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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

"God's love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

God is a mystery unveiled progressively in the pages of the Bible. “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) Jesus the Son of God came to the world to tell us that God is a relationship of Love. He spoke of the Father who loved us to the extent of sending Him to the world to ensure that we should not be lost. He also spoke of the Holy Spirit whom the Father would send to be with us forever. God therefore is not a dry loneliness lost in eternity but a vibrant relationship of three persons bonded by this current of love into an eternal unity. Jesus explains to us how the Three are united in love as one God. Revealing His own self-consciousness, Jesus said, “I come from the Father.” He continued to say, “I go the Father.” This flow of love between the Father and Son is the bond of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus came down to the world to draw us into this current of Eternal Love. St. Paul explains to us this mystery in his description of what happens in the moment of our Baptism. The waters of Baptism washed us clean of all the sin and grafted us into the Person of Jesus in such a vital way that the baptised person becomes one with the Risen Lord. Jesus the Son of God takes every baptised person with Him into the current of love flowing to the Father. As a result, we have a share in the Divine Life and Love. Our nature becomes Spirit-filled enabling us to experience the Trinitarian Love in our hearts and in our relationships.

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

During His public ministry, Jesus went about doing good to everyone, healing the sick, forgiving the sinners, saving families, comforting the afflicted. He gave the assurance that His mission for salvation will be continued and completed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one Promise that He invited everyone to wait for. When the Jewish leader Nicodemus visited Him at night, Jesus explained that he should be born anew in the Holy Spirit, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (John 3:5) He waited at the well of Sychar to tell the sinful Samaritan woman that He would give the living waters of the Holy Spirit to her -  “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.” (John 4: 14) While speaking to the crowds in the Temple of Jerusalem, He again renewed His promise of the Holy Spirit, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink… Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’” (John 7:37-38) During the Last Supper, He assured the disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit upon them, explaining to them what the Holy Spirit would do in their lives. After His Death and Resurrection, before ascending to Heaven, once again Jesus told the disciples that they had to wait and pray until the Holy Spirit comes upon them. Hence, whether to an erudite Jewish leader or the simple sinful woman, or the pious crowd at the Temple or His close associates, the one direction the Lord was pointing them to was the goal of the Anointing of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, this great Promise was fulfilled with the disciples.

Christian life is a continued waiting and praying for the Holy Spirit. Often we hear a complaint from well-meaning people that they are not able to rise up to the commitment they made at baptism and they feel guilty that they have to make compromises with their Christian commitment in their day-to-day lives. A couple once came to me, confiding that they are not able to understand each other or to love each other. However much they tried, they failed and they were frustrated. I reminded them that when God brought them together as husband and wife, it was not because God saw in them the ability to love and understand each other. The one assurance given was that God would enable them through the Holy Spirit to be united in love. Jesus mentioned this during a discourse on marriage. The disciples questioned the reality of how possible it would be for the husband and wife to be always united in love. Jesus replied in the negative and said this would not as a matter of course be possible in human nature. He added that this would be made possible by the grace of the Holy Spirit (cf.Matthew 19:10-11).

“The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22)

Christian marriage is therefore, not a mere natural relationship of a man and a woman loving each other; it is rather the sanctuary, in which the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling, rendering the relationship divine. Jesus gives a specific definition to marriage saying, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6) Attention is usually drawn to the second part of the sentence. However, Jesus mentions first what He wishes to impress on us more deeply. Marriage is by nature a relationship that is effected by God Himself. It is a relationship in which God is present, to make it happen.

This is what the Church teaches by saying that Marriage is a Sacrament. Sacrament is a human exercise, the Holy Spirit being present and acting. Baptism is for example a sacrament. Though it is the priest who pours the water and says the prayers, it is the Holy Spirit acting through these external signs to effect the spiritual transformation in the recipient. He or she becomes a child of God - being cleansed of all sins including the original sin. This supernatural effect is by the working of the Holy Spirit. In the same way, when man and woman live as husband and wife, it is the Holy Spirit who becomes the unfailing source of love in their midst. The success of marriage depends therefore on whether the husband and wife are able to live out their marriage commitment as a sacrament.

A couple once told me of their prayer experience. They had a lot of differences with each other but they realised they were able to reconcile all such differences in prayer. Whenever there was a difference of opinion or an emotional conflict, the two of them would go to their bedroom and pray together. Their bedroom had become for them a prayer room. Here they prayed in the morning and evening together. In a prayerful atmosphere, they would share with each other their point of view and their pain. They would wait for the Holy Spirit to descend upon them and restore them to peace and love. This spiritual exercise had brought great joy into their marriage. They would never go to bed at night without resolving their differences. They proudly told me that their children were blessed to never have witnessed their parents’ arguing or being indifferent to each other.

This mystery is s profound one” (Ephesians 5:32)

To live out the marriage relationship as a spiritual sacrament means to be able to minister the grace of love to each other. Every sacrament has a minister through whom the grace of the sacrament flows to the recipient. Baptism is conferred by a priest. Hence, he is the minister of that sacrament. So also, the minister of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is again the priest. With the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Bishop is the minister. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this clearly, “In the case of marriage, the officiating priest is only the official witness of the Church. According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ's grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church” (CCC II – 1623). This means that the husband is the sacred channel through whom the grace of marriage flows into the wife. In the same way, the wife is the sacred channel of grace for the husband. When the husband and wife stand before the altar, it is their ministry to each other that makes their marriage a sacrament. Their marriage remains a ministry until the end.

This ministry is a mission to be worked on a daily basis for the husband and the wife. A husband shared with me how he fulfils this mission. He recounted how one day early in his marriage when he returned from office, he found his wife depressed. He had a hard day at office and was looking forward to relax with his wife, share his problems with her, and find comfort in her care. He felt frustrated and helpless when he realised that this need of his was not going to be met so easily. He prayed for a moment and he felt the Power of the Holy Spirit coming upon him. He remembered his mission of being a sacred channel of the grace of joy to his wife in her distress. He sat with her patiently and comforted her. He read the Word of God to her and prayed for her. Though it took some time, they felt drawn close to each other and the two of them found solace in each other.

“That he might sanctify her” (Ephesians 5:26)

Every ministry has a prophetic, shepherding, and priestly function. For instance when a penitent comes to confess, the priest has to be a prophet to reveal God’s Word to him. This is to say that the priest must speak for God to the repentant person. “Pro-phete” means to speak for. In prayer, the priest finds out the message that God would give him which will always be a message of mercy inviting the person to repentance and enabling the person to trust in the mercy of the Lord. Moreover, the priest listens to the penitent and responds to him, to bind up his wounds as a true shepherd. He would avoid the natural urge to condemn or to judge because his heart must echo the Mercy of the Heart of Jesus. As a priest, he will pray with the penitent sanctifying him to have him freed from the bondage of sin, with the power vested in him by the Lord.

Every ministry in the church has this three-fold function. When the wife is sad and depressed, the husband is not to give in to natural emotional reactions. The painful memories of a wife are not so much losses or reverses, but the lack of compassion in the husband she turned to in her need. Giving in to natural reactions, a spouse could either get desperate or vexed and irritated. It is the command of the Lord to rise above natural reactions and instinctual outbursts. Jesus said, “If any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:39-40) To strike back is a natural human instinct. Jesus wants his disciples to be different. Christianity is about the extra mile. It is here that we remember the last command of Jesus before ascending to heaven to wait for the promise of the Father” (Act 1:4). We will be able to walk the extra mile only in the Power of the Holy Spirit. Only when the marriage partners are able to wait and pray for the Holy Spirit, will they will be liberated from the selfish and emotional tyranny.

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6)

The success of marriage depends on the ability of the spouses to experience the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit in their midst. Possessiveness has danger of blocking out the Presence of God from a relationship. When a spouse seeks to possess the other, the idea of Divine Love is lost. The two are focused merely on each other. This has a two-fold danger. No human love can satisfy a human person. However much one tries to grab the love of the other, there would always be cause for complaining because of a lingering dissatisfaction. No man will be able to fill the heart of a woman or any woman of a man. As St. Augustine has well expressed, human hearts will be satisfied only when filled with God. If not, perpetual conflicts will wear out the bond. The other danger is the obstinate demand that the other should make good the hurt caused. The fact is no human person will be able to compensate for the hurt caused, even if it was him who caused it. This is not to diminish in anyway the necessity of apologising and getting reconciled. It is indeed crucial for the process of healing. However, it is the Holy Spirit who alone works the inner healing for He is the Comforter Jesus offered. Marriage therefore is a relationship caused and strengthened by the Holy Spirit of God. Human experiences whether sad or joyful, irritable or pleasant, should seek the Holy Spirit to flow in and the bond of love between the couple be purified, strengthened and built up. This indeed, is the saving grace of the family’s relationship.

To have lost sense of this spiritual dimension of marriage is the catastrophe of the modern era. What is at stake is not just the well-being of this generation but also the destiny of whole humankind. The Church as the Bride of Jesus Christ has the urgent mission to proclaim this truth. No effort will be too much to restore marriage to its pristine spiritual beauty.

Let us pray

Heavenly Father, You created man in your own image of love; male and female is the humankind created. You laid the foundation of the family in Paradise. The wonder of two becoming one constituted the great beauty of creation, a beauty after Your Own Nature of the Three becoming One. Jesus, You perfected marriage by raising it to a Sacrament by Anointing it with the Holy Spirit. Family is no mere fruit of human struggle but the living out of the abundant grace Your Holy Spirit poured out. Spirit of God, let every family be an icon of your Presence and Power. Give us all the Grace to wait on You to be filled and led by Your Power.




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