REBUILD MY CHURCH, RESTORE MY PEOPLE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 COR 9:16-19, 22-23; PS 117:1-2; MARK 16:15-20 ]
Today, we celebrate with great joy, the Feast of St Francis Xavier, the patron for missionaries. We are invited to continue the work of the missionaries. They have planted the Catholic Faith in our land. Most of our churches are full every Sunday in spite of having 5 to 8 services in each of our parishes. It shows that our people are hungering for the Word of God. That is why it is urgent that more attention be paid to the spiritual and doctrinal formation of our people. The urgent task of the Church is to build up the people of God and to reach out to the world.
Community and mission are the clearest signs that we are truly disciples of the Lord. Indeed, an indication that we have a weak, superficial and lukewarm faith is when we are not inserted more and more into the community and are lacking a sense of mission. Truly, if we love Jesus, we will love His body the Church, not in spite of the fact that the Church is wounded, but because she is so deeply wounded. And if we love Jesus, we will also have a sense of mission as well.
Anyone who has fallen in love with Jesus, sees Him as the treasure and gem of his life, or found in Him the answer to all the riddles and mysteries of life, and believes that He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”, would not be able to keep quiet about Jesus. The fact that we are not sharing means that Jesus and the gospel have not struck us deeply and that He has not made a real difference in our lives, or given us the fullness of life. We will not be able to confess with St Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6:68f)
Hence, mission is obligatory for all baptized Catholics. In the gospel Jesus said to the Eleven, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” Every disciple of our Lord is charged with the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone they meet. But we should not conceive of obligation in the sense that it is a law imposed on us from without, as if it is something we have to do and do reluctantly out of fear or duty. This is not what St Paul meant when he said, “I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it … it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands.”
This obligation is not a reluctant obligation but a joyful responsibility. It comes from a personal encounter with the Lord. The zeal to restore the Church and His people must come from a personal conviction, an inner compulsion arising from our encounter with the Risen Lord. It is the case of St Paul and all the prophets and apostles. The obligation comes from a sense of gratitude. St Paul, having received the Good News freely from God who chose him to be His apostle, could not do otherwise but to respond to His love and mercy. He said, “Do you know what my reward is? It is this: in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.” In the gospel, the Lord reminded the apostles, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay.” We who have received the gospel of Christ gratuitously from the Lord, and also His gift of the many talents and resources, should not keep them for ourselves but share and bless others with them. Indeed, when one is blessed by God either with a mystical encounter, a vision, or personal blessings of health, joy, wealth and positions of influence in life, one is meant to use them for blessing others and never to keep them for ourselves.
Truly, without a personal encounter with the Lord, there can be no question of mission. If we are in ministry but have not had a personal encounter with the Lord, our motives for serving are not likely to be pure. More likely, we would be serving out of ambition and personal interests rather than truly working for God and His Church. This explains the infighting and quarrelling among ministry members, not so much because of their concerns with the larger interests of the mission of the Church but over who is right, who is the best and whether their opinions and suggestions are received and implemented.
However, a personal encounter is not sufficient to make us missionaries for Christ. We must be missionary disciples. One cannot be a good soldier of Christ unless one is trained. Otherwise we will hurt not just ourselves but our fellow soldiers in the battle against Satan and his angels. We might find ourselves being made use of by Satan to divide the community and hinder the mission of the Church because of our pride, egoism, self-centeredness and selfishness.
The weakness of the Catholic Church is not that many are not taking the responsibility of announcing the Good News, but the greatest weakness is that many of our Catholics are not disciples. We are not just members of the Church but we are disciples. Who are the disciples of Christ if not those who are learning to grow in their spiritual life and deepening their faith through the study and sharing of the Word of God, receiving the sacraments, are faithful to their personal prayer life and helping fellow Catholics to grow in faith.
Discipleship happens within the community. We do not form ourselves as individuals but within the confines of a community of disciples. We are baptized not as individuals but into the Body of Christ with Christ as our Head. Because we belong to the Body of Christ and are part of it, we are called to build each other up. St Paul told the Ephesians that God has equipped us with various gifts, “for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (cf Eph 4:12-16)
Indeed, the failure of the Church to build communities is the reason why the Community cannot grow in faith and in strength, not just in numbers but in quality as well. This is particularly true not just for the young people who need to have a community to journey and grow in their faith, but the adults as well. We all need to mentor each other. This is what it means by disciples making disciples. Unless we support each other in faith, in love, in life and in our struggles to be authentic in our faith and faithful disciples of our Lord, we will lose the little faith that has been planted in us. Indeed, being identified with each other is the way to provide strength to one another, as St Paul shared, “So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.”
However, we cannot speak of building communities without providing the proper structure and support. Many churches tried to build communities but failed, whether among youth groups or neighbourhood groups because they did not form leaders to form the members and to lead them. What is urgent, therefore, is that parishes must be ready to invest in the formation of leaders. We need to form leaders to mentor the newer ones so that we will never be without leaders. We need to employ more pastoral workers to assist the priests in the work of formation because the priests can no longer do this work by themselves alone. Unless, we have this change of mindset, the Church cannot grow because we lack teachers to guide and form our people.
So let us continue to build and restore our archdiocese so that we can revive the faith of the two thirds of Catholics unaccounted for in the Church and the 85% of church-goers who have not yet fallen in love with Jesus. Our mission remains urgent, which is to build a vibrant, evangelizing and missionary Church. We must do it, not just for our sake but the sake of our children and our children’s children. The future of humanity and this planet depends on whether they are grounded in the gospel of truth and love. So let us go out and preach everywhere. The Lord will work with us as He did with His disciples and confirm “the word by the signs that accompanied it.”
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.
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