A RESURRECTED CHURCH
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 10:34.37-43; COL 3:1-4 OR 1 COR 5:6-8; JN 20:1-9 ]
Alleluia! The Lord is Risen! This is the Good News that the Church proclaims to all of humanity. The resurrection is the foundation of Christian joy and Christian hope. With the resurrection of Jesus, we know that He is truly Lord and savior of the world. With the resurrection, He shows us that the way to life is through love and service unto death. Most of all, the resurrection frees us from the fear of death as the end of everything in life. Christian hope in fullness of life after death takes away the sting of death.
Consequently, faith in the resurrection of our Lord means that we no longer have to live in our tombs. There are many who are living in shame, in fear and self-condemnation of their past and their mistakes, like the apostles who were hiding in the upper room. There are those of us who are discouraged in life because of failure and disillusionment, like the disciples at Emmaus when they felt their hopes dashed with the death of their master. There are those who have lost their loved ones and unable to let go, as in the case of Mary Magdalene. Then there are those who live in wonder or bewilderment, as Peter did even when he saw the empty tomb, unable to make sense of it. And there are those who doubt the reality of the Risen Lord, like St Thomas who said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (Jn 20:25)
However, for those of us who have encountered the Risen Lord, we no longer need to take refuge in our tombs of unbelief and fears. Instead, we manifest joy, optimism, courage, and hope for the future even when it appears gloomy. This was what happened to the disciples of Jesus when they met the Risen Lord. Their whole direction in life changed from hopelessness and discouragement to one of confidence and joy for the future. Whether it was Mary Magdalene, the disciples at Emmaus, the apostles, or even St Paul, their encounter with the Risen Lord set them free from all fears about the future. From being cowards, fearful of their enemies, especially the Jewish authorities, they proclaimed the Good News with boldness even when under persecution and at the risk of their lives.
Indeed, they could not contain the joy of knowing that Jesus was their Lord and Savior. They were now capable of living for God and for others. They were no longer protecting their lives or hoarding their wealth for themselves. The early Church grew as a community through their sharing of a common faith, love and resources. They were all supportive of each other and the work of the apostles. Together as a Christian community, they pooled all their resources together for the spread of the gospel. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the community used the gifts they had received for the building of the Church.
Once we have encountered the Risen Lord, then it will be our turn to announce Him to the world. A clear sign that we have truly encountered the Lord and can sing Alleluia from our hearts, not just from our lips, is when we cannot but be like the disciples who ran to announce the resurrection to others. We cannot contain such incredible news to ourselves. We would want to share with the whole world. The lack of the desire to announce that He is risen means that our faith in the Risen Lord is just a cerebral faith, not a personal conviction.
As a resurrected Church, like the apostles, we must go out and proclaim the Good News. The instruction of the Risen Lord to the disciples was, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers.” (cf Mt 28:10) We do this by recovering our personal relationship with the Lord. We need to rekindle the faith of our Catholics. Then we need to reach out to those who are searching for God in their lives or desire a personal relationship with Him. But faith is not just about worship and doctrines; we need to express them concretely as there are many who are seeking for signs of love and welcome, a sense of identity and belonging.
There are many Catholics who lack passion and enthusiasm in the faith. They might go for church services but their hearts are far from God. They do not have any real relationship with Him. The practice of faith is reduced to fulfilling obligations. Some have stopped coming to church because they have been wounded by fellow Catholics, especially Church leaders. Where are they? The young and the rationalists are not able to connect with the Church. Many cannot feel the presence of God in their lives because of a secularist culture where God is absent. Many are overwhelmed with the current ideologies of relativism, materialism and individualism. But deep in their hearts, they feel empty, even if they have all the pleasures of this life.
To change this, we must be a resurrected Church. Firstly, Christ is risen but is He risen in our hearts? This is what St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians in today’s second reading is asking us. (1 Cor 5:6-8; cf Col 3:1-4) Their lives were radically changed. From fear to courage, from slavery to freedom, from ambition to service, from death to life. The apostles, like St Paul, were so changed by the Lord that they began to live holy lives in imitation of the Lord. So are we risen in faith and in love? Has our faith in the Lord increased and strengthened? Is our relationship with the Lord real, intimate and personal? Are we joyful and hopeful people in the way we look at life and even when we suffer, either because of the trials of life or even because of injustices? Are we a community of love among ourselves and welcoming of others into our family, reaching out to the poor, non-believers and even nominal Catholics or those who have left the Church? Or are we exclusive, parochial-minded and protectionist of our turf, reducing us to mere enclaves?
Secondly, all of us must be renewed in our faith and our love for Christ and His Church. We need to be formed in our faith and be empowered through spiritual renewal and growth. What about a deepening growth in doctrinal and moral faith? Have our Catholics become better informed in their theological faith so that they can defend and explain their faith to the world? Are our Catholics journeying alone in faith or do they have a community to pray with, sharing the Word of God intimately and be strengthened in their faith?
Thirdly, we must be partners of the archdiocesan vision and mission to build a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church. Has our parish community grown in number and in strength? Are there more ministries and services, not just serving the parish but also going out of the parish to serve the larger community, especially the neighbourhood? How many are evangelistic- minded and witnessing to Christ in their lives? So too in every parish, your pastoral care is not just for Catholics but every one, believer or not, who reside within your parish and even beyond. Do we see the number of adult baptism growing each year? We have about 1,000 adult baptisms a year, which is just 0.25 percent of the 383,000 Catholics in Singapore. It clearly means that our Catholics are not living up to their obligation of bringing Christ to those around them.
The more tangible signs that we are truly an anointed Church and a resurrected Church is the fruit of more adult baptisms, priestly and religious vocations and young people. How can we call ourselves a Church that is alive with the Spirit when we do not find young people who have fallen in love so much with Jesus that they want to give their lives entirely to His service in the Church and for the community? How can we call ourselves a local Church if we are still so dependent on migrant priests and increasingly so? Indeed, we are grateful to them but they cannot be a replacement for local vocations. The MEP fathers handed over their ministry to the local Church in the 1970’s, but ironically, we are handing it back to migrant priests. If the Church is local, then vocations must come from within the Church.
Finally, the sign of a resurrected Church is when we see more and more young people in church, leading in ministries and activities. It means the Church is growing and is vibrant and not stagnating. We are beginning to see this in the work of the Office of Young People. However, in our parishes, how many young people do we retain in the service of the Church after confirmation? How many of them are still active or fervent in their faith, or has the Sacrament of Confirmation become a sacrament of farewell? The moment we see only elderly in our churches, then it means the Church is slowly dying. There is a future for the Church only when we see young children and especially young people active in church.
So let us not remain in our tombs. Let us find strength and hope from the Risen Lord as we move forward in building a Church that is vibrant, evangelistic and missionary. Let us have faith and live out the resurrection in our lives. In Christ who was crucified and now risen, we come to realize the victory of love over hatred, life over death. Unless we show ourselves alive in Christ, no one would believe that the Lord is Risen from the dead. The Good News of Easter can only be announced by those who have seen the Lord. Only then will the announcement be passionate, enthusiastic and courageous.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.