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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Kindle into a flame

"(2 Tim 1:6)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Monthly Reflections

"Why do you seek the living among the dead?" (Lk 24:5) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

The journey of Christ on this earth passed over from death on the cross at Calvary to the glory of eternal life at the Resurrection. The gospels record that while He walked the earth Jesus had thrice prophesied of His suffering, passion and death and it is notable that each time He would conclude speaking of His ultimate Resurrection to life. Jesus was not surrendering to death and death was not the end of His life. The ultimate goal of His life on earth was the glory of His resurrection and of every one of us partaking. In fact, it is this final consummation which gives meaning to His entire existence.

“Therefore God has highly exalted him” (Phil 2:9)

The question the angels spoke at the dawn of Resurrection, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” resounds through history, down the generations. The central proclamation of the early Church was the Resurrection of the Lord. When the apostles preached Jesus, they did not present Him as a mere historical figure but as a real and living presence who was to be encountered personally by everyone who is to believe in Him. Faith therefore is not an assent of the intellect to a historical figure who had taught values and ideals and lived a noble, inspiring life. Faith rather is a total commitment and giving of one’s life to a person who is real and present to us. Consequently, the reading of the gospels is not a mere study of what Jesus taught and did. Instead, it is the spiritual exercise of listening to the living voice of the Lord, that empowers and guides. Hence we are not involved in a study or assessment of the personality of Jesus but we are growing into a deep relationship with Him who is always with us. It was this revolutionary proclamation of the early Church that attracted thousands to the Christian faith, though they had much to lose in this world because of this costly choice of theirs. God was no more a distant power or a remote possibility but a live presence of love.

With the Resurrection, Jesus wanted to establish the disciples in the faith that He was a real presence and not a transient phenomenon. When God took flesh and was born a human person He was a presence that was real to the senses and the understanding of the disciples. Being divested of His human form did not in any way render God less present. It was rather the contrary that was true. As St Paul describes, “Though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6,7). The human form that the Son of God took on was limited, being confined by space and time. He became incarnate in order to atone for the sin of disobedience by humankind. He therefore became obedient unto death, offering Himself as a sacrifice on the Cross and thereby winning salvation for humankind, setting them free from the curse of sin.

“I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33)

Before Jesus offered Himself on the cross - the years He walked this earth - He went about doing good to everyone thus employing His body to enable the Divine power of love to flow out of Him. This was the flesh and blood presence of the Son of God on this earth, the Emmanuel experience, He offered everyone as “God with us.” At the Resurrection, the body of Christ was glorified, taking on a spiritual existence. It transcended earthly limitations and could be present everywhere at His will. On the morning of the Resurrection, in the garden of the tomb the Risen Christ was present to the inconsolable Mary Magdalene, releasing her from grief and despair to the experience of hope; to the disciples sitting in fear behind locked doors, He became present leading them to the dawn of courage and joy. Through the storms, His voice would bring the calm: “Do not fear, it is I.”

On the road to Emmaus, He walked and talked with the two distraught disciples, and their eyes blinded by failure and defeat, He opened to the victorious truth. He allowed Thomas to touch His wounds and be delivered of his doubts. At the seashore, He invited the dispirited disciples to breakfast with him. To Simon Peter He entrusted the mission of leading the Church. None of these was a hallucination or delusion but a continuation of His perceptible bodily presence. During the forty days when the Risen Lord had manifested Himself to His disciples, communing with them, teaching and forming them for the new mission and existence, the glory of His spiritual body remains veiled under the appearance of humanity. As He ascended to the heavenly Father His humanity was totally absorbed into Divine glory. This was symbolized by the cloud, which was said to have enveloped Him at the Ascension event.

The disciples were given sufficient evidence of the reality of His resurrection. At the Pentecost experience of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were confirmed in their faith of the living presence of Jesus with them. Right up to the book of Revelations we see the great celebration was the mystery of the God who proclaimed, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Rev 1:17,18). St John uses the striking imagery of the Lamb though slaughtered yet living. The experience of the Risen Lord and the power of the Resurrection was the goal of the proclamation of the early Church. St Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1 Cor 15:17).

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

What is noteworthy is the emphasis in the teaching of the early Church that the Resurrection of Jesus transforms the lives of the Christians. The explanation St Paul offers, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:20,22). The theme of the first fruits is very prominent in the Jewish religious culture. It is believed that the first fruits contain in a mysterious way the whole harvest. Hence, when the first fruits are offered on the altar the whole harvest is sanctified. It is with this understanding that St Paul says that in the Resurrection of Jesus all of us participate.

The death and resurrection of Jesus was experienced deeply in the personal life of every Christian and was the prominent witness of the early Church. St Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised 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. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Rom 6:3-5). The early Christians experienced their baptism as a dying with Christ and rising with Him. The baptism in water was symbolic of this death and resurrection. As they submerge in waters it was like they were buried with Jesus and as they emerged they rose with Him. This was not a once in a lifetime experience but the pattern of their life to come. They were meant to reflect the life of Christ in their day-to-day living.

Living out their baptismal commitment to Christ meant that they constantly had to say no to the ways of the world and live for Jesus Christ. St Paul writes to the Colossians, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col 3:1-3).

The life of a Christian is to be characterised by His intimate union with the Risen Lord. By setting their minds on things that are above, St Paul does not mean that they withdraw from the normal earthly life and to be given to contemplating eternity. However, he conveys how one’s life pattern is totally changed with one’s baptism. Jesus becomes the centre of his life, and his thoughts and style of living are measured by his intimacy with the Lord. The things of the world that are not connected to Jesus were considered as trivial and of little relevance. A new order of values centred in Christ would come into being and controlling the dictates of life. Ambitions for wealth, pleasure and power would have no place in this new scheme of life settled around the Risen Lord who is always present to him. Pleasing Jesus becomes more important than pleasing anyone in the world. His greater concern would be to give himself to others rather than to amass to his own benefit. Rather than ruling, serving others would be of utmost importance in his evaluation. Forgiveness and reconciliation would become the cherished values in their commitment to the Lord.

The prime concern of every Christian was to answer the question of Jesus to Simon Peter, “Do you love me more than everything else?” (Jn 21). This was an issue relating to what was of paramount value and importance in the life of everyone. The Christians were very determined that they should have nothing and no one over and above Jesus Christ in their life. The waves of Simon Peter’s answer to that query, “Lord, you know that I love you,” found an echo in the hearts of the Christians. St Paul writing to the Philippians, “For me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). He wrote to the Galatians, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). This kind of unparalleled commitment marked the life of the Christians.

“We shall also reign with him” (2 Tim 2:12)

Christ invites us to such commitment and in such total giving to the Lord, we are not the poorer. We are not deceived or deprived but our reward is infinitely enduring. “If we have died with Him, we shall live with Him” (Rom 6:8). In dying to Christ in our natural orientations, we receive a divine dimension that defeats death.

I remember meeting a newly married couple. Their story was exceptional because the man was suffering from cancer and the girl opted to marry him though she was aware of the extent of his illness. Everyone discouraged her from taking that step, advising her not to waste her life on a dying man. She was determined though to go ahead with the wedding in all its solemnity with a grand service in the church and a celebration with family and friends. Those who looked at her felt a certain sympathy for her seemingly foolish decision. She however celebrated the event with great joy.

As I was speaking to her, I felt deeply in my heart that her love was more divine than human. I enquired of her about why she took that decision. What she said amazed and inspired me. She knew all the consequences of her decision. She told me that the first time she was with him he had ended their meeting with a prayer asking the Risen Lord to be always present in their midst. All their meetings were characterised by this prayer. There was a deep spiritual significance overshadowing their relationship. She could feel the Risen Lord being present in their midst. She could not think of him without God and she could not pray to God without him. Two years later when I went to that place again, I met her and she was already then a widow. While mentioning to me that he had died of the cancer she also described that for her life was now a continued existence with him. He had not ceased to exist for her. His presence was inexplicably connected with the real presence of the Risen Lord for her. She recounted how in the final days of his earthly life while she was tending to him she could see the face of Jesus reflected in his. Whenever sadness seemed to overwhelm her now she would turn seeking the comfort of God and in a while she could sense the Lord’s presence bringing her a reassurance of her husband’s real and continued closeness with her. She had no regrets for marrying him even years after his death because his presence and closeness to her was not less real than it was before his death. She felt drawn to dedicate her time to be close to the altar. She was serving as the sacristan in the church and spent her free hours tending to the sick and elderly.

Those who die to themselves and live for Christ, will not be defeated by any untoward happening. Their union with the Lord in their lifetime ensures them a participation in the glory of the Risen Lord. One remembers the words of Christ to a grieving sister, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25,26). As Christ passed through earthly existence traversing death to attain the splendour of the glory of the Resurrection, He carries us along that we may always live in His loving presence. The rays of the glory of the Resurrection will shed light and comfort in the vicissitudes of our earthly existence. We shall live always and forever for the Lord and for each other.

Let us pray

Lord Jesus Christ, we praise and thank you for your great love for us that has defeated death. As we live in you we know that we will live life forever. You gave us the gift of life and you have ensured that this gift will never be taken from us. Lord this day we place our life in your hands and we pray that you will take hold of our hearts that we may live every moment for love of you. We bring to you our grief and fears of death. Anoint us with your Spirit that as the Holy Spirit raised you from death to life, we too shall be led to live forever in the presence of our loving Father, and that our love may always be a source of comfort and strength to those whom you have given us on this earth.

Divine Updates

Retreats in Divine Retreat Centre, UK

Divine Retreat Centre, Ramsgate UK,?has announced several English and Malayalam language retreats to be led by Fr. George Panackal VC and Fr. Joseph Edattu VC. All are welcome.

Dates: Jan - Dec, 2019

Inner Healing Retreat for Priests & Religious

Divine Retreat Centre is organising a retreat for priests and religious - to be held in November, 2019. Please spread the word. Prior registration is not required.

Date: Nov 24 - 29, 2019

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2019. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - or Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2019 - December, 2019

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