by Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.
Often after a retreat people ask me a question,
“What is God’s will for me? Now that I know who God is for me, I want to do God’s will in all the circumstances of my life.”
I always open to them 1Thess 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
God has a special will, a special plan for every one of us in Christ Jesus. And what is that will of God for you and for me? In all circumstances of our life, Paul is saying; rejoice, pray constantly and give thanks, this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.
There are a lot of things going wrong with us, a lot of people offending us, a lot of people hurting us, often the least expected: such negative experiences come to us and we are not able to understand, why? In such circumstances, even when things go wrong with us, the Word of God is telling us, “rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks”.
How can we thank God always?
In fact, we often question God: How could God do this to me? How could God punish me like this? Where is God, I can’t see Him? He does not answer my prayer and if God is there, how can things go wrong like this? After all I am a good man. I am doing everything good or trying to do everything well. And I do not deserve all this punishment from God - there are moments we even question God’s plan. Life is hard and tough. And we are often anxious and tensed, scared of what is going to happen the next moment.
We need to understand St. Paul well. He is speaking of the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. only when we reflect on what God did for us in Christ, we will have enough faith to thank God at all times. As St. John says in, John 3:16 “God so loved the world; that He sent His only son.”For what? To die for us, so that we may not perish! That we may not perish in the misery of the problems of life. We will be able to rejoice, pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances only when we believe that God has sent his own son to die for us, that we may be saved. Then we will know that in Christ Jesus, we have salvation in all circumstances.
The Natural and Supernatural Level
When I believe that God loves me so much that He sent His only son to die for me, then I will be able to rejoice! But apparently I am not able to! This is because there are two layers of knowledge: one, the layer of human knowledge— natural reasoning. When I reason naturally, everything is wrong, nothing is really going well, naturally I complain, I question, I am tense, I am sad, I am all anxious and upset.
That is my natural level of knowledge.
There is a higher knowledge - the knowledge of faith, the light of faith. When the light of faith comes in, I know that whatever goes wrong, “God will turn it all to my good” (Romans 8:28) St. Paul is giving us that good news. Whatever goes wrong with me, I know my God will turn everything to my good. My reason will not tell me this, but in faith I will be convinced that my God is always busy turning everything to my good.
Then I will turn to my God, I will be able to pray constantly and rejoice: I rejoice and I give thanks, for what God is going to do! The world is hard on me, my friends, my dear ones; even nearest to me do not understand me. Yet I know my God is there for me. My God is there in Christ Jesus. No wonder! Jesus said, “Let not you hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe in me”. (John 14:1) Jesus is challenging us to rise above mere natural evaluations, mere human knowledge to a divine vision of everything, to a supernatural knowledge. Faith is the clue! Faith, to know, that my God is there for me to turn everything to my good.
O Man Little Faith, Why Are You Afraid?
To Simon Peter, Jesus asked, “O man of little faith, why are you afraid.” What a meaningless question! Why are you afraid? In the midst of the roaring waves, raging sea and pitch darkness, when Simon Peter was about to sink with the boat, Jesus is asking him—“why are you afraid?” Well, naturally speaking that question has no meaning, but supernaturally that question is a challenge to faith in every difficult situation. My Jesus is there!
The sea may roar, the waves may rage; but I know that my Jesus is there and He will never leave me alone. That is the promise! Whatever happens to me, my Jesus is there! The gift of God the Father to me in my problems, in my troubles, in my anxieties, in all situations of my life: my Jesus. So I am not anxious. (Matthew 6:25) “Why are you anxious; look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. God cares for them they are there today, tomorrow they will be thrown in the oven, and yet your father cares for them. How much more!! How much more will he not care for you.”
What is the Measure of That Love? How Much?
The measure is God’s gift of His own Son. God gave us His own Son. St. Paul is asking us; “If God gave His own Son to us. Will He deny anything to us?” (Romans 8:32) And so in everything situation of my life, in every circumstance of my living, I should know this: my God is there for me to turn everything to my good. And therefore I am not anxious.
I remember, a doctor came here for the retreat. He came from Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu. on the second day of the retreat, he came to my room; he had his young son with him, an eleven-year-old boy. The doctor looked very sad. So I asked him, “Tell me, why do you look sad.” He said, “Father, I am very sad, because my son who is only eleven years old, my only son, is having a tumour in the brain. The tumour is already operated upon and removed once. But the tumour has reappeared. Medical science has no answer for this problem.”
As he said this, tears welled up in his eyes.And he asked me, “Father, will Jesus heal my son? Will Jesus save my family?” I wiped his tears, held him close to me and I said to him, “My friend, God sent Jesus to us as the answer to all the problems of our life. And Jesus is here. He loves your son more than you love your son, and for your family.” I said, “Doctor, let us pray!” I laid my hand on the head of the boy. I asked the doctor also to lay his hand on the head of the boy and together we began to pray.
How Can You Praise God For That?
After some time my prayer spontaneously took the form of praising God. I began to thank and praise God. At this the doctor stopped praying. He touched my shoulder and asked me, “Father, tell me what are you saying?” I told him, “Doctor I am praising God, I am thanking God!” He was annoyed and shocked, and asked me, “Father, why are you praising God? What are you thanking God for?” I told him, “Doctor, I am praising and thanking God for the tumour in the brain of your boy.” And the doctor was all the more shocked and he asked me, “Father, how can you do that!? Praising God and thanking God for the tumour in the brain of my boy? Father I don’t understand this! I understand we praise God for His blessings, we thank God for the graces of God, but is this tumour a blessing of God? I am a doctor, and I know this tumour is killing my boy day after day! Is it not a curse of God, Father? How can you praise God for that?” I told him, “Doctor, nor do I understand what I did. My brain does not understand this. But I go by the Word of God. And the Word of God is telling us to praise and thank God at all times.”
My God has Intervened into That Ailment!
I opened to him Ephesians 5:20 where St. Paul says, “Praise God and thank Him in all circumstances.” I opened to him again the Gospel of John where Jesus says; “This ailment is not unto death but unto the manifestation of the Glory of God.” (John 11: 4)Every ailment, offered to God; its killing nature is taken away. And so I told him, “Doctor, I offered the ailment in the hands of Jesus and with that, the ailment does not have any more of its killing nature. My God has intervened into that ailment.” And I opened to him again the same book of John 11:14 where Jesus says, “Believe and you shall see the glory of God.”
“Have faith,” I told the doctor, “let us rise above, look up. Let not your eyes and mind be fixed upon your son’s ailment, look up to God, what God did for us in His son Jesus Christ. And then you will know that there is no reason to be sad, there is no reason to be upset, there is absolutely no reason to be desperate. God has already started to turn everything to your good. I opened to him Romans 8:28 and said that there is reason only to rejoice and to praise God. I opened to him Philippians 4:4, St. Paul says, “Rejoice! And again I say rejoice in your union with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Learning the Lesson of Praising God
I felt the doctor had learnt the lesson of praising God. We praised God together and I sent the doctor to the retreat hall. I could see the doctor always with his lips moving in praising and thanking God. When the retreat was over, the doctor and his family came to my room. I asked him, “Doctor what do you feel?” The doctor said, “Father, I feel great peace in my heart; the assurance of God’s love, God’s power!” I told him, “That is the grace God gives to everyone who praises Him.” I opened to him Philippians 4:6 where St. Paul says, “Praise God and thank Him. Bring all your prayers to God, praising and thanking God, and the peace of Jesus Christ will come and fill your heart.” And we praised God together and the doctor went back home.
He went straight to the hospital. There the boy was tested again and again. And all the tests revealed one fact, that there was no trace of any tumor in the brain of the boy! The doctor came back; with tears streaming down his face, he told me, and then the whole congregation; “I have seen God’s glory in the ailment of my son.” His testimony was published in our magazine some six years ago. The boy and the family come here every now and then. He is now growing up as a fine young man, praising and thanking God all the time.
Praise God, rejoice, pray constantly; and that is the will of God for us in all circumstances. Come what may, God is there for us! When God is there, no ailment, no trouble, no problem will ever shatter us.