Monday, November 16, 2009

For the Grace of God has appeared, Bringing Salvation to All

Fr Matthew Naicomparambil V.C

We are reading this article at a time when the grace and greatness of God are revealed to us in a special way for the salvation of all. Many lakhs of people read the Bible and receive the light and grace of the Holy Spirit, recognising and witnessing that Jesus is the Saviour and they feel happy and fulfilled at that. 
Even while listening to the Word of God, many are receiving internal peace and tranquility and cure for physical maladies. They witness miraculous happenings and obtain the love of God. These are joyful things and that is why nowadays people of all sorts, irrespective of caste, creed or religious affinities, throng to partake in the retreats and read Vachanotsavam. Each one who comes to the retreat and reads the magazine gets blessing. This phenomenon has become a way for the positive and benevolent intervention of God and a fountain spring for graces in this era. To us, who are stepping into the third millennium, this development gives great hopes. We try hard and for long and are blessed with certain achievements. We bring out various publications. At this particular juncture, God has chosen us, our publications, Vachanotsavam magazine, to spread with lightning speed the Word of God, the Good News. Let us thank God for this great mercy on us. 
Let Him shower on all of us His special, choicest blessings. Let Him instill into us spiritual gifts making us stronger in our faith so that we march forward with confidence at this time of advancement of the Word of God. Praised be the name of Jesus! Praise be to the Father. Adoration to you, O Jesus! Hallelujah!!
The greatest revelation of these times is the Holy Spirit's highlighting to us the Biblical messages indicating that God will render salvation to all and that He desires to give it to all. We read in Lk. 3:6, "And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. "That this is the will and desire of God is shown in the first letter to Timothy (2:3-4). This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." God does not want a single person to perish. "The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore God prepares ways and avenues for repentance. These avenues are seen in the numerous retreats and conventions that are held these days and by taking part in them we receive salvation in plentiful and abundant measures. This is what God wants. Everyone should receive the saving graces of the Lord. Today there are 600 crores of people, living in 200 countries spanning the five continents of the world and God wants the Good News to be spread to all of them without exception. You may ask whether it is not possible for the Omnipotent God to do it all by Himself. Of course, He can! But He wants the Good News to spread through us, the faithful believers. So present the Jesus we know and experience to others. Also share with others the words of God that illuminated our lives. Thus, one with the other, the other with another, and so on the chain gets extended, each person becoming a link in propagating the Word of the Lord around the entire length and breadth of the Universe. Also organise some groups and spread the Biblical message. Teach the participants about the salvation Jesus offers. Inform them about the generous act of redemption, the absolution from sin that only Jesus offers. Tell them about the eternal and everlasting life He promises. What work is greater than this magnificent job of spreading the Good News? Jesus asks this stunning question: "For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?" (Matt. 16:26).
It is a matter of Great joy, satisfaction and encouragement that at this point in time God is revealing the message of this spiritual salvation and eternal life to the people of different walks of life and faith. Today many, not only Christians, but those baptised and not baptised belonging to other religious leanings take part in the retreats, read spiritual publications, receive the light of the Holy spirit, renew their lives and spiritually transform themselves. They become the living witnesses of Jesus. With joy and happiness and without rest, everyday they proclaim their experiences to the eager multitudes. They gladly share the teachings of Our Lord with others.
I distinctly remember an incident that took place in Potta Ashram right in the beginning when conventions celebrating the Word of God commenced there. A non-Christian came there to take part in the retreat. As he was a labourer on daily wages, he could not afford to come for the retreat everyday. But he came regularly on Sundays to take part in the retreat proceedings. After attending the services on 4 Sundays, he started hating his drinking habit. He soon got the grace to quit smoking, too. He also got relieved of his stomach ailment that was bothering him for long. His life soon transformed into one of joy and peace. Many miraculous changes took place in his life when he heard the word of the Lord. He experienced spiritual tranquility. His inner wounds were healed and he was filled with the joy and love of God. After a few weeks he started taking Vachanotsavam magazine to various households and getting new subscribers to the magazine. He did that because he was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, who gave him the necessary strength, joy and inspiration to do it. I still remember with a sense of wonder how that brother enrolled about 500 subscribers for Vachanotsavam magazine. He was not a highly educated man. He was just a labourer doing odd jobs; he was a drunkard once; he was a heavy smoker once; he had never experienced a peaceful life. But things changed. When he heard Jesus, when he listened to the witnesses proclaiming the miraculous changes brought in their lives by Jesus, when he read and understood the word of the Lord, he changed, he transformed. The Lord did wonders for him.His life was filled with the light and grace of the Holy Spirit. He was filled with burning missionary zeal.
Dear brethren, you may all have seen people of different faiths doing this kind of missionary work. You may even be one of them. If that be the case, let us praise the name of God, because this is a great blessing. Working for the greater glory of God, for the salvation of souls, for the repentance and change of heart of sinners, for preaching the word of God to those hitherto ignorant about it, to pray for and work earnestly in the evangelization process - all these are magnificent efforts. Once we might have lived and worked just to satisfy our stomach - our physical needs. But today things have changed for us. With God's love and care enveloping us, we have become zealous missionaries. We have become the select, holy people of God. All these changes take place through the Word, while listening to the Word. When we accepted the Word, transformations occurred in our lives, repentance came to us; we experienced the strength of renewal; we were blessed with clear aims and objectives in our lives; we received the urge to spread the Gospel messages. It is not enough that we alone receive these special gifts of God. Thousands, tens of thousands, millions too should obtain these blessings. It is reported that present day India has a population of 97.5 crores. If it is so, all these 97.5 crores should hear about Jesus, know Him, recognize Him as their Saviour and as the Saviour of the entire world. God will help them in this recognition and realization. He sends the Holy Spirit, performs miracles, shows signs of various sorts, cures physical and mental ills, gives peace in the family, settles quarrels.

Dear people, let us praise the Lord for this stage in our times, let us feel grateful to Him. God has chosen this as a very special age; and He has chosen us for a very special purpose. Listen to what He says, "You did not choose me but I chose you...the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name" (Jn.15:16). This is a mighty promise. The very fact that you are reading this issue of Vachanotsavam is a special chosen act of God. This choice is to know Him, to be filled with His infinite love, and to experience the God- head in your person. This choice is to witness Jesus and to preach the Good News to others. We can understand when we are told that Jesus chose 12 apostles. That was a very big choice. Later he chose, 72 people. From these 72, two each were sent to the towns to prepare the venues and retreat centres before Jesus and His disciples went there. And these chosen people were given powers to work miracles through the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah!!

When we read that the apostles and the saints got such a divine selecting, we can understand it. But it is a joyful experience that we have been chosen by God for this noble mission. Not only us, God is choosing thousands and millions of others for this work. Through our laborious efforts and our tolerance and sacrifices we should hope and pray for the change of heart of countless millions of sinners who still tread in darkness. That will be a commendable effort. We are at the portals of the year 2000, and God has bestowed on us some very great hopes. Our efforts never go in vain. Our prayers never go unanswered. There might be delay in getting answers to our requests, but answers will come. It is just a question of time. With this firm belief, let us pray for this century, for this millennium, in a very special way. Pray with the prompting and thoughts of the Holy Spirit. When we pray in this manner, in collaboration with the Holy Spirit and Jesus, God the Father will heed that prayer and He will shower His choicest blessings on the countless millions of the world.

In Eph 4:10-18 we read how we withstand in our spiritual battles, in the battles against Satan. We are told how to fight and what armour we should wear. Today we are in the midst of a great spiritual battle. Some political parties are terribly afraid even to hear the name of Jesus Christ. When they hear about the good News in the Bible, they pretend that they don't understand it. Some erroneous impressions have been created in their minds about conversions - that they are forced. Under the circumstances, we ourselves need some determination, some insight and some knowledge. What does God want to achieve through us? The greatest thing is that all the faithful should receive the Holy Spirit and become witnesses to Jesus Christ. It is not enough to be witnesses proclaiming the mercies of God. But we must also live exemplary lives in which we behave with love, patience, mercy, affection and respect for one another. We should win the people for the Lord through our own impeccable lives. This attitude and understanding are very essential to do the missionary work for Christ. It is imperative to have this concept to become a real witness to Jesus. When we sit at table to eat with others, we pray loudly, "Dear Lord, you gave us this food; we thank you. We also pray for those who have nothing to eat. We thank you on everybody's behalf" When we pray in this manner, we are truly witnessing and proclaiming the presence of God. We are showing our gratitude to God. At such times speak for and on behalf of Jesus and tell the people about the miracles the Lord has wrought. These miracles may be the ones we read in Vachanotsavam or some other such publications. If you think the incidents you read about are true and convincing, tell others about them. When others listen to you, their spirituality will be touched and awakened and they will be freed from debilitating bonds; they will be imbibed with peace; they will obtain the Holy spirit. This is the benefit of witnessing and living unblemished lives of real witnesses.

So what can we do at present, in this age?
We become witnesses of Jesus in our private as well as social lives. Give the pride of place to Jesus. Do all your work in proper consultation with Jesus. This is the message to be carried out by all those who believe in Him. All, whether they are employed or unemployed, elders or children, should glorify the name of Jesus. Bear witness to Him. Invite Jesus into our lives and into the midst of our society. Conduct intercessory prayers; circulate our publications and other pamphlets, become active helpers in the spreading of the Biblical message. Learn the word, accept the word and share the Word. There are so many things waiting to be fulfilled through us. God will give us the necessary strength. Each of these publications is preparing us for this noble work. God's grace has appeared for the redemption of all. Our sins are removed. We are freed from the bonds of sin. We are given a new vigour. God is giving us all these. Let us thank the Lord. Let us praise Him. Let us sing to Him hymns of gratitude. Hallelujah! Thank you, Oh Jesus! Praises be to you, Oh Jesus!!

We are now entering the new year. We are now standing at the glorious dawn of a new millennium. Each one of us must prepare a spiritual action plan, at least for this impending new year. What all things am I going to do for my Lord? What are the things for which I have to prepare definite plans? Our new year plan should, inter alia, should have the following : I will share the word of God with at least so many people; I will do my best to establish and develop prayer groups. How will I go about establishing these new groups? Have definite plans for all this. These can also be intercessory prayer groups. Through all these we experience spiritual growth and also the necessary experience to preach the Gospel of the Lord. To how many people will I preach? To how many people will I send the magazine? To how many people will I make the Holy Bible available? All these should become points to be included in our scheme. If we proceed according to the prepared schemes, we shall be able to achieve more than what we desire and hope for Jesus Christ and the Holy church and this can be seen in Eph. 3:20, "Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine" Hallelujah!

We can also visit sick people and share the Good News with them. Go to a hospital. There you will meet patients and their relatives and friends. Ask them if you can pray for God's help. In your prayers, include the ones proclaiming that Jesus is the Saviour, the one containing the message of promise of the Holy spirit, the one assuring redemption and salvation offered by Jesus. When they hear these powerful prayers, at least a few will definitely have some change of heart and faith. Some will be spiritually awakened. Hallelujah! Praises to you, Oh Lord! So prepare an action plan for the new year. Remember the plan and pray every day. Ask for the blessings of God so that our plan succeeds. Think there are hundreds around us who are unfortunate, deprived and desperate without any ray of hope, mentally retarded, and helpless. We should find joy in serving such people. God loves such charitable acts on our part. You read about it in many places in the Holy Bible. So dear readers, we pray God the Almighty to do great things for you in this New Year.

It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the grace to do good and continue doing the good work. It is the Holy Spirit that endows us with the thought to desire good and execute it to fruition. Therefore let the Holy Spirit shower on us His choicest blessings in this new Year and the New circumstances.

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