SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ REV 22:1-7; LUKE 21:34-36 ]
In the gospel, the Lord warned His disciples, “‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap.” Why should we watch ourselves? Many people no longer watch themselves. This is because there seems to be a loss of hope for the future. Many are living with the thought that once we die, everything is finished. So what is there to be alert to because we are not going anywhere! This explains why many are not keeping watch for the life to come as they only live for this world and this life. When that is so, indeed, as Jesus said, “our hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.” Life for them is all about making money, pleasure, merry-making, enjoyment and holidays. Work and ambition are the means to secure wealth and a luxurious life. So why worry about God, about Church, about the poor and the suffering or the future of the country and the world? Why worry about ecology or climate change and that the world will one day be burnt out? We will be long dead and gone.
That is why it is important that we do not get soiled by the world and its values. Many of our Catholics who are weak in faith, who hardly pray or read the scriptures, attend church services only occasionally, behave more like baptized pagans than real Catholics. The values they subscribe to are not founded on the Word of God but on the current opinions of the world. They believe more in the ideology of the world than in Catholic theology. In truth, no one becomes an unbeliever overnight. It is always a gradual process. It begins with neglect in our spiritual life, especially a deep relationship with God. Once our relationship with the Lord becomes cold and distant, we become worldlier and more sensual in our needs. We cling to the pleasures that come from the flesh and the world. Very soon, we fall deeper into sin and God is completely out of our mind and our lives. In order to justify our sinful actions that are contrary to the Church’s teachings and the Word of God, we employ the reasons of the world to convince us that what we do is the right thing and that the Church is wrong and the bible is outdated and not the Word of God. We become arrogant in our thoughts. From indifference to the faith, we soon become hostile to the Word of God. From being a Sunday and nominal Catholic, we become anti-Catholic and join the rest of the world in condemning the Catholic Faith. This is the path that many Catholics take simply because they had not been watchful of the workings and the strategy of the Evil One.
This is why the Lord exhorts us, “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” Praying keep us awake to the presence of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Praying keeps us informed of the Word of God which “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps 119:105) Today’s gospel text came before Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. He Himself prayed at the most difficult time in His life when He had to make a decision to do the Father’s will. Hence, He urged us, “Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:41) Without prayer, we would fall into temptations because of weakness, like St Peter who denied the Lord because of his cowardice and the rest who ran away for safety when Jesus was arrested.
How often is this case for us all as well? Many of us are easily tempted to sin because of the weakness of the will and the flesh. We are afraid to carry the cross. We are afraid to suffer for Jesus, especially shame and humiliation. Indeed, when people were attacking the Church and her moral values, few Catholics came out to the open to defend the truths of the gospel and the morality of our peoples. Many kept silent.
So how can we, besides praying, find the strength to stay awake and remain firm in our faith? We must keep the vision that Christ has shown us. We need to have a clear vision of our ultimate goal in life if we are to give our whole heart and soul to arrive at it. Only with a clear vision like St Paul and St John, can we focus fully. Hence, we must nurture the vision that the Word of God presents to us about our future destiny so that by remembering and keeping the vision alive, we will never lose enthusiasm and hope.
In the book of revelation, we have the angel showing St John the vision of life. “The angel showed me, John, the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear down the middle of the city street. On either side of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the pagans.” The view of heaven where there will be eternal life and fruitfulness is what must continue to inspire us. We know that at the end of the day, we will share in the river of life eternal when the Spirit lives in us. This is what the Lord promised us. “‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Jn 7:37-39)
Secondly, our hope is that we see God face to face. “The ban will be lifted. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in its place in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.” Returning to God is where we truly belong. When we see the face of God, we come to realize that we belong to Him and in Him we find our peace and joy. St John wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 Jn 3:2f) God will be our complete joy and light. There will be no darkness, no fear, no more temptations but we will be in God who is our peace and life.
Finally, the ultimate question is, when will He come? He said, “Very soon now, I shall be with you again.” God will come at the end of our sojourn on earth when we die. God will come at the end of history when everything will reach its consummation. But He will come. How soon, is an irrelevant question. In fact, He has never left us. He said, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) He has already come to us in the Church, in the Eucharist, in the Sacraments, and in the Holy Spirit. He went up to heaven and has brought heaven to us when He came again in the Holy Spirit. What is needed for us now is to receive Him again and again, especially at the Eucharist. What we need to do is to find Him, especially among the poor, for He is with them too, as He said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Mt 25:40) Or when we receive the little and insignificant people in our lives. “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mt 18:4f)
So, rather than speculating on the end of time to get ready, we must be ready at all times. Our entire life must be one of readiness to welcome the Lord. We must be saying, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” In this way, we will be ready for any unforeseen circumstances in life, whether we meet a sudden death, a tragic event, trials in life or a crisis. To be prepared at all times is the best preparation because we have nothing to fear. Let us keep ourselves holy by making sure we go regularly for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, keep ourselves walking in love and truth, have a clear conscience and fulfill our responsibilities faithfully in life. When we do that, we will always be ready to stand before the Lord with full confidence. When we cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus”, He will come to our help in our trials.
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.