Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.
The wave of glamour and glory, popularity and power, money and comfort is what the modern generation seems to be riding on. But a different wave swept through the youth at the Divine Retreat Centre during the International Youth Conference, POWER 2012. It was a passion to live for the Lord with every breath they now had and a burning desire to make His Love known to the ends of the earth. The Presence of Jesus was felt by the young people very powerfully and they began seeking intensely to enter a deeper union with the Lord. For them now, the one meaning for life was in a radical and complete commitment to the person of Jesus. The words of St. Paul were becoming a profound experience in the lives of everyone - “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)
The theme of the Youth Conference was the exhortation of St Paul - “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) Inaugurating the Conference, the Papal Nuncio His Excellency Salvatore Pennachio encouraged the youth with the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “Jesus is someone in whom we can put absolute trust. He is present as a force of hope through His Church which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice.” Coming from a culture of skepticism and despair these words became a challenge worth striving for. As the retreat progressed, their search grew in intensity to experience Jesus as the Light that shall break through the dark clouds of meaninglessness. Jesus was no more a stranger to their struggles or an abstract concept in their mind but a living reality participating in their todays - giving meaning to their past and a goal of their future.
“Sown In Weakness… Raised In Power” (1 Corinthians 15:43)
The youth had flocked in from 25 countries for POWER 2012. As they came in, some looked very tired, others indifferent and still others were regretting that they had come at all! Some of them were complaining that their dormitory accommodation was not in any way satisfactory to them. Many were found arguing with the volunteers - demanding better accommodation. Of prime importance for them was the luxury and privacy of a separate room. They could not see beyond this demand. It seemed to me that their thinking and actions were merely a reflection of the mood of the world from which they had come. The craze in the world around us is to make life more and more comfortable and to avoid at all costs the slightest inconvenience. I could even hear a group of young retreatants arguing with the volunteers, “If you did not have enough comfortable accommodation why did you publicize the Conference?” Finally by the evening of Sunday all seemed to have settled grudgingly with the limited conveniences offered to them.
As the hours and days were going by, everyone noted a marked difference in the attitude of the youth. The inconvenience of the accommodation became irrelevant and they were enthusiastically attending all the sessions. Daily the retreat would begin at 6:30 in the morning and end only by 10:30 at night. Even the length of the sessions or the fact that they had few breaks was not a concern for them. There was a new thirst to know the Heart of God and seek His ways. I could hear the prophecy of Isaiah ringing in my mind, “Many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’" (Isaiah 2:3)
Raul from Mumbai expressed at the end of the retreat - “It was the acceptance from the world that I always wanted. Yet, Jesus accepted me and baptized me. With His death, I am dead to sin. My life has changed completely.” It was clearly manifested that the youth of today were getting disillusioned by the multitude of the glamorous offers of the world. They had walked the way of the world and incurred deep wounds and frustrations. They could see no way out. The flashes of media only aroused their passions, dragging them deeper into the quagmire of the culture of death. The talks and the deep experience of the Holy Eucharist during the Eucharistic celebrations and Adoration services opened up new horizons before them. Prasangani from Sri Lanka said, “I saw the Face of Jesus in the host during the Inner Healing session and as soon as I saw Him, all my pains and sorrows vanished.” Some of them held fast to the Hand of the Lord which they realized was reached out to them. In that ecstatic experience of love, they found a way to life different from what they had seen before and so contrary to all that the world had offered them. Valentine from Rajasthan shared his deepest sentiments - “This has been an amazing experience. I loved each and every moment here at Divine. I experienced God’s Love and Mercy in a way I had never dreamt of before.” Phenjo Toby from Mauritius wrote, “The Conference taught me great principles which I am determined to follow to lead a great life of peace and love with Jesus as the centre of my life.”
“Our God Is A Consuming Fire” (Hebrews 12:29)
Often parents and elders complain that the youngsters are impulsive and indifferent. They are not able to accept the unfavorable situations and unfortunate turn of events in life. Therefore, they are angry and irresponsible. But while listening to them at a deeper level, their words revealed the sad truth that a dryness of frustration had splintered their hearts because their gaze was all the time fixed on the negative experiences of life. Once they were able to shift their eyes to God, their hearts were filled with His Love; they could walk away from the burdens of the past and look to a future of radiant hope. Tanya from UK expressed the transformation that she saw within herself, “I could not forgive people and forget my past, but during the Inner Healing I was healed. I had been filled with sorrow. Now I am going back with peace and joy.”
This revelation of the amazing Love of God empowered them to dare to live for God. Kusum Fernando from Sri Lanka wrote of her total self surrender to Jesus, “Jesus is the Potter who will mould my life henceforth. He is my Master.”
This new found love for Jesus became an intense experience in the hearts of many. Theresa from Goa wrote before leaving “During the Inner Healing session, I closed my eyes and prayed to Jesus to heal my wounds and forgive all my sins. When I opened my eyes I felt like I was in heaven. I looked at Jesus’ Face and smiled. I deeply and deeply fell in love with Jesus from that moment on.” For many this euphoric experience of God as Love was life-transforming. They felt the burden of the enslavements of the past being lifted away from them. Clara from Mumbai testified - “When I placed my hurt, pain, anxiety and burdens at the Feet of Jesus, I knew tears were rolling down. I felt the healing Touch of Jesus.” The experience of Adeline Sum from Penang-Malaysia reveals this movement to confidence and zeal for life: “Jesus loves me with all His Heart and He is the answer to every situation.” When the Face of God had shone on their faces, the shadows of shame and rejection were banished. Marcelina of Pune spoke of a reorientation of her search in life: “Why should we look for friends outside? Look within yourself and you will find the perfect friend, Jesus!”
Anyone who is touched by the consuming fire that God is cannot remain the same. What we were witnessing here at the Youth Conference was that God was stretching out and touching His children. For no human could accomplish this magnificent transformation happening before our eyes. Velina Nisha from Mangalore said, “My desire is to be always with Jesus and never let Him go away from my life.” This is indeed a new way of desiring, a new style of living, a new culture for the world to be saved by! The youth during the counseling sessions and in their testimonies expressed irrevocable commitment to Jesus. Brian Ah-Kee from Mauritius declared publicly “I am ready to give all of myself to Jesus.” It was a confirmation for us of the great hope for this world in the new generation that was being moulded by the fire of the Holy Spirit. For here was a race determined to come out of the illusions of a consumerist culture and step aside from the rat race to offer their lives into the Hands of the Lord Jesus. It was in Christ that Jodie from UAE found the course of her future and the meaning of her life in Jesus: “My mission when I go back is to spread God’s Word.” When they realized that Christ had identified Himself with their sorrows and struggles to raise them up, their one passion now was to identify themselves with and continue the mission of Jesus in the world. Kevin of Malaysia declared, “I will carry You Jesus with me all the days of my life henceforth.”
“See What Love The Father Has Shown Us” (1 John 3:1)
Love and commitment for Jesus has drawn the youth very close to the Church. It was a great joy to find the young people actively participating in the Sacraments of the Church. If they had distanced themselves from the structures of the Church, it was because they had some bitter experience with the elders in the administration of the Church. In counseling, they were able to open up their wounded emotions and get healed. A young man came to my office and sat for sometime very indifferently in front of me. Apparently he had nothing to say. I wondered why he wanted to see me. When I encouraged him to speak, he retorted that there was no use of talking to a priest. But I prevailed on him telling him that Jesus is greater than all the authorities of the Church. Deeply etched in his heart was a painful memory of the Principal of his school who was a priest. He felt humiliated by what he thought was the partiality of the Principal towards the rich and influential. Though he was the topper of the class, he thought the Principal would not give any credit to him. He came out of school and entered college with all the negative impressions of the priests and the Church. Slowly he felt disinclined to go to Church and even to believe in God. At the inner Healing Prayer Service, he felt the Hand of God touching him and whispering to his heart that He loved him very dearly. In the beginning he dismissed it as an illusion but the experience was very intense. He wanted to confirm the truth about it. However when he came to meet me, the negative memories of his principal-priest resurfaced. I helped him to understand the great importance of his God-experience as the antidote to the poison of pain caused by the carelessness of an elder of the Church. As I was speaking to him, I could see tears trickling down his eyes. I could feel the heart hardened by a negative experience once again throbbing in love for God. In fact, quite a few youngsters could make peace with priests who hurt them when they experienced how caring and understanding the priests were during Confession and Counseling. At the end of the Conference, many of them expressed their deep attachment to the Church and to the activities of the Church. Jonah from USA testified - “Jesus has become the ONE constant in my life. He holds me in the palm of His Hand. My mission now is to serve my church and be faithful to what I promised here at the retreat.”
The life-transforming experience of the Conference had effects on the physical health of the participants as well. Hundreds of youth stood up testifying to the healing Touch of the Lord. A young man came to me before leaving the Centre to express his gratitude for the answer he got for a nagging question in his mind. Why is God allowing all the sickness in the world? Why is God indifferent to the bitter pain in the lives of the people? He said that when he saw hundreds standing up to testify to the experience of physical healing he was convinced that God is the ultimate answer to all the pain in the world. It opened up his eyes to the real nature of God who was caring and compassionate.
At the end of the retreat all of us were tired after all the planning and putting together of the programs day after day. And yet we could not but feel more than satisfied as one after the other, the youth were coming and sharing how the POWER 2012 touched their lives in different ways. Jenny Fernando from Goa summed it all up, “This retreat was an experience of a lifetime which can never be forgotten.”
“Ablaze In The Spirit” (Romans 12:11)
One is reminded of the transformation of Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Vibrant and zealous for the ancient law, he was determined to establish his way. But when the Light of Christ struck through the blindness of his heart, he was born again as Paul - aflame with a new fire for Jesus the Lord! In the enthusiasm of having found the meaning of his life, he cried out to the heavens, “What shall I do for you, Lord?” (Acts 22:10) It was a total transformation to live the ‘YES’ for God. From then, every moment of his life became a sacrificial offering of love as he would write “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) At one time his pride was in being an elite Pharisee having high influence in the Jewish society and also being a disciple of the Gamaliel with unquestioned authority of scholarship. Added to this was the Roman citizenship with its coveted privileges that he flaunted. But when he met the Lord, his only glory was this declaration: “Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 13:12) His life was focused on Jesus in such a radical way that everything that he earlier had considered as valuable was now dismissed as refuse. His only longing was to be one with His Lord. Everything he did, everywhere he went and everyone he met had only one motivation to have Jesus accepted as the Lord and Saviour. This fire sustained him to the end of his life - “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Looking back to the days of POWER 2012, I am inspired by the Power of the Love of Jesus that gripped the lives of the youth, remoulding them with a burning desire to live for the kingdom of God. Their eyes were opened to see the superficiality of the comforts of the world as now their hearts were opened to the overflowing Joy of the Spirit. They have become the beacons of hope in a world that groping in darkness had forgotten the beauty of life. They have gone out declaring that life is beautiful and worth living when you live it for Jesus!
Let Us Pray
Heavenly Father we offer You the beauty of our youth who are the promise for this world. Your Love remould us from our ugly pains to a glorious existence. Let the Light You have shed in their hearts illumine them at every moment of their life. Stir their hearts that this Flame of Love may grow brighter and they may witness to Your Glory to the ends of the earth.