YEARNING FOR PEACE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 4:2-6; MATTHEW 8:5-11]
As we come to the end of the year, things are slowing down as many will be going on vacation. If one were in Europe, the weather will also influence us to slow down, as it is cold, snowing and raining, the trees are withered, all are clad in warm clothing, and the sun rises late and sets early. Most people would prefer to stay indoors rather than go out in the cold and be wet. Locked in our coziness of our house, the ambience is set for a pensive and reflective mood. Indeed, whenever we can find time to slow down and get away from the hurly burly of the world, we will be able to listen to the longings and deepest desires of our hearts.
Indeed, what matters most in the end? What is it that each and every man is longing for? It is peace. This was what the Israelites also prayed for. The psalmist in the responsorial psalm prayed, “For the peace of Jerusalem pray: ‘Peace be to your homes! May peace reign in your walls, in your palaces, peace!’ For love of my brethren and friends, I say: ‘Peace upon you!” For love of the house of the Lord I will ask for your good.” This, too, was the hope of the Prophet Isaiah when he spoke of the vision that the Lord gave to him. “These will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.” This scripture text is inscribed on the plaza in the front of the United Nations’ headquarters in New York. This is what the United Nations is supposed to do, to bring about world peace through dialogue, strengthening of trust and mutual cooperation for the good and prosperity of all.
But finding peace is not easy. We are all tired and exhausted because every day, there is so much fighting, misunderstandings, quarrels, disagreements, competition, politicking and division in our midst, whether in family life, among friends and loved ones, in the work place, or in business. We spend so much time trying to mediate and settle conflicts, problems and divisions. Among nations, there is great distrust of each other, each perceiving the others as threats to their peace and prosperity. All that we see today, trade wars, military wars, territorial disputes, etc is because of a lack of trust, the failure to be inclusive and see each other as brothers and sisters in God’s family.
Indeed, like the servant of the Centurion, we are “lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.” We feel so helpless in the face of a society that is so fragmented. We see demonstrations in many parts of the world. We see our own family divided because of greed, selfishness and self-centeredness. The world is no more a safe place to stay, no matter where we are. Terrorist activities can strike anywhere at any time. Even going to the temple, church or mosque to worship is not safe. So many of us feel like giving up fighting for peace. We are tired and burnt out. Instead of finding the world, our society and families more at peace, there is greater division than at any time in world history. The irony is that secularism is supposed to be the panacea for the world’s problems, especially division. But we know it is a lie. The truth is that there is a vacuum in leadership because the world is without God. Now, everyone claims to be God and he or she has the absolute answer. The modern, scientific and technological savvy man says he knows best. He knows what to do. He does not need anyone or any god to help him.
Indeed, if there is no world peace, it is simply because we do not have the truth or the answers without God. World peace can only come about when as the prophet says, “House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” There can be no peace and unity when we do not walk in truth and in love. This is what it means to walk in the light. The prophet makes it clear, only God can judge justly. “He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples.” God is our judge, not human beings. All judgements of man are flawed because we are ignorant and we do not have the truth in us. We are biased, subjective, constrained by our lack of knowledge and understanding. Our judgment often is influenced by our fears and insecurity. The world unfortunately is telling us there is no objective truth because the truth cannot be found. We are doom to ignorance!
But we are saying, Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (cf Jn 14:6) He is the One who can lead us to salvation. He comes to proclaim to us the truth about God and about life, our identity, calling and destiny. The truth He came to proclaim is encapsulated in the Sermon on the Mount. The teachings of Christ are founded on the fact that we are God’s children, called to share in His life and love. Because we are all God’s children whom He loves, we are called to treat each other with justice, generosity, compassion, unconditional forgiveness, love and tolerance. Jesus always preached about non-violence, no killing not even anger. The truth of life is always in giving ourselves in humble, selfless and unconditional service to God and to our fellowmen. Indeed, Jesus came precisely, “to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Lk 4:18f) St Matthew summed up His ministry by saying, “he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.'” (Mt 8:16f)
Jesus did not come just for Christians or Jews but He came for all. In the healing of the Centurion’s servant, Jesus demonstrated His love and mercy regardless of race, language or religion. So long as he had faith in Him. Furthermore, because it was a request not for himself but for the well-being of his servant, the Lord without hesitation agreed to go to his house to heal the servant. The gospel of Christ, therefore, is directed to all in the world, regardless whether the world knows Him directly or indirectly, has full faith in Him or some other faith. This is what the prophet Isaiah envisioned as well. “In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of the Lord shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. All the nations will stream to it, peoples without number will come to it.” The gospel of Christ transcends all religions but it is a message of peace for all. All religions advocate peace and compassion.
But how does Christ come into our lives today if not primarily by the Word of God? When the Lord wanted to go to the Centurion’s house, his reply was “Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.” Christ comes to us through His Word. Like the Centurion, we only need to say to the Lord, “Say your word and your servant will be healed.” Truly only when we come to the Lord in faith and trust, accepting His word in humility, can we walk in the truth. Isaiah exhorts us all, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths; since the Law will go out from Jerusalem.”
So if we feel like giving up in our pursuit for peace, then we must turn to the Lord for guidance and inspiration. Like the Centurion, we must reach out to like-minded people to help us build peace in the world by promoting justice and compassion. Hence, inter-religious dialogue leading to cooperation in the work of justice and peace would be the way forward to give hope to a world that seeks independence from God, relying on themselves than God’s wisdom, truth and love. “I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.”
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.