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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Hallowed be Thy name"(Lk 11:2) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

"I will pour out My Spirit on My servants" (Acts 2:18) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

A lot of people staggering through life in the moments of their desperation ask the question “Who is there for me to sort the problems of my life? Who can I count on in the difficult moments? Who will stand by me in the dark days?”  A similar question was asked by the three women heading to the tomb of Jesus early that Easter morning: “Who will roll the stone for us?” They reached the venue with this great burden in their heart when to their great surprise they found there the stone rolled back. Jesus was raised to life in glory.

In the early Church the Resurrection was the theme of their discussions, the quest of their mind and the seeking in their intense prayer: Who broke the seal of the tomb and raised Jesus to life? St Paul in answering this also explains how relevant this is for everyone of us: “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). It is the Holy Spirit who entered the broken lifeless body of Jesus and raised Him up in glory. St Paul continues to say that this activity of the Holy Spirit was not confined to Jesus alone but for everyone united with Him who will be raised similarly to a new life. The key to sharing in this glory of Christ is that we must be united with the Lord. St Paul confirms this as he writes that for this activity of the Holy Spirit to be realized in us we must “die with Him” in order to be raised with Him. “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him” (2 Tim 2:11).

The mystery of our life in Christ is being revealed here.  More than our human endeavour to obey what is commanded and reject what is prohibited, Christian life is a joyous proclamation of what the Holy Spirit does in us at every moment. The Spirit of God breaks us from bondage to the culture of death to the liberation of a new life in Jesus.

“Sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:2)

St Peter testifies to this offer in an experience of love. His own life was transformed from the grief of failure to the great joy of being forgiven by the merciful look of the Master. After having denied Jesus, he was sitting in the corner, his soul languishing in guilt and fear. In this moment of desolation, St Luke describes that Jesus turned and looked at Peter (Lk 22:61). This look conveyed to him the assurance of forgiveness and the offer of a new life in the Holy Spirit. Looking into the eyes of Risen Lord Peter would solemnly declare, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you more than anything else” (Jn 21:16,17). From then on his life became a response to the love he experienced in the depth of his heart.

This life of commitment to Jesus was strengthened by the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. With this testimony of his own life he declares in his first sermon: “God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it… Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2:24,27). Peter continues to tell the people to surrender their own lives to God in faith and thus receive the same Holy Spirit. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him” (Acts 2:38, 39).

St Peter makes it clear to us how to receive the Holy Spirit and lead a new life in Him. As Jesus offered Himself to the plan of the Father “becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross,” we need to surrender our lives totally to God. This surrender will take us in ways we never charted and cannot always make sense of.

“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (Isaiah 11:2)

Ever since Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit by the river Jordan when He was baptized by John the Baptist, the power of the Holy Spirit continued to strengthen Him. In fact as He entered into the world in human form He had made a commitment to the Father, “Here I have come to do thy will, O God” (Heb 10:5-7). Carrying out the purpose for which He was sent into the world was paramount in His heart that He would declare “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (Jn 4:34). All that He did and said was by the unfolding of the Father’s will for Him. “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things” (Jn 8:28).

This firm commitment to the Father was challenged when He was kneeling and sweating blood at Gethsemane. For a moment, he became so tense that He thought that the Father’s will was an impossible destiny. Jesus stood breathless at the thought of being crucified and buried. In Gethsemane He threw himself on the ground pleading with the Father, seeking an alternate way. He “began to be greatly distressed and troubled… and fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him” (Mk 14:33-35). However at one moment in the comfort of the messenger of the Father He surrendered Himself to the Father’s will, “not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (Mk 14:36).

Once he made this total surrender he got the strength of the Holy Spirit and told the disciples “The hour has come; the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going” (Mk 14:41,42). From that time on He never wavered from the path of the Father, even when His body was subjected to extreme torture He fulfilled the prophesy as the Suffering Servant of God “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). When He was betrayed and pushed away by His disciple into the hands of the executors His soul did not resent this, rather he held Judas as a friend. When He was condemned most unjustly by Pilate, he did not condemn the judge rather found an argument to justify Him: “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin” (Jn 19:11).

The thieves crucified alongside Jesus also reviled Him, challenging Him to save Himself and them. However He did not retort or defend Himself rather He continued to exude graciousness. When one of these thieves recognizing His divinity turned to Him, Jesus took him to paradise with Him. In the midst of extreme cruelty He did not for one moment allow His heart to be contaminated by self-pity or anger. Goodness and love burned in His heart so powerfully that He was able to pray for all those who persecuted Him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). The anointing of the Holy Spirit remained in full strength in His heart after He surrendered Himself to God’s will at Gethsemane. Not for a moment did his heart give in to despair or hate.

“To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom 8:6)

At Gethsemane when He was freshly anointed by the Holy Spirit at the moment of His total surrender to the Father, three things seemed to have happened to Jesus.

Firstly, the Holy Spirit revealed to Him the whole truth of His passion and death. Earlier He had said that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth leading us to the whole truth (Jn 16:13). The whole truth of any event is the place it has in the plan of God which is always for our welfare. In His tension and turmoil His human heart was clouded and He could not understand why He had to go through this horrific path. This was why He was asking His Father for a way out of it. However He was given the revelation though He had known it all the time, that the Cross was for the salvation of the humankind as the Father had planned it. Once the whole truth was revealed, His heart was never disturbed even when the most atrocious would happen to Him. Hence He could tell Simon Peter who drew the sword to cut the ear of Malchus, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?” (Jn 18:11).  He accepted every moment of the pain not from any human hand but from the hand of His Father. Therefore He was able to plead forgiveness for those who broke Him, because ultimately they were not responsible.

Second, the Holy Spirit anointed Him with power from above, as He had explained the function of the Holy Spirit strengthening man in his struggle to be faithful to God. “I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). The natural human reaction to the heinous betrayal and unjust condemnation and cruel crucifixion would have been anger and despair. However in the midst of inhuman cruelties, Jesus kept the love and goodness of the Holy Spirit flowing incessantly from His heart to all around, dispelling the darkness of hatred to transform Calvary into the venue of love unparalleled.

Third, the Holy Spirit comforted Him in what should have been the deepest hour of anguish and mindless suffering. Even when none of His own was there to comfort and defend Him, He stood in the strength witnessing to the presence of God. At the Last Supper He had already been assured of His Father’s comforting presence, “You will be scattered and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (Jn 16:32). In the warmth of this comfort He could reach out to others even in the torturous path to Calvary. Though burdened by His cross he comforts the grieving women of Jerusalem (Lk 23:27,28). Hanging on the cross He comforts John and His mother, entrusting them to each other.

“I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13)

I remember talking to a lady who came for the retreat. She was in deep distress because she was pregnant, carrying the fourth child. As soon as the husband came to know this he shouted at her asking her to abort the child. He blamed it all on her saying that she should have known better and avoided the pregnancy. In her distress she confided with her mother who consoled her and encouraged her to keep the baby. However at the insistence of the mother-in-law the husband threatened to divorce her if she did not consent to go for the abortion.

She was terribly confused about the decision she had to make. On the one hand she had to save the marriage by consenting to the husband’s condition. Certain times it occurred to her that the husband perhaps had a point since she herself was working full-time as a teacher and he was often away on business tours. Why to bring a baby to the world if she could not give the necessary attention and love? On the other hand she felt a terrible pain in her heart when she thought of killing the baby growing in her womb.

I advised her that the decision she had to take should not be based on feelings and emotions, or practical reasoning but on the plan of God for her. The word of God clearly tells us that the fruit of the womb is the gift of the Lord (Ps 127:3). The baby is conceived in her womb not by human decision but by God’s decision to bless them with a child. This child is a heavenly blessing and not a mistake or miscalculation to be struck off. I persuaded her that above all circumstantial and personal inconveniences she had to make a commitment to God’s will. Once she surrenders her life in the hands of God, God will take charge and anoint her with the Holy Spirit. She asked me whether the husband would abandon her, for then it would be impossible to bring up the children. Moreover if the mother-in-law is displeased she would make her life miserable at home. I told her that these are wrong questions and such preoccupations should not influence her decision. I told her to repeat the prayer of Mother Mary, “Here am I, the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Mother Mary became the handmaid of the Lord by making the word of God the rule of her life and God’s plan the destiny of her living. It was with her assent to surrender to God’s word for her that the Holy Spirit could overshadow her and fulfill God’s supreme plan of salvation through her life.

In prayer this lady retreatant was able to make a decision to keep the baby. I assured her that once she has made a commitment trusting in the faithful love of God, He will turn everything to her good. I quoted to her the promise in the scriptures, “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). I spoke to the husband on the phone and prayed for him. When she returned home, the husband did not speak to her for a few days, resenting her decision. However she was able in the comforting power of the Holy Spirit to show him a lot of love and affection. The mother-in-law was terribly irritated at what she termed as arrogance and selfishness. Still the lady gave birth to a baby boy who soon became the apple of the eye of everyone in the family.

Very often what the Lord asks of us may seem unreasonable and beyond our strength. It is easy to opt for human suggestions and manipulations to opt out of the way the Lord calls us to follow. But life in all its fullness comes our way only when we set ourselves to follow the Lord. The promise is given to us that the Holy Spirit will enable to understand and to fulfill the plan of God.

Prayer

O Lord God, we praise you for your love is faithful and you never abandon us. You gift us your own Spirit to strengthen, comfort and guide us in the way of truth. Lord in all the moments of our life where we were crippled by grief and fearful of our helplessness, reveal to us in the power of Your Spirit that you are with us and will see us through our trials to accomplish your superior plan for our happiness. Lord we surrender our life situations, plans and solutions. With Mother Mary we pray, “Let it be done to us according to your Word.” Anoint us with your Spirit that we shall in the confidence of your presence live our lives according to your plan and be channels of your peace and love. Amen.

 
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