Jesus inaugurated His mission proclaiming that the year of God’s favour had arrived. St. Luke portrays for us how on the Sabbath Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read aloud the prophecy of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me… to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:19). The Messiah was announcing the sacred era in which God intervenes in the life of everyone turning to Him, offering freedom for captives, sight to the blind, liberation for the oppressed. The heavens finally opened with the response of God to the longing of His people of centuries. This great promise of God, Jesus would declare, had found fulfilment in Him - (Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:21)
“Behold, The Kingdom Of God Is In The Midst Of You” (Luke 17:21)
The ministry that Jesus started that moment fulfilled this prophecy in the life of every distressed person. He went from village to village, from town to town, crossing borders of every type, bringing the salvation of God. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” (Luke 7:22) A man frustrated with a future that was lost because of a withered hand found life in Jesus as the Lord called him forward before an assembly at the synagogue to heal him on the Sabbath. Though Jesus knew healing on the Sabbath would infuriate those self righteous guardians of the Law and give opportunity for His enemies to denounce Him, He could not keep the suffering man waiting (Ref Mark 3:1-6). A desperate woman, after twelve years of battling with the sickness of hemorrhage, found the hour of salvation when healing and hope flowed into her the instant she reached out and touched the hem of the Lord’s garment. Though rushing with a crowd to an urgent destination ,He would pause to affirm her - “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” (Mark 5:34) While passing through Jericho, Jesus found time to go to the house of a tax collector - despised and isolated by society. There on entering the house of Zacchaeus, the Lord would declare, “Today salvation has come to this house.” (Luke 19:9) Indeed, the message first declared in the synagogue of Nazareth had to find an echo in every home and in every age.
Pope Benedict XVI blessing the Divine Vision logo
There is a marked tone of urgency in the way Jesus ministered to the sick and the broken-hearted. It was this urgency that He conveyed to the disciples when He commissioned them - "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) This urgency echoed in the hearts of the disciples through the generations. St. Paul would say “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16) It is this urgency that governs the pulse of the Church as Pope Benedict XVI prayed aloud, "That the entire People of God, to whom Christ entrusted the mandate to go and preach the Gospel to every creature, may eagerly assume their own missionary responsibility and consider it the highest service they can offer humanity."
“Who Will Go For Me?” (Isaiah 6:8)
Deeply etched in my heart is the painful memory of a lady in tears. It happened in the early years of my priestly ministry when I was preaching a parish mission in South Kerala. After the morning session, I had gone visiting the families in the parish to pray with them. On one of those days, as I was returning early in the evening, at the gate of a house close to the church, a lady was standing. She called out to me and requested me to spare some time for she needed to talk to me. I declined as it was already 4 o’clock in the evening and I had only an hour to prepare for the next session. Explaining this to her, I assured her that I would make time for her the next day. With tears rolling down her eyes, she asked me, “Have you no time for me Father? If it were Jesus, He would have known the pain in my heart and He would have spoken to me.” I again explained my inability and hurried to the church.
The next morning while I was having breakfast, the parish priest told me that there had been a suicide in the parish at a house near the church. He was particularly grieved that this should happen during the parish mission. Later I came to know that the lady who wanted to meet me urgently was the one who had ended her life the previous evening. It pained me deeply as I felt a certain sense of responsibility for the suicide. The words she had uttered resounded in my heart that if it were Jesus, He would have known her pain. I knew that this was true. The mission had failed to reach her with the word of consolation that could have saved her life.
Since then it has often occurred to me that there should be a way for the desperate and broken-hearted to access at any hour of their need, be it day or night, the comforting and saving Word of God to draw them back to life. To everyone abandoned in misery, Christ was thirsting to reach. The question was how could we make it possible?
“Confirming The Word With Signs” (Mark 16:20)
“He has sent me to give the good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18) is the motto of the Vincentian Congregation to which I belong. In living out this motto, the Fathers of the Congregation have been conducting Popular Mission Retreats in parishes for several decades now. Towards the end of the last century, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II gave the urgent call for a ‘New Evangelization’ in the Church: “I see the dawning of a new missionary era. The urgency of the new evangelisation is that the Religious today... stay in the vanguard of preaching the gospel.”
Taking inspiration from this urgent call, the Divine-Potta retreat ministry emerged in the service of the renewal of the Church. Soon retreat centres were established receiving thousands of the faithful to renew them in the Power of the Word of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We saw the Hand of God generously moving among His people, healing the sick, comforting the broken-hearted, setting free those crumbling under bondages of sin and addictions, reconciling and uniting families.
But the more we went on mission, the more we realized that for every broken person who came for the retreat, there were many more unable to go out to the Lord. What would the Lord have done we wondered? We did not have to search for an answer. It was clear - the Gospel must reach the ends of the earth - even those who are at the end of their hope.
Now with the growing numbers who were regularly making their retreats here, there were requests for a regular renewal inputs that they may stand strong in the challenges of their daily life. There was also a new threat for the faithful of an avalanche of wrong teachings of self-seeking individuals who claimed to have the Gospel of Christ but preached a different gospel. We shared the consternation of St. Paul who spoke against this even in the early church, “I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you... for a different gospel (not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let that one be accursed!” (Galatians 1:6-9) We realized the immediate need for making available the teaching of the Church and the call of the Gospel to a people thirsting to grow in their commitment to the Faith and the Church.
“Here I Am! Send Me” (Isaiah 6:8)
In the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we began contemplating to start a Catholic Gospel Channel in order that the Good News of Jesus Christ may reach every home and every heart across the globe. The bishops of the Church and several leaders urged us to take the step of faith. The late Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil blessing the channel stated, “I see Divine TV as the vision that took shape in the minds of many including myself for the dire need of a TV channel in the modern scenario of the Catholic Church to reach the gospel to every home.”
On 7 Nov 2008, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches inaugurated the transmission of Divine TV to the European and Middle Eastern countries. At that time he encouraged the Vincentian Fathers “never to tire in their mission to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth.”
On 25 May 2009, Divine TV channel was launched in Canada and USA. Most Rev Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto inaugurating the channel thanked the Vincentian Fathers of the Divine Retreat Centre for bringing this 24-hour commercial-free Catholic TV channel to North America, expressing his certainty that it will be a blessing for the Church.
20 November 2011 was a day of great rejoicing when His Beatitude Mar George Alenchery, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church blessed the launching of Divine Vision transmission in India, while His Excellency Oommen Chandy, the Chief Minister of Kerala inaugurated the transmission.
In the Providence of God the launching of the Divine Vision comes at the time when Pope Benedict XVI has renewed the call for a New Evangelization in the Church. In his address to the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation on 30 May 2011, the Pope affirmed “At this moment in history the Church is called to carry out the New Evangelization means intensifying her missionary action so that it fully corresponds to the Lord’s mandate.” The Holy Father further declared that one of the specific tasks the Church must be committed to “is to study and to encourage the use of the modern forms of communication for the new evangelization.”
“How Beautiful Upon The Mountains Are The Feet Of Him Who Brings Good Tidings” (Isaiah 52:7)
For over three years, Divine Vision programs are being telecast as a 24-hour Gospel Channel through the Northern continents of USA, Canada, Europe and Gulf. From the remote corner of Kerala, in our studios, night and day, the TV ministry worked to prepare programs with the one prayer that God in His amazing Providence would bless the work of our hands and bring hope to the hopeless. But as Scripture confirmed, every day we realized whatever be the little we had to offer, “It was the Lord’s doing and was marvellous in our eyes.”
On the first day of a special retreat in the US, a couple came to me beaming and with an air of familiarity. The husband said “Father, Divine is half the world away. But the miracles are reaching our homes!” Later at dinner, they approached me again and the wife shared this time how one night they both had a bitter argument as was usual in their marriage these recent years. At the end of the argument she told him she had had enough and was leaving the marriage. She left the bedroom and went into the other room. Since it was so dark, cold and still, she turned on the television and casually flicked through the channels to the Divine TV and it was the hour of the Gospel message. The message that day was on marriage and reconciliation. She was disturbed and initially tried to dismiss it as a coincidence. But the words seemed to be exactly speaking to her situation, convicting her that the only option of God was for her to commit herself once again to save the marriage and the family. She went back to her husband and they were reconciled that very night. “Since that day, no matter what, we come together at that hour to listen to the message of the day - after which we pray together as a family. Since then, there has been no turning back and our family has become a haven of God’s presence.”
“A Light To The Nations” (Isaiah 49:6)
I remember a year ago when I was in London for a retreat - two enthusiastic youngsters came to meet me. They were brother and sister and both medical students. With delightful smiles on their faces they said, “Thank you Father, for Divine TV!” I enquired from them what got them so thrilled about the Divine TV. They shared how though they had always been genuinely interested in prayer they were not able to pray. Prayer to them was a very boring exercise. When they had to sit to pray, they were distracted and soon became tired. With the coming of the Divine TV into their home, they learnt to pray. At night before they went to bed, they joined the prayer session on the TV. In the morning when they got up, they came in front of the TV and listened to what God had to say to them for the day. With the Bible in their hands, they listened to God’s Word. They were not distracted anymore. They shared how now in fact the beauty of prayer overwhelmed them. Prayer became a joyful experience! In a culture that was so individualistic and challenging, they no longer felt like islands. They said that they felt united with the thousands around the world who were praying with the Divine TV at the same time and living a faith commitment.
It struck me that the television set which has been long regarded as the means of distraction and disruption in families had now became a venue of unity for the members of the family. Instead of leading lives astray by the false lights of the world, the TV channel was drawing families to God, bringing a new joy into their lives. What struck me most was that the youth were coming closer to God through this channel. I felt a wave of great satisfaction spreading in my heart. Divine TV had become in the Hands of God an instrument of salvation for the young and for the families - the very areas where much had been ravaged by the violence of commercial media.
This incident was a great affirmation in my heart that God’s Favour and Hand was with the ministry of the Divine TV. By the growing responses we are getting from the young who are tuning in to this channel, we realize that the Lord has seen the need of the hour and is working through this humble channel.
“My God Will Supply Every Need Of Yours” (Philippians 4:19)
We are living in an age where we stand awestruck at the overwhelming influence of the media in every sphere of life. The generations are being moulded so decisively by the culture of the TV. Circumstances of life are being interpreted by the scandalous lives of the pop stars and of the characters in soap operas. Marriage, family and life values are given the go-by. It is the ruthless rule of the jungle that is glorified. If the Divine Vision ministry can be a voice in the wilderness, an antidote to the poison of consumerism and reach the Light of Christ to a new generation, there is no cost that we would spare to keep it going.
When one speaks of a channel one is speaking of millions. An indigenous congregation like ours could never be able to bear the immense cost of running a television channel. And yet we know we cannot put a price on the Word of God. Rather we chose to wait in prayer for God to open the hearts of the people to pray for us and support the burden of the cost. While we prayed together we received the affirmation - an ocean is made up by a little drops of water. Since Divine Vision is a project that God put in our hearts, we knew that God will touch the hearts of many to cooperate with us. St. Paul thanks the Philippians for being spiritual partners with him in his work of evangelization. And we realize the ministry is not ours to claim for ourselves but it belongs to a large family of those who are called and inspired to share the saving love of Christ. Meanwhile night and day, the intercessory prayer groups raise the intentions of the TV ministry and of all the audience and spiritual partners. Our confidence is in the promise of God that He will be with us as we hold on to Him in prayer.
“He Began To Teach Them” (Mark 6:34)
When the Major Archbishop was blessing Divine Vision by lighting the lamp and the Chief Minister inaugurated it, a quiet prayer arose from my heart – a prayer to the Lord that He may deign to speak to His people and reveal His love to everyone through this ministry.
When Jesus was standing on the banks of the sea of Galilee He saw the crowds coming to Him eager to listen to a word of hope and Jesus chose the boat of Simon Peter as a platform to speak to them (Luke Chapter 5). At Sychar, Jesus knew that a hard-hearted sinful woman would come to draw water and He chose the well of Jacob as the venue to promise her the Living Water of the Holy Spirit and turn her to life as a missionary to proclaim to the people that He is the Saviour of the world (John Chapter 4). In Jericho, Jesus chose the shade of a sycamore tree to speak to a corrupt government official, Zacchaeus, leading him and his family to the experience of salvation (Luke Chapter 19). In the green meadows of Galilee, Jesus chose a hillock to speak to the crowds and reveal the mystery of the Kingdom of God – the Beatitudes – to make human life blessed in all ages (Matthew Chapter5). In Nazareth, He chose the synagogue to announce His mission of liberation to the people ((Luke Chapter 4).
The world today is waiting to be comforted by the Living Word of God and healed by the Power of the Touch of the Lord. In my prayer, I offered the Divine Vision to the Lord that He may be pleased to proclaim from here the Word of Comfort and Salvation to the ends of the earth.
Let Us Pray
Lord Jesus we remember Your command, “Go and proclaim the Gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) We thank You for raising up Divine-Potta Television Ministry in the Divine Retreat Centre to bring the Good News of Salvation to every home across the globe. Anoint all our brothers and sisters working for this ministry that they may constantly be strengthened by Your Power from Above. Bless all the spiritual partners in this ministry that, together as a Divine family, we may bring the Spiritual Light and Heavenly Comfort of the Gospel to all humankind.
Thank You, Jesus! Praise You, Jesus!