Christ always the first priority!

Testimony By: 
Abhy Thomas Joseph
Fri, 2010-06-04
I was casual in my faith, hardly realising the need of Christ in my life...

I grew up in a traditional Catholic family with daily family prayer, Sunday Mass & studying in a Catholic institution until I finished my secondary education. I was casual in my faith, hardly realising the need of Christ in my life until my early teenage, though I was brought up in a very Catholic environment. 

I always found something missing in my life as we started advancing in comfort but not growing in relationship within the family & in our relationship with Christ. I also started getting irritated with myself and life in general as various struggles crept into our family in different forms, diminishing our hope in life each day. I eventually started becoming a rebel in everything that I do at home, making it difficult for my parents to discipline me. A two-faced character of mine hardly let my friends and relatives know this nature of mine and made me grow seeking attention & deceiving the outside world. This independency that I developed at my early teenage led me into various ways of the world, influenced by certain friends who started leading me astray without the knowledge of my parents. A change in attitude, language and my aggressiveness increased the fear in my parents regarding my future.   

Amidst these various struggles in the family, a sudden wave of peace started flowing into our family bringing back rays of hope as my family started getting into the renewal through my mother. It was during this phase of my teenage that I was first introduced to Jesus Youth through a few retreats in my school. Though the spirit of these retreats never lasted long in various attitudes and behaviours of my life, Holy Mass & confessions started taking importance. I also started developing a fear of God & gaining a personal spirituality though observed quite loosely.   

I again got into a phase that pulled me back to the worldly ways that eventually started to again influence my character in noticeable ways & lead me into strained relationships. This phase however never lasted long.  I was introduced to a Jesus Youth Campus Prayer group in Bangalore, followed by a Professionals' Discipleship Training Programme (DTP), in the following months. It was at this programme that I truly experienced a deeper conviction on leading a life of personal holiness and also a special calling to dedicate my life to Jesus. It was also a time when I started experiencing great healing from my disturbed childhood & distorted lifestyle. I also experienced a strong manifestation of the Holy Spirit. I was deepened in faith when I received certain gifts of the Spirit that I had earlier doubted.   

Even without my knowledge I was challenged by the lifestyle of other youth who were involved actively in the movement & also by their witnessing lifestyle. It was a search for true happiness that was on in my life for long that came to an end by accepting Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Daily Mass, weekly/bi-weekly confessions & a personal time with the Lord, started helping me persevere in my call to personal holiness and deepen my missionary zeal. I also started developing a special desire to spend long hours before the Eucharistic Lord with special devotion to our Lady which I always believe is shaping my life each day. The fellowship with other like-minded people that I receive in my prayer group always helps me to stay focused. Since I recognised this call in my life, there has been a complete change in my personality & attitude and I have always strived to deepen my relationship with the Lord and share this gift I received with people around me. My pastor, elder & cell group in India & UK have always helped me and guided me at various stages of my life and also helped me discern many major decisions in my life to give Christ always the first priority.  

I have always been striving to share this message of Christ through my life to my family members, friends and people around me. There were numerous occasions where I was mocked or challenged on this new lifestyle I had chosen, by my near and dear ones. However, that only increased my desire to share this message with them & pray for them. I was even challenged by my friends to lead a witnessing life in my studies with such immense ministry involvement that I had during my engineering days, by God’s grace I only did better and better glorifying God, each time I increased my involvement in ministry. 

The only desire & prayer that I had when I started my first job that I got by a miracle through campus placement, was to take Jesus to my work place and start prayer groups in the Corporate world. My desire came to fulfillment and we started the first Jesus Youth prayer group in Wipro. I also saw the Lord taking me to places through my job which also helped me to be used by God as an instrument to share His message through this movement in all those places.  

Various choices I made against the principles of the world guided by the Holy Spirit on rejecting better job opportunities, other overseas travels with better career growth and salary, giving more than my ability with regard to my time & money for the works of the Lord, etc were then challenged at numerous instances by my family members, friends & colleagues. Alongside being able to carry out the mission for which God has called me, faithfully giving God the first priority in the choices I made, has never put me to shame. When I look back today I see myself well positioned in my current company with a good role and pay scale that hardly people of my experience could even think of. I have always experienced and believe that God requires our best and our best till it hurts and not our rest in terms of our resources, our time, our availability or our money.  

It is truly the hands of the Lord that has helped me and my family to remain in peace & close to Him even when I lost my dad, which was one of the most painful moments in our life. We also during this time saw the hands of the Lord helping us finish all the financial responsibilities we had, though I have been using the best of my resources for spreading the Gospel message all through my work life. I also see the hands of the Lord guiding and strengthening my mother as she lives alone when I try to remain committed and faithful to the mission God has called me to be a part of in the Church in Europe through this movement.  

This missionary lifestyle has become a part of my life and has made me passionately Catholic and joyfully Charismatic to be at the service of the Church.  
The below Prayer of St. Theresa of Avila always inspires and drives me to commit my life to Jesus and share this treasure with others. I pray and hope this prayer be fulfilled in us. 

Christ has no body now but yours,
no hands, no feet on earth but yours,
yours are the eyes, with which He looks,
compassion on this world,
yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
yours are the hands with which He Blesses all the earth.