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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

"We shall also live with Him" (2Tim 2:11) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

As a young priest, I was assigned to offer Mass on certain days of the week at a convent not far from our house. One morning it was drizzling and the motorbike I was riding on, slid on the slippery road. I fell off and my leg got burnt by the hot metal of the silencer. My cassock was torn. When I got up, the first thing I remembered was my superior asking me the previous night not to take the bike out during the rainy season. I then realised that it was crucial that I reach the convent in time for the Mass or else the sisters would call up the house and they would be alerted. So I rushed to the convent and entered the sacristy. I put on a long alb so that the stained and torn cassock would not be visible. I endured that burning pain throughout the Mass and as soon as Mass was over without even bidding farewell I quickly made my exit and went to a dispensary far away to get treated. I then returned to the house and no one knew what had happened.

Whither shall I flee from thy presence (Ps 139:7)

I recalled then how as a child when I would get hurt and return with scrapes and bruises I would rush to my parents and cry, relating the entire episode and describing my pain. They would instinctively pick me up and cajole me, dress my wounds, give me a sweet and tell me stories so that I would forget the pain. With this, the painful fall was transformed into an occasion of tender love. But as years passed, I identified growing up with becoming independent and turning inwards for solutions. With this, unknowingly I lost the joy of relating. The adult had settled for the pain of isolation and loneliness.

Due to this conceited understanding of adulthood, man becomes increasingly secretive, losing his freedom to be genuine in the company of others. Man feels he has to hide something and project something else in order to be accepted and respected by others. As a result, he is haunted by a deep and nagging sense that there is something radically wrong with him. He has to suffer his limitations and has only himself to fall back on. Crushed by the burden of his incompleteness, the one preoccupation of man is to find a mask that must provide a shield from painful rejection. It is in this light that the love of God becomes salvific.

God’s love manifested in Jesus Christ is an affirmation of the value of every man and woman as he or she is. Even in our unworthiness He found us so precious as to give up His life for us. “But God proves his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). The death of Jesus makes me free to be myself even in my shortcomings and mistakes because I have the assurance that I am loved, in spite of my negatives.

The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45)

What happened in the tomb is what God promises to do in the situations where my weaknesses threaten to define me. The Holy Spirit entered into the broken and dead body of Jesus and raised it into the fullness of glory. That’s what St Paul means when he says that “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” (Rom 8:11). St Paul continues that this activity of the Holy Spirit raising Jesus from the dead was the first fruits of our salvation (1 Cor 15:20). Among the Jews, the concept of offering first fruits was very meaningful. The belief was that in the first fruits, the whole harvest is contained. Therefore when the first fruits are offered on the altar it was offering the whole harvest to God with the understanding that it would all belong to God. When Jesus was raised from the dead, all of us have been included in that saving activity of God. This is the basis of Christian hope.

Nothing offered to God will perish. Everything placed in the hands of God becomes an offering in which the Holy Spirit moves - to redeem, transform and sanctify. This hope must be awakened in us whenever anything unfortunate and disastrous occurs. When Martha and Mary offered the deadly sickness of their brother to Jesus, the Lord responded with the glorious assurance: “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it” (Jn 11:4). What was to end in disaster was taken over by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit in order that the glory of God may be manifested through it. Hence St Paul exclaims “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 Cor 15:42-44) This hope gives us great courage in the moments of our distress. What naturally should have ended in mourning was transformed to celebration. With the resurrection of the Lord, all of humanity united with Jesus shares the glory of Easter. “And the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’. ‘O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?’” (1 Cor 15:52-55).

This hope is not a faint idea lost in the pages of theology texts but is a real privilege for those who are baptised to claim. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? 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” (Rom 6:3,4) By being identified with Christ, we are now equipped with the power for a glorious living.

If we live, we live to the Lord (Rom 14:8)

A young man shared with me his experience of this tremendous power of the Spirit that turned him over from death to life. He was addicted to drugs already at a young age. His parents were working and living abroad and had no idea of his miserable existence in the bondage of sin and meaninglessness. Money flowed in only to be wasted on loose living. His friends and pleasures became more important to him than his classes. He did not care to even appear for his exams. Every time he was threatened with dismissal he would bring an excuse to the authorities. He came to the final year of his engineering course and even then, the seriousness of his studies did not seem to make sense to him. One night he was going on the motorbike with a friend and since he was in a dazed state he violated the road rules and met with an accident. He was lying unconscious on the hospital bed for several days and when he regained his consciousness, he came to know that his friend had died in the accident. He became angry with himself and desperate in remorse. He did not want to live because he felt he had no right to live. He was shattered as he felt responsible for the death of the young friend. In the hospital he poured out his struggles to a nurse who then spoke to him a word of hope and directed him to give God a space in his circumstances.

Once he was discharged, he came directly to the retreat centre. On the one hand he was very confused, angry, guilty and desperate. On the other hand, the cravings for the evil addictions of his past were felt stronger even though he had no access to drugs. He could not discipline himself to the program of the retreat centre. Neither did anything spoken in the retreat hall make any sense to him. Despite all the turmoil within he was feeling within himself an inner urge to remain in the retreat hall. Gradually he felt gripped by the power of the Lord though thoughts of the past would surface every now and then, dragging him to despair and fear. During the Eucharistic Adoration he felt a great surge of hope in him and he made a total surrender of the waste he had made of his life. He began to praise God in an uncontrollable way. He told me later that it was then that the Lord met him in the abyss of his misery and raised him up to a new life. Since then there has been no looking back. His one desire now was to spread the rays of hope to a world that has succumbed in despair and loneliness.

Born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus (1 Peter 1:3)

Easter is the festival of hope. A hope that does not disappoint us (Rom 5:5). A hope that, in Christ, I can be more than my mistakes. Or rather that I can live the righteousness Christ, won for me through His victory over sin on the Cross. The culture of death is tightening its grip over all areas of human life. As a result, man meets with failures and frustrations that push him into the pit of hopelessness. At the same time, man is aware of his necessity to live, fulfill his responsibilities and achieve his goals. In the process, life becomes very painful and burdensome. He drifts along without joy in the heart, often unable to find a meaning in life. It is in this context that the feast of Easter comes to give the message of hope. The Holy Spirit working in the brokenness of Jesus raised him up in glory. The same Holy Spirit is given to us and He continuously works in us healing our wounds turning everything to our good and transforming us into the image of God. This hope never lets us down because it is rooted not in human possibilities but in the unparalleled power of God.

A young man confided in me his hope for the future. I met him a year after the retreat that had changed his life. It was when everything had gone wrong with him. He slipped into unholy company that destroyed him financially. His wife and child left him and all he had in hand was a shattered sense of his self. At the retreat, the one grace he received was the confidence of faith to enable him to look beyond the ashes of his circumstances. With that confidence he went and spoke to his estranged wife who gave him three months time to prove his claims of conversion. Even when she came back to him she was not ready to trust him. Every time she would question his motives and ask humiliating questions. He confessed that he was still tempted to slide back into his former way of life. The suspicious behaviour of his wife made him want to rebel and this conflict did not support him at all in his fight to be faithful to the Lord. He paused and added thoughtfully “I don’t trust myself but I have been looking daily to the power of the Holy Spirit of God who saves me and comforts me at all those moments of my inadequacies. I am determined to share in the victory Jesus won over sin and death because He is still working on me.” Indeed this is the hope that should sustain us in the low moments of our life.

The rays of hope emanating from the empty tomb of Jesus should fall upon the dark moments of our lives and enlighten our hearts. Then we will have a relevant message for the broken world we are living in – the message which is the first promise of the Risen Lord: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt 28:10). Even in the darkest moments of our life we will see the glowing face of the Lord dispelling all darkness and bringing the splendor of the glory of the Resurrection.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we hail you for you are our victor. You rose from the dead and have won for us hope and life. We bring to you the burden of our shadows.Till this moment we could not even face our own shadows and they only became deeper. Today Lord we bring to you our failures and limitations for you love us and your love will be the light for us to live by. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but you O my God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever” (Ps 73:26). As I stand by the empty tomb, I rejoice O Lord, for I know your strength shall never fail and your power shall defeat death and raise me to live in your glorious presence. Amen.

 
Divine Updates

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

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby, Sydney

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

Date: January 2018 - December, 2018

Divine Retreats in Adelaide, Melbourne & Canberra

Divine healing Masses and retreats to be held across various venues in Australia. Masses to be offered by Fr Augustine Vallooran VC. Praise and worship by Glen and Teresa La'Rive.

Date: 22 September - October 1, 2018

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Every week, retreats are held in five different regional languages of India, apart from in the local language - Malayalam. The retreats are led by Vincentian priests and supported by powerfully anointed laity of God.

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