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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

"It is the Spirit that gives life" (John 6:63) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” said Jesus to Nicodemus, who came at night to enquire about eternal life. This Pharisee was impressed with the signs and wonders that Jesus was performing. The Lord however shifted his gaze from the manifestations of power to the one important thing - such a radical change in a man’s inner life that it could be ascribed as a new birth. This fundamental transformation of life will be effected by the Holy Spirit.

“I  live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20)

The early Church in its preaching continued in this trend of thinking and emphasised the radical transformation that must come into human lives that are united with Jesus Christ. St. Peter speaks of how “By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3) The same insight is proclaimed by St. Paul when he writes that a Christian by virtue of his baptism dies with Christ and rises to a new existence “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 6:5)

In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul explains the rebirth that a Christian comes to when he is united with Christ - “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)  Therefore what counts for a disciple of Christ is not so much the external expressions and traditional observances but the total change of heart, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15)  This necessity is highlighted when  Jesus curses the fig tree. The tree was full of foliage, rich and attractive enough to draw Jesus to its side. It’s the nature of the fig tree that it puts forth abundant foliage in its fruit-bearing season. But this tree had no fruit. So Jesus cursed the tree and it dried up. There was no point in its existence if it could not bear fruit. The identity of the tree is bound to the fruit it bears. Only faithfulness will bring in fruitfulness.

Christ makes it clear that the only purpose of existence for a Christian to live the radical transformation of the heart. This radical transformation comes to man when he is united with Christ in such a way that his entire existence is drawn from his rootedness in Christ. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)  In this vital connection to Christ, the life sap of the Holy Spirit flows into us enabling us to live out our commitment to Jesus and bear witness by a fruitful life. The allegory of the prophet Jeremiah points to this necessity to have our lives rooted in the Divine - "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the  stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green,  and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to  bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8)

Radical commitment to Jesus causes the anointing of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit in turn brings about a total transformation where we are redirected from death to life. From the beginning of salvation history, the Holy Spirit is introduced as God’s Power giving life and transforming human lives. In God’s creation activity, it was the Holy Spirit hovering over the formless void to bring about an ordered and magnificent creation. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) The primordial chaos was turned to a beautiful cosmos. Whenever the face of the earth was scarred by the sin of man and the cosmos was slipping into shadows, the people of God prayed for the Spirit of God to descend and renew His activity of regeneration. The psalmist so sings: “When thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:30)

When God decided to save humankind, He sent the angel to Mary to announce to her that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her enabling her to conceive the Son of God as man. It was the Spirit of God who filled Jesus and led Him in His ministry of salvation. Finally it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. The question in the minds of the women when they were rushing to the tomb early morning was “Who would roll the stone away?” And the evangelist adds that the stone was too large for anyone to move (Mark 16:4). To their great surprise, they saw that the stone had already been removed from the opening of the tomb. They were bewildered! In fact this question continued to amaze the early Church. It was St. Paul who gave the answer in clear terms saying that it was the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). Right from the beginning of times, with the fall of man, humanity came under the shadow of death. The one reality every man and woman had to encounter was death. Bu now the power of death was defeated by the Power of the Spirit. The startling victory of darkness over Jesus was short-lived. Hence St. Paul exclaims - “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)  He continues to explain that what the Spirit achieved in the Lord Jesus He continues to effect in those who are united with Christ. “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)

“The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)  Sin ensnared man to trip into the pit of death. The Holy Spirit vanquishes the power of sin itself. The Holy Spirit is the power that works in us to raise us up every time we fall into the tomb of sin and despair that we may no longer be debtors to the flesh (Romans 8:12). Before Jesus conferred the authority to the apostles to forgive sins He anointed them with the power of the Holy Spirit: “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ ” (John 20:22-23) The sacramental confirmation of the forgiveness of sins is the external manifestation of the inner movement of the Spirit. When we read from the Gospel of John that Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them the authority to forgive sins, we need to understand that this in Scripture is the second life-giving Breath of God. By the first breath, God gave life to man. “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)  By the second Breath of God,man is given the Holy Spirit - the Power from Above to restore divine life that is lost by sin.

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean” (Ezekiel 36:25)

One may recall how God brings new life to the dry bones in the prophetic vision given to Ezekiel. “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: See! I will bring Spirit into you that you may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37:5) God says again, “O Spirit, breathe into these slain that they may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37:9). And we are told in the prophesy that the Spirit came upon the dry bones and they came alive and stood straight (v. 10). When the Holy Spirit comes, the dead are awakened to life. Anyone living in the enslavement of sin needs to feel this action of the Spirit in order to be liberated to a new life.

A couple poured out their woes to me during a retreat. They were terribly preoccupied with the scandalous behavior of their teenage daughter. The girl, once diligent and the pride of the family, had over a short period of time become indifferent to her studies and rebellious in her attitude at home. I felt prompted by the Spirit to ask them how happy were they in their married life. They openly began to share the sad reality of their disillusionment with each other. Sometime in the early days of the marriage, the wife came to know that the husband and his family had deceived her. They had said before the marriage that the groom had a post- graduate degree and they owned the large house they were living in. She came to know that though he was earning well in his business he had only a graduation and the house was a rented one. She felt cheated. She lost her trust in him and began to question everything. She could not understand how he could do this to her. The more she thought about it, the more bitter she became and she began looking at him with contempt. All the tenderness in the relationship drained out. Two children were born and as years went by, the indifference and the endless arguments between the parents began to affect the children. The mother revealed an exaggerated version of the problem to the elder girl, seeking support from her. The girl had been very fond of the father and this disclosure of the mother shattered her. She had never been particularly close to the mother because of her nagging and bossy ways. Now the father too was presented in dark shades! She kept away from both the parents. She began spending long hours glued to the television or to the internet. Since the parents were preoccupied with their own problems, they failed to notice that the girl, who was by nature very intelligent and vibrant, had become a dull loner. Her grades in school began to drop. She had lost interest in her studies altogether. And one day to the great shock of the parents, they found that the girl was enjoying lewd conversations with boys on Facebook.

I told them that the problem had to be dealt with by first rectifying their own sinful failures. The husband had not yet asked pardon from the wife for the deception - holding on stubbornly to his pride. The wife had not accepted the husband from the hands of God. For her, the material property had become more dear than the person of the husband. Their marriage was not lived out as a sacrament because the Presence and Activity of the Holy Spirit was stifled by the anger they were breeding in their hearts. I reminded them of the warning of St. Paul, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:30-32)   I explained to them the urgent need was for them to surrender to the Lord in repentance all the anger and all the moments of their bitter exchanges and take up the commitment to forgive each other. I reminded them of the message and the vision of the dry bones that prophet Ezekiel had been given. Their relationship had become decayed and dried up. I also presented them the hope that was given to the people of God who despaired ‘our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.' To them the Lord God had responded: “Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people…And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live.” (Ezekiel 37:11-14)

God is unchanging in His power and working. I could feel the movement of the Holy Spirit in this couple. Dry bones did rise up to new life. They turned to the Lord repenting and confessing their sinful failures. They turned to each other accepting each other from the Hands of God grieving over the pain they caused each other. They asked pardon from their daughter and clarified to her their own failings. This brought about a drastic change in her attitude towards her parents. As the family improved in their communication of love with each other, she found the intimate love of the family deep and satisfying. She came for a Youth retreat and made a commitment of her life to holiness and to proclaim God to her friends. I still remember the words she spoke “I got my family back. I’m amazed at what the Holy Spirit could do and this is what I want in my life.” In prayer I thanked God with the psalmist - “This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:23) What friendly advice and expert psychological counseling had not achieved, the Holy Spirit worked out in a marvelous way according to His character of being the Power of Love effecting the recreation of the family of man.

“Who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)

There is a crisis in the culture that we live in. A culture of death - as Pope John Paul II had labeled it - has pervaded families, the human minds, relationships and institutions. People have given up on God and therefore on goodness and commitments, on each other and even on themselves! The farther man walks away from God, the more he is distanced from others. He slips into a shell of isolation and shadows of evil darken his ways. When we look around our culture, perhaps all we see is the reality of dry decayed bones that Ezekiel saw in the valley (Ezekial Chapter 37). And it is to us, the Lord offers the call to be prophets of this day invoking the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and challenging our generation to rise up to life in the Spirit.

Pope John XXIII was such a prophet for he inaugurated his papal mission by daring to open wide the doors and windows of the Church to let the refreshing renewing breeze of the Holy Spirit to sweep across the Church. The result was the Second Vatican Council which brought in a great renewal in the Church as a whole. In our own times, Pope John Paul II was a great prophet who challenged the youth to be the saints of this generation, believing they can make a difference for Christ in the world of today.

Failures have crushed the spirit of the people. Betrayals have broken families. Uncertainty about the future has suffocated aspirations for betterment. Unhealthy peer pressures have distorted our youth. Despair has crept into every field of life. The Holy Spirit is looking for prophets to announce a “Season of Regeneration”. It should be as it was in the time of Ezekiel and Elisha that this broken people “may know that there is a prophet in the nation.” (2 Kings 5:8)  The disciples of Jesus are not to be part of this culture of death - “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Let us pray

Lord Jesus, You fulfilled Your promise on the Day of Pentecost as You sent the Holy Spirit, on Mother Mary and the Apostles. They were anointed and empowered to take up the challenge of continuing the work of salvation that You initiated on the face of the earth. They were constantly filled and led by the Spirit to proclaim the acceptable time of salvation, to a world steeped in sorrow and misery.

In our own times we realise the call for us to rise up and become witnesseses of the sure hope in the Holy Spirit to a world that is crumbling into dryness and emptiness. Let us never be intimidated by the magnitude of our mission or lose heart when we are met with rejection but press on, knowing that the promise we have of the Holy Spirit must be fulfilled.

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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