people were crushed by the slavery of the foreign rule. Mentally they were burdened by the yoke of helplessness. The Jewish religion of the time was marked by ritualistic observances and hypocritical leadership. Wickedness had spread its wings to crush human existence in desperate suffocation. This was but the continuation of the state of affairs described in the first pages of the Bible - “Then the Lord saw how great was man's wickedness on earth and how no desire that is heart conceived was ever anything but evil, He regretted that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was grieved.” (Gen 6:5-6) The regret of God and the grief of His Heart had led God to wipe out the human race from the face of the earth with the flood.

But in Jesus "the acceptable year of the Lord’s favour" (Luke 4:19) dawned and Jesus came to bring the glad tidings of salvation. It was inaugurating this new era that Zechariah prophesied, “By the tender mercy of God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Lk 1:78-79) And when God walked the earth, we witnessed in Jesus "the blind regained their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them." (Luke 7:22). This indeed is the glory of God!

“With unveiled face beholding the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

St. Irenaeus has defined God's glory as man fully alive. Indeed Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life and life in all its fullness." (John 10:10) He spoke that our happiness may be full. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (Jn 15:11) And His offer was peace that nothing in this world could take away (ref John 14:27). Wherever life was deficient and joy was lacking and distress clouded the human mind, Jesus saw the glory of God being diminished. There He stepped in to heal the sick, forgive the sinner and save the family. At Cana He filled the jars and the hearts with the glory of God. In Bethany Jesus challenged Martha - "If you believe you will see the glory of God." (John 11:40) There was an atmosphere of gloom and despair in the words of Martha: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21) Jesus first led Martha out of that despair to a faith where she would confirm her faith that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:27). That Gs when Jesus commanded the dead man to come out of the darkness of death.

Jesus needs us to continue this mission of the manifestation of His glory. As Blessed Pope John Paul II has insightfully declared, the world today is in the grip of the culture of death. There is a widespread compromise with sin. And with sin, all forms of miseries torment human life. The quality of life has become deficient. Human beings are suffocated under the yoke of selfishness. Sin has entered the social and political structures of the world. There is an air of despair pervading every strata of society. The Pope called for a radical change of the human heart to an openness to God and to fellow-beings in love and surrender.

“Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death” (Philippians 1:20)

There is an inspiring saying of Jesus at the Last Supper - "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him." (John 13:31) The context of this saying is significant. Jesus predicted the betrayal of Judas by saying that the one to betray Him was the one to whom He would hand the morsel. Jesus gave the morsel to Judas who took it and left at once into the darkness. It is in this dark hour of betrayal that Jesus speaks of the Glory of God to be manifested in Him. Though it was a moment of deep distress for Jesus, He did not allow anger or hatred or self-pity to take over His heart. Rather He turned to the Father offering the pain and the sin to Him. His confidence was that in God’s overwhelming power of goodness, this offering would be turned to accomplish the Glory of the Father and the salvation of humankind.

Here Jesus gives us the clear example of how to face the sin of others when it tends to destroy us. Jesus did mention about Judas that “It would be better for him if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24) Yet He did not recoil into self pity and settle for ruin. Rather He offered it to God for the Father's hands to mould it according to His Will.

The Lord marks out the Christian response to the distressing situations of human life. In everything that is apparently negative and disastrous, one needs to look for that which is more than what meets the eye and greater than what the intellect can grasp. That "more" and "greater" is the Plan of God by which God is working out the salvation of humankind. When we wait for it opening our hearts to God, His Glory will be manifested.

At Cana in the miscalculation of the host, God entered and the Glory of God was revealed. At Bethany in the tragedy of the death of Lazarus, Jesus led the family to witness the Glory of God break through the thick dark clouds of grief. Even in the betrayal of Judas, Jesus waited patiently for the Father's will to be revealed and sure enough the Glory of God was manifested.

“To them that love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28)

In every moment of our life however bad or disastrous it might look, when it is placed in the Hands of God, the destructive nature is cancelled by God. That is what Jesus said to the messengers who brought the sad news of the sickness of Lazarus to Jesus: “This illness is not unto death but unto the manifestation of the glory of God.” (John 11:40)

This sacred word is of special relevance to me because it was uttered to me by Blessed Pope John Paul II. While I was studying in Rome, I had a personal audience with the Holy Father. The previous day I had got news from home that my sister was diagnosed with cancer. She was given only a few months to live. I could not accept this. We had grown up together and she was very dear to me. That morning when the Holy Father came close to me, overwhelmed by the sorrow, I told him that my sister was dying of cancer. The Pope held my shoulder and pronounced these words to me “This illness is not to end in death but is for the glory of God.” He then added, "Tell your sister that the Holy Father is praying for her and she will not die." And my sister did not die. She lived another 28 years in the service of the Lord.

Every situation of our life, however painful or sinful, offered to God will be turned by God into the venue of the manifestation of His Glory. This is the message going forth from Divine all these years. Thousands come in and often it is from very distressing situations. And here as they wait on God, they see the great Glory of God shining upon their very hopeless situations. Where the joy of life had drained out, God poured in the new wine of the Holy Spirit and they go back rejoicing and praising the Glory of God. Thus they carry the good news to the ends of the earth “Arise, shine out; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)

 
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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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