EQUIPPED FOR GOOD WORKS
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 TIm 3:10-17; Mk 12:35-37 ]
Many Catholics, especially after their conversion, or those newly baptized, want to offer their services to the Church. They have lots of goodwill to do good works and to make the Church grow and the gospel spread to those who do not yet know Him. Having just returned to the Church or just known Christ, they want to join the battle for souls. However, many of them, unfortunately, are ill-equipped for this task. They do not have what it takes to handle the enemies of the gospel. St Paul told Timothy that we must expect persecutions, opposition and attacks from our enemies when we seek to proclaim the gospel. “You are well aware, then, that anybody who tries to live in devotion to Christ is certain to be attacked; while these wicked impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and deceived themselves.”
St Paul also warned Timothy about the godlessness in the Last Days. “You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power.” Enemies and oppositions do not only come from without but many are insidious, from within our own flock! Indeed, this is even more dangerous. Some Catholics join Church organizations initially with good intentions to help and serve. However, over time, they become complacent in their faith, misled by the Evil One, tempted by the world, seek power, glory, benefits and status. Indeed, many of them, as Paul warns us, just display “the outward form of godliness.”
Therefore, it is critical that we train and equip the soldiers of Christ for the spiritual warfare that we undertake. We must arm them with the necessary weapons and armour so that not only can they defend themselves but even save their enemies from error. (cf Eph 6:10-13) What is this armour of God that we should put on before we can be considered skilled soldiers of Christ?
We must first be imbued with the Word of God because it contains the wisdom and truth of God for Christian life, and especially in pointing us to Christ. St Paul said to Timothy, “ever since you were a child, you have known the holy scriptures – from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Indeed, a good knowledge of scripture is important for us to defend ourselves from the errors promoted in our times. This is the purpose of scripture. “All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy.”
Why is knowledge of scripture so important before anyone can work for the kingdom? Firstly, because scripture is inspired. God is the principal author of scripture. In other words, everything that is written down in the bible is the Word of God because God is the one who inspires the human author to express His thoughts and ideas according to the human author’s culture, language and situation. God collaborates with human authors in producing the scriptures. St Peter said, “No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Pt 1:20f) So God is the ultimate source of scripture. This point was reiterated by the Lord when He said that David was inspired by God to write Psalm 110 that confirms the Son of David as his Lord, and therefore superior to David himself. The Jews did not understand the scriptures well and therefore did not know Christ as the Messiah.
Indeed, the bible is free from errors, since they contain the very words of God. God is always truthful to Himself. (cf John 17:17; Tit 1:1f) To reject the word of God is to reject the truth. Because the entire Bible is inspired, we cannot choose only those texts of the scriptures that we are comfortable or agree with, and reject those that we do not agree with. The bible, whole and entire, must be accepted without compromise. We must not forget the advice of St Augustine who wrote, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”
Consequently, the Bible is a sure guide for Christian living, for moral guidance and the basis for Christian doctrines, worship and the governance of the Church. As the written Word of God, scripture holds a special place in the Church so that all of us might walk in the truth, be inspired by the Word of God, and led to do good and live a holy life. No Christian walking in truth and love can dispense from reading, studying and praying the scriptures, if he wants to grow in holiness. It is essential that every Christian must take some time to read the entire Bible systematically, study it and pray over it. This is not just to acquire knowledge so that we can refute the arguments of others but more importantly, for us to be inspired to live a holy and righteous life and be equipped for all kinds of good works.
However, the written Word of God is not sufficient by itself. We do not subscribe to the principle of sola scriptura, that is, the Bible alone. Nevertheless, as Catholics, we subscribe to the principle of sola verbum dei, the Word of God. This is because the Word of God consists of both the written word, the Bible and also the oral traditions of the Church, especially the apostolic traditions. St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.” (1 Th 2: 13) When St Paul wrote to Timothy that all scripture is inspired by God, he was still referring to the Old Testament, as the New Testament was not yet written or compiled. It was the apostolic tradition and the Church that later on determined which books were inspired and to be included in the Canon of scriptures. Without the apostolic tradition and the Church, there would be no bible. St Paul affirms the authority of the apostolic tradition when he said, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you. (1 Cor 11:1)
Furthermore, without the Church, the magisterium, we will not be sure of the right interpretation of the scriptures. In another place, St Paul said, “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” (1 Tim 3:15) The bible cannot exist or be interpreted without the Church. On the other hand, the Church, having sanctioned and recognized those books to be inspired, is subjected to the Written Word of God. The bible becomes the rule of faith. The Church cannot teach what is contrary to the Written Word of God. So there is a mutual dependence of the Bible as the Written Word of God and the Church as the continuity of the Apostolic Tradition, preserving the deposit of faith. In the final analysis, only the Church, the authority of the Magisterium, can determine the authentic interpretation of the scriptures. The real root of disagreement with the Protestant is not the bible but the authority to interpret the scriptures.
Finally, we need mentors to keep us in the truth. Our great mentors are the apostles and all faithful Christians. St Paul presented himself as a model and the standard of faith. He said, “You know what I have taught, how I have lived, what I have aimed at; you know my faith, my patience and my love; my constancy and the persecutions and hardships that came to me – all the persecutions I have endured; and the Lord has rescued me from every one of them.” If our Catholics are weak in faith, it is because our parents, our teachers, our priests and our leaders are weak in faith. The only way to ensure that we will be able to stand up to the faith and be witnesses for Christ, and to serve humbly, faithfully and courageously against all oppositions and trials, is when we have good mentors and leaders to show us the way.
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.