MISSION PRESUPPOSES THAT WE HAVE ENCOUNTERED THE WORD AS GOOD NEWS IN CHRIST
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DT 4:1-2, 6-8; JAMES 1:17-18, 21-22, 27; MK 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 ]
The vision of the archdiocese is to build a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church. But this vision cannot be realized unless Catholics are first evangelized. The truth is that many of our Catholics are indifferent to the mission of the Church; much less zealous about the vision of the local archdiocesan Church.
We cannot speak of mission unless we have been evangelized. How can we be evangelized? We must first hear the Good News. We must listen to the Word of God. Of course, hearing the Good News is more than simply hearing the message but to experience the message as real and as a person. That is why when we say “this is the gospel of the Lord” we are not referring to the gospel literally, but Jesus as the Good News. Hence, if the Good News is not experienced as Good News and as a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, then there is nothing to proclaim.
Indeed, the Israelites boasted, “what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?” It is clear that through their experience of the nearness of God in their lives, history and through the laws, they knew that God is love. Hence, they considered themselves truly a privileged people because they were then nobody, only slaves in Egypt. Such an experience of God’s love and mercy for them was so overwhelming that they could never forget that experience.
But Christianity goes beyond Judaism in saying that God is not only involved in our history but has become part of our history by becoming man at the incarnation. So the Good News for us Christians is not simply that the Word of God is given to us, but that the Word of God was made flesh and incarnated in our lives. Not only was He made man, but the cross of Jesus tells us that this God in Christ Jesus would even go to the extent of sharing the consequences of our sins and be nailed to the cross for our sake, not because we are good but when we were still sinners. The love of God for us is therefore not simply a word or a promise but concretized in our lives.
Consequently, faith in God cannot be dissociated from life. Faith can only exist in culture and in life. To strive for a deep faith, is to know God’s love so deeply in Christ that we can live our lives meaningfully and enthusiastically. To have heard the Good News means that we have experienced the love and mercy of God concretely in our daily life. If Christian faith does not promote life and love, then this is not faith but legalism or religion. St James defines “pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.” It is clear therefore that the Good News which we have heard and received, must now be incarnated in our lives. We are called to celebrate the Word of God given to us and to express it in our lives in a radical way by living out the Word ethically in our lives in love and service. The heart of religion ultimately is love since the heart of God is love. If we fail in love, then all our beautiful liturgy and lofty doctrines are meaningless.
Indeed, Jesus warns us of the danger of mere external observance of the laws and traditions without love and understanding. He lamented, “This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.” So we can be fulfilling the commandments of God and the Church to the letter. We can observe abstinence from meat on Fridays, fulfill our Sunday obligation and even our prayers, yet we still have not heard the Good News. For faith to be Good News, it must be expressed in our lives. Our love for God must lead us to an authentic love for our neighbours and a deeper appreciation of the true meaning of life, which is service. We cannot be evangelizers unless our life as Christians is founded on community, spirituality and service.
We have to ask ourselves how we have concretely played our part in the lives of our Christian community, our society and the world at large. Have we been involved in the lives of our fellow Christians? Are we concerned about our Catholic neighours? Do we visit them when they are sick or in bereavement? Have we volunteered to help our neighbours who are in need of help? Do we try to mediate the love and compassion of Christ to our fellow brothers and sisters?
Most of all, do we practice mercy and forgiveness in the Christian community when Church leaders or fellow Catholics fail in their Christian life, or do we find every occasion to condemn them? Unfortunately, when you expect to find love, understanding, forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance and generosity in the Christian community, quite often all we find is condemnation, destructive criticism and judgmentalism. This is ironical because we ourselves are sinners in the first place, and God has forgiven us unconditionally. But we would not give to others what we have received from God. If there is no experience of love and forgiveness and support in the Christian community, then the Good News is not experienced as a reality.
However, we cannot be contented even if we have a large number of Catholics coming to church because we are called to be witnesses of Christ in the world at large. We do not make ourselves into little enclaves as our experience of His love is for the sake of the world. How do we do this? By not allowing ourselves to be contaminated by the world! In a larger context, we are called to play our part in society and the world. This is what it means to be witnesses of Christ in the world. This is ultimately our mission, which is to proclaim Christ in the world. We must take upon ourselves the duty to promote the dignity of humanity and the rights of the individual. We must speak out against a prevalent culture of death, a culture that does not respect the dignity of life from birth until death. We too must enlighten the world that moral values are not relative but that they are founded on the absolute, which we give the name “God”.
Indeed, to speak of the Good News today means that we are called to proclaim to the world not only Jesus as the Saviour of humankind but the Good News of liberation and authentic life that He has come to offer us. Catholics are called to proclaim the Gospel directly by an explicit proclamation of Christ as Saviour and Lord; and indirectly by infusing the values of the Gospel through the purification and enrichment of our cultures. It is our duty as Catholics to enlighten our society on the reasons for the Church’s position on the dignity of human life, a vision that is rooted in the very nature of the human person and not so much a case of imposing on non-believers a vision based on faith alone. Christian charity demands that we be of service to culture, politics, the economy and the family, so that the fundamental principles upon which the destiny of human beings and the future of civilization depend will be respected everywhere.
Indeed, Christians must be at the forefront of society, giving witness in the areas of culture, politics, the economy and the family. We are called to interpret the social realities of our day in the light of the gospel. We must avoid the temptation of a privatized and individualistic spirituality, which contradicts “the demands of charity, to say nothing of the implications of the incarnation.” Finally, we must remember that the Christian message does not inhibit us from building up the world, or make us disinterested in the welfare of our fellow human beings. On the contrary, we are to be more committed to the world and the lives of our fellow human beings.
The liturgy puts forth this challenge to us. Will you be part of the mission of the archdiocese so that you can share the mission of the whole Church? As Christians, we are called to be the first fruits of the new creation. We are called to be the witnesses of God’s word in our lives so that others who come to know what God has done for us and with us will desire to come to know Him too, and so become His children as well. We are called to walk in the light so that others can see the light and come to know Christ. The final test of our missionary effectiveness and fidelity to our Christian life would be the number of people we have brought to Christ. If we are serious about this mission, then we must be imbued with the word of God, the truths that Christ has revealed to us. Most of all, we must discover in Him, truly the Good News in our lives. Only when we live the gospel life in its entirety, can we be the children of the Father, as St James tells us.
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.