My personal testimony
The preacher while praying over me said, "James one day you are going to be a charismatic preacher", hearing this I laughed loudly and said "never, never". Not only that I could not accept the peculiar ways of the Charismatics but I was always a timid person in front of others. In my school days and later in my seminary training I was unable to give a speech. Even after my ordination I was a total failure on pulpit. I still remember well what happened to me at my first sermon. After my ordination with much reluctance I agreed to celebrate the Mass and to preach on the following day which was a Sunday. At home I had prepared a few notes on the Gospel of the day and kept them on the side of my new Bible. I had no problem in saying the Mass because I would look at the Mass-book and recite the prayers and at other times I used to keep my eyes closed as I was scared of looking at the people. After the reading of the Gospel I fixed my both eyes on the main door at the back of the Church and began to search for the papers with notes kept on the side of the Bible. I became so nervous and fearful, I forgot whether I kept them on the right side or left. I was afraid to pluck the eyes from the door and look into the Bible for I thought by doing so I would see the people and with the stage-fear I would fall down even. Already I was shivering and sweating. Several times I attempted to address the audience saying "my dear, my dear...." I couldn't say an single sentence. A few minutes already passed, seeing my pathetic condition the parish priest whispered through the window "enough that you preached, now you can continue with the Mass." Like a balloon blown out, with shame and self-pity, I continued the Mass. I was sure that the people might have been laughing or sympathising with this timid young new priest!. After the Mass when I went to the Sacristy the priest commented "He is a missionary of St. Francis de Sales, what is he going to preach". That is the reason I laughed when the preacher told that I would be a preacher. But it was a prophesy!. For the last 32 years my life was spent only on preaching all around the world!.
On the last day of the retreat almost every participant gave testimonies of healing, experience of prophesy, vision, tongues, etc. But I had no testimony to give. Many had the experience of meeting Jesus and had heard Him speaking to them! I felt sad. I began to accuse myself of my pride in not co-operating fully with the retreat and not yielding to the action of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps at this point in the depth of my heart I began to desire and thirst for the Spirit. With much curiosity many of my friends asked me of what I had received in the retreat but I could not give a precise reply. It was one week after the retreat that I fell seriously ill for the first time in life. I was in two hospitals for more than four months. I became weak and pale. I could not eat food due to my pains in the stomach. I had severe back-pain. I would vomit out even the tablets given. Standing up I could not say Mass, I used to say Mass on my bed with the help of some other priests. Seeing my severe pain and my pathetic condition many thought that I would not survive even. At last my sickness was diagnosed to be Tuberculosis in the kidney along with kidney stones and infections. I was to have ninety injections and two year's tablets for the cure of T.B. The doctor suggested a surgery in the kidney after ninety days of injection.
On the seventh day since the treatment started, something great happened in my life which changed the whole of my life. In the afternoon after my usual siesta I was talking from my bed to two sisters who came to visit me. Suddenly a young man of twenty came towards me and asked "Father, shall I pray over you for healing". At that time the Charismatic renewal was not known and spread in Kerala, not even priests used to say prayer for healing. But the Pentecostals used to pray for healings. As a Catholic priest I would not like a Pentecostal laying hands over me, a priest. When I asked him of his identity he said that it was only eight months that he had met the Lord and received baptism and that he was endowed with many charisms of the Holy Spirit. I could not believe then that it was the Spirit who told him while travelling in the bus to come and pray over me in the hospital. Never we had known each other before! He did not wait for my permission to lay hands, ending the sharing of his testimony he laid his hands over my head and started praying. He prayed "Father in Heaven, send your Son Jesus now to this priest suffering from kidney T.B., kidney stones and infections and restore him complete health of body and soul". Then I thought in my mind that he might have seen the hospital chart where my sicknesses were reported!. I did not then know that he was praying with the gift of word and knowledge. Several times he was shouting out praises to God and sometimes praying in tongues too. I felt some kind of power flowing from his hands towards me. Then I began to know the power of praise and loud prayer. In the retreat I could not appreciate the noisy prayers with loud praises. Suddenly I thought of the prayer of the Blind Beggar Barthimaeus. He was praying loud "Son of David, have mercy on me". Although the disciples tried to keep him quiet, he kept calling out all the more. Then Jesus called him to his side and granted his request (Mk 10: 46-52). Expressions of the mouth are the expressions of the heart indeed!. A loud and intense words of the mouth is the sincere outpouring of the great desire and faith of the soul. "I cry aloud to God, aloud I cry to God that He may hear me" (Ps 77: 1). The apostles at the time of the first persecution raised their voices to God and prayed. Their prayer was so powerful as to shake the house where they gathered (Acts 4: 24-31). All my scepticism about noisy prayers was fully healed. I too began to pray with him with loud praises.
Then the boy began to pray with a different tone pointing towards my inner-self of the past life. He prayed "O Lord this priest is a good priest but he is unable to preach your Gospel for he is very shy and timid because of his inferiority complex which he developed in his early childhood. He lost his father when he was seven. He felt himself rejected and discriminated among the other five children with whom he grew. The young widowed mother had a lot of problems to bring up the children. As he was very fat and big in size his brothers and sisters were fooling him by calling "fatty". The school companions used to call him "blacky" because of his colour. Thus this child was very much wounded in his early childhood. He has a lot of resentment in his heart towards many. Lord, Holy Spirit take away his inner wounds and resentments and give him a new inner-self. Set him free from all his bondages and power of darkness. O, Holy Spirit fill his heart with your love...." I was astonished at this prayer. He was cutting my inner-self into pieces with the power of the word of God (Heb 4: 12). All what he said was true in my life. I knew that all what he said in prayer was not in the hospital chart! He was reading a chart from the Holy Spirit!. In tears I remembered the words of Jesus "I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike" (Lk 10: 21). Again I shed tears over my pride, specially of my intellectual pride. I felt I was so mean in my worldly knowledge to measure and limit the immeasurable and unlimited wisdom and love of God. I realised that this young man, a new convert was born again in the Spirit while I, a traditional Catholic, an ordained priest, remained in the flesh. I began to understand that what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love Him, this God has revealed through the Spirit, for the Spirit scrutinises everything, even the depths of God (I Cor 2: 9-10). I felt the living water flowing through me and liberating me. I felt a kind of power flowing through. There was a feeling of warmth on my stomach and on the part of the kidney on the back. I believed that the Lord was healing me. I claimed the healing and praised Jesus.
At the same time I had a fear within whether this man who was seeing me through and through, would speak out my hidden sins too specially in front of these two sisters. Then he prayed "Jesus it is you who called him to priesthood, but he is offering Masses with an unclean heart and unclean hands". The words of prophet Malachi came to my mind and began to convict me of my unholiness in priesthood. "O priests you are despising my name by offering polluted offerings on the Altar." (Mal 1: 6-7). He continued his prayer saying "this priest is having a lot of unforgiveness towards many, give him grace to forgive others and wash him in your precious blood and give him a heart whiter than snow" (Is 1: 18). By this time the Holy Spirit himself began to convict me of my sins (Jn 16: 8). I did not know that the boy had gone out of the room with the sisters to pray over for others. I saw a white sheet of paper in front of me in which all my sins were clearly written, sins that were confessed, and sometimes hidden in the confessions due to fear and shame. I saw clearly the people towards whom I had unforgiveness and with whom I had not reconciled in my heart. I saw my heart which was covered and darkened with the veil of bad habits and the web of insincerity. The word that the communion in an unholy heart brings condemnation (I Cor 11: 27) began to push me into a deep crisis in my inner conscience. I had a deep rooted bad habit from my teenage. Even my hands were stained with the stink of smoke. In tears I told "Lord, I can't get out of these bad habits. I am helpless. I can't continue as a holy priest". In tears I began to cry out to the Lord, perhaps first time in life praying with tears. I was in utter confusion whether I should leave my priesthood or continue. The Spirit in me was telling if I continued I should be a holy priest, a different person. I thought that the Masses offered in the past were not accepted by my Father in Heaven and none of my prayers were heard by the Lord. When I went to the Altar I should have forgiven and reconciled (Mt 5: 23). I should have forgiven others in order that my prayers would be effective (Mk 11: 25). I thought that I was a wretched being, totally lost! I was in total darkness, doubt and confusion. I thought I was defrauding God and others with my priesthood. I was praying in my helplessness "Lord save me a sinner".
My God Lord did not abandon me in my desperation. First time in my life I saw the Risen Lord walking towards me in full light. His face was glowing, His white garments were glittering. He was surrounded by many angels. I could hear the melodious music of the angels. He put His hands over my shoulder, I became very small before Him. He spoke to me very clearly "James, you are my priest forever. Even when I was conceived in my mother's womb (Mary's womb) you were there as a priest sharing my eternal priesthood. I forgive all your sins and make you completely new". It was a big revelation for me that I was in His body when He took the human form. Mary became my mother much before Jesus gave her up to mankind on the Cross saying "Behold your mother...". I really experienced the closeness of mother Mary, I felt I was consoled and healed in her lap although I did not see her. I have no words to express my experiences in this ecstasy which lasted for more than three and half hours. The Lord told me to make a good general confession of my past life. Also He instructed me to go and get reconciled with those with whom I had ill feelings. In my long time of seminary training or in the Noviciate I never had the experience of encountering Jesus in prayer or of hearing this sweet voice although my novice master and my spiritual directors tried to teach me to contemplate and to pray. Now I knew that prayer and contemplation was not something which I could achieve but which I could receive only as pure gift of the Spirit.
I woke up from my graceful dream when a nurse called me my name. I saw her standing before me with the injections and tablets. With much joy in my heart I told her that I had a deep experience of the touch of Jesus and that I was healed. As she left the room I was praising God with a strange voice, I felt that my language and words were removed and the Holy Spirit gave another language and words the meaning of which were unintelligible to me. The very gift, the gift of tongues, which I did not want, was given to me by my Lord. I was really trying to comprehend with all the holy ones the breath and length and height and depth of the immeasurable love of God manifested through Jesus, His Son (Eph 3: 18). After a while the doctor who diagnosed my illness and prescribed the medicines came and scolded me for not taking the medicines. He said "Father you are a priest, I believe that you have some sense and knowledge, do you think that you are healed by the prayer of that newly converted boy. If you don't take medicine you will get a relapse." I said "sorry doctor, I shall take the medicine but I know I am healed by the prayer of the boy". I took the tablets and yielded to the injection in front of the doctor because I knew that doctors and medicines were in the plan of God and I promised that I would continue the medicine until he would tell otherwise (Sir 38: 1-2).
I was happy and joyful. I began to tell the bystanders and sisters about my healing. I could have a deep and sound sleep that night without a sleeping pill. That was the first physical healing I received. Ever since I got the kidney problem I could not sleep without a sedation. I got up at 4 a.m. as someone woke me up. Surely it was the Lord (from that day I do my personal prayer daily in the morning at 4 a.m.). I sat on my chair and prayed for one and half hours with the same experience of the previous day and even with much more. At this prayer the Lord put His wisdom into my mouth and gave power to preach His Kingdom and commanded me to resign my job as a seminary professor and to go out to preach. After the prayer I had a morning walk for an hour. Till the previous day I was unable to get up alone from the bed and to walk around in the room!. After a bath I went to the Chapel and celebrated the Mass amidst more than one hundred and fifty people. The reading of the Gospel was from Luke chapter nineteen, the story of Zecchaeus. Without any previous preparation, fully relying on the Holy Spirit I was able to preach for eighteen minutes and that too looking at the face of the people. I felt that I was completely set free from the burden and bondage of fear and inferiority complex. I felt a special intimacy with those who were in the Mass. I could look at them with freedom and love and I felt that each one was my brother or sister. After the Mass having noticed my change in my behaviour the doctor ordered for a repetition of all laboratory tests. Then he called me to his room and showed me the old and new results of the clinical tests and confirmed that my kidney was completely healed and that I could stop all medicines and get discharged from the hospital. I don't know how to explain the joy that I felt at that moment. I said, "praise the Lord" and embraced the doctor and left the hospital.
I went out of the hospital as a new man with new decisions and determinations.
I decided to live for Jesus alone and to spend my life in preaching His
Kingdom. I resigned my job as a professor and stepped out for preaching
after spending forty days fasting and prayer. Ever since 17th.
February 1976 when I preached my first charismatic retreat, probably the
ever first charismatic retreat preached in Malayalam, in Kerala, till now
I have spent my time in preaching His word only. My loving superiors then
had offered several chances to go to Germany or to Rome to pursue doctorate
but I refused because the Spirit told me, "I am sufficient for you". "No
one who has set a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is
fit for the Kingdom of God" (Lk 9: 62). During my seminary training when
I saw many of my companions being sent abroad for higher studies I had
a great desire to go abroad for degrees. Thanks be to God, now the Lord
has fulfilled my desire with my continuos preaching of the Kingdom abroad.
How true it is that when we surrender any of our worldly desires for the
sake of the Lord, He would return it hundred-fold!. It is true that Jesus
made use of me to build a prayer house for Him, at Athirampuzha, Kerala,
known as Charis Bhavan. In my preaching of retreats, conventions and healing
services I had to meet with oppositions and persecutions even. But the
Word of God, that every one who wants to live a holy life would be persecuted,
consoled me and strengthened me (II Tim 3: 12). I know that all the gifts
and powers given to me, a weak being, in an earthern vessel to behold the
treasure of his power (II Cor 4: 7). With St. Paul I too will say that
I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me (Phil 4:
13). His power was manifested in time of my kidnaps and my imprisonment,
in the Muslim world of Arab countries, and in insults and in misunderstandings
by my own superiors and friends. I conclude my testimony with the words
of St. Peter, "Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring
among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to
the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his
glory is revealed, you also may rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted
for the Name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of Glory and of
God rests upon you" (I Pet 4: 12-14).od rests upon you" (I Pet 4: 12-14).
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