By Fr Augustine Vallooran, VC –
A young doctor was sharing with me his frustration in life. As a school boy he was living with his parents and his elder sister. It was a devout family. He studied in a very prestigious school run by the priests. He served as an altar boy in the church. His memories of his school days were very sweet and beautiful. He came out in flying colours from the higher secondary after which he joined medical college in a distant town. He missed home during these years of study.
He slipped into a relationship with a girl who came from an agnostic family. The relationship developed into an affair. And he became very indifferent to his prayer life. The influence of the girl was so strong that after he graduated from the college he decided to move in with her in a live-in relationship. The mother of the girl came to stay with them and she had an upper hand in all the decision making. The income he got from his practice was to be handed over to her. The mother and daughter spent everything lavishly, not caring for him. He felt terribly neglected and he took to drinking.
Almost everyday there was a fight in the family. He began to get nostalgic about his parents and home. He ended up sharing with me, “My life has become a curse for me.” I prayed with him and I explained to him that God had showered His blessings upon him in order to make his life a blessing to a lot of people. As a doctor he could have brought God’s healing love to thousands of people. And God was preparing him for this mission through a blessed family. The moment he cut himself off from God, dark shadows had fallen into his life. It’s only when we are united with God that we will be able to become a blessing to ourselves and to others.
“All the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18)
When God had called Abraham, the promise of God for him was that he would be made a blessing for generations, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”(Gen 12:2,3). Abraham, however, had to cling on to God, leaving behind everything that had been his security. He obeyed God and his obedience of faith made him acceptable to God. God was able to fulfill His plans for Abraham. The patriarch was even ready to sacrifice his own son in order to prove his commitment to God. He became the Father of all believers by manifesting the nature of true faith.
Mother Mary became blessed in the eyes of God because of her faith. Elizabeth proclaimed this blessedness, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!” (Lk 1:45). The blessedness of human life is to be in communion with God. Life becomes a curse when God is absent from it. A brook cut away from the spring will get dried up. The dryness and emptiness anyone feels in his life is due to the distance one keeps from God.
“Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deut 30:19)
God created the earth as a Paradise for generations of men and women. God entrusted it to Adam and Eve, the first parents. However, the Paradise was lost to the humankind when the first parents rejected God and reached out to Satan for the paradise he offered. Darkness fell over the earth and it became accursed. “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Gen 3:17). The relationship between man and woman was also cursed as man began to find fault with his wife. The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” (Gen 3:12). Life on earth became intolerable because of the rebellion of nature that had set in with the sin of man, that now he had to toil with the sweat of his brow to get the earth to produce its fruit. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:18,19).
There is a legend describing the sad thoughts of Adam after he was expelled from Paradise. He would come and look to the gate of Paradise that was fenced and the cherubim posted there with flaming swords and in terrible grief he would ask himself, “Am I not the one who put the fence to Paradise against generations of humanity?” This is a question that every man and woman should ask themselves, whether they have been the cause for the loss of blessings that should have come to the people around them.
“You are slaves either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom 6:16)
When we obey God, He is able to give us a role in His saving plan. Mother Mary said yes to the invitation of the angel and offered her life in the hands of God, “Here am I, your servant, let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). When she made that total self surrender, God was able to anoint her with the Holy Spirit and to make her the mother of the Son of God. She became a blessing to the whole of humankind. Hence the exclamation of Elizabeth inspired by the Holy Spirit, “Blessed are you among women” (Lk 1:42), and the prophetic declaration of Mother Mary, “All generations shall call me blessed” (Lk 1:48).
In contrast, when man flees from the way of God, he ends up being a curse to himself and to everyone around. A typical example is Jonah of the Bible. God had a definite plan for him to save the city of Nineveh through his preaching mission. God entrusted him with that mission and sent him to Nineveh. But Jonah resented this move of God to save the enemy because the Ninevites were pagans and traditionally enemies of the Jews. Instead of heading towards Nineveh, he actually took a ship heading in the opposite direction towards Tarshish.
There was a storm in the sea so violent that the ship was about to break into two. The captain of the ship pleaded with everyone to pray to their own gods that somehow the imminent tragedy would be averted. Jonah however went to the hold of the ship and lay down there and fell asleep. He had given in to despair because he had no claim to stand before God now that he was in an open rebellion against the will of God. The captain went down and asked him how he could sleep when everybody else was intensely trying to save themselves through prayer. He acknowledged that he was a Hebrew worshipping the God of heaven, the sea and the earth. He also confessed that it was his sin against God that had stirred the wrath of nature.
Jonah suggested to them that since he was the curse they could save themselves by casting him into the seas. As soon this was done, the storm was quelled. Since Jonah had cut himself off from God, he could not bring any blessing to his companions in the ship. Rather his presence brought disaster to the place. Soon Jonah realised that he was called to obey God and save the people of Nineveh. He indeed became a blessing.
“Obedient to the point of death” (Phil 2:8)
Jesus himself became the greatest blessing to the whole of humankind because his life was in total conformity to the will of the Father. Obeying the Father to the greatest extent, He offered himself on the Cross. “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Heb 5:8,9). Jesus Christ became the greatest blessing to humankind because His sacrificial obedience to the Father was the ultimate. The closer we come to this perfect obedience of the Son, the greater blessings we will become to each other. As St Paul pinpoints the obedience of Jesus being the saving factor, “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19).
“If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me” (Jer 15:19)
A businessman came here. His business was at a terrible loss because of his reckless living. He hardly cared for his family. On the pretext of business purposes, he went overseas only to gratify his sinful desires. Now he was stuck with the huge losses in the business. His marriage was on the verge of a divorce. His children stayed away from him. Even at this juncture he had no care for God. He came for the retreat at the insistence of a friend. He was angry through the first days of the retreat, sneering at the piety around him.
At one point, during the Holy Mass, he felt convicted that it was his sinful selfishness that had caused his downfall and grief to those who had trusted him. He realised for the first time what he stood to lose. His own arrogance had alienated all his family members. In his hour of loss he stood alone and he knew he deserved it. He had imagined that his money and intelligence would allow him to do whatever he wanted and would bail him out in case of any conflict. He grieved over his foolishness. That night he spent in the chapel shedding copious tears. He felt deep in his heart the call of God to turn to him, trusting in God’s mercy. He made a very honest confession. The priest led him to open his heart to the mercy of God. At the time of the anointing of the Holy Spirit he realised the power of God had taken over his life. He surrendered his future to the Lord to be filled and led by the Spirit.
He went back home as a new creation, totally committed to be obedient to the Lord. He began to pray for his family members and for his friends in the business. He felt the Lord sending him in the power of the Spirit to go and tell them about the offer of salvation given by Jesus. He was ridiculed mercilessly. His own family dismissed his words as a passing spiritual craze. He however was not slighted but continued in earnest to pray.
Over the months, people began to recognise an extraordinary commitment and sincere repentance in his way of life. He could prevail on some of his friends and family members to go for a retreat. Those who were lost in sin were seeking him out to find a new hope in life. His own business picked up. Now wherever he went for business he would search out a church and share his experience of salvation. Over the years, several hundreds have been led to the Lord by the witness of life, humility and testimony. His testimony is that when he obeyed God, the curse was taken away and he was made a blessing.
God intervened into the life of Abraham and promised him to make him a blessing to all of humankind. He believed in God and obeyed him at every moment of his life. He was raised up by God as the Father of all believers. Jesus, the son of God, became the greatest blessing by his total obedience to the Father. Everyone who believes in Jesus is called to be a blessing.
Heavenly Father, you have sent each one of us to this earth that our lives may be a blessing to others. We failed to trust in your plan and we have rebelled. Our words, deeds and lives have only brought hurts and sufferings. Today we make our way back to you, to surrender as your Son did. Lord Jesus, you are our Saviour. You show us the way to blessing by the absolute obedience to the father’s plan that you lived out. We want this life that we have to be a blessing to this earth and we pray guide us at every moment by your Holy Spirit, to seek the will of the Father and to sincerely follow it. Thank you Lord for the great mission you have handed to our humble lives. Amen.
Fr. Augustine Vallooran, V.C. is Director, Divine Retreat Centre – Muringoor, Kerala.