FIDELITY TO OUR VOCATION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Tim 2:8-15; Ps 25:4-5,8-10,14; Mark 12:28-34 ]
In today’s secular world, it is increasingly difficult to stand up for Jesus and our faith. We can expect opposition from without and even from within. Many of us not only fear to evangelize our faith, much less to stand up for our beliefs as individuals or as members of Catholic organizations. We are cowed into silence for fear of being criticized, labelled as conservative, out of touch or have our reputation destroyed. Most of us try to speak in politically correct language so that no one disagrees with us.
In the gospel today, we are called to love God above all things with all our heart, soul and strength. In the first reading, St Paul speaks of his fidelity to his calling as an apostle of the Good News. Today, the call to fidelity is more and more difficult because of the changing circumstances. With economic mobility, couples are finding it a great challenge to be faithful to their marriage vows. St Paul said, “Remind them of this; and tell them in the name of God that there is to be no wrangling about words: all that this ever achieves is the destruction of those who are listening.” We should not engage in useless arguments or trying to twist the Word of God to suit us, like the Devil who tempted Jesus. Rather, we need to be true to the Word of God and the Good News we have received. Let us not contaminate the purity of our faith.
St Paul is an example of someone who stood by his faith in Christ through thick and thin, even unto death. Indeed, in the first reading we read that he was in chains when he wrote to Timothy, “Remember the Good news that I carry, ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David’; it is on account of this that I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal.” How inspiring are his words and conviction when he said, “But they cannot chain up God’s news!” Even in prison, he remained not just firm in his faith but he continued to spread the Good News through letters and visits. Regardless of his limitations, he refused to allow time and situations to imprison the Good News of Jesus Christ that he had been called to share. We too must also find new ways to proclaim the gospel.
How, then, can we remain faithful to our vows, not just in word but in spirit? We must be motivated by the power of love and love alone. Indeed, where did St Paul find his strength to share the Good News? Principally, it was because of his personal encounter with the Risen Lord at Damascus. It was this Good News of encountering the Risen Lord that made him ready to do anything for the Lord, even to being chained up as a criminal. So the fundamental pre-requisite for witnessing presumes that we are witnesses to the resurrection of our Lord. If we have not yet encountered the power of the Risen Lord in our lives, then it would be very difficult to witness to Him. Evangelization is the transmission and sharing of a person, not some ideology or doctrines. Have we seen the power of God at work in our lives, especially in our ministry?
Secondly, arising from this experience, St Paul felt the personal love of Jesus in allowing him to encounter Him. When he thought of what the Lord had done for him, he could not but be filled with gratitude. He wrote, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and was raised for them.” (2 Cor 5:14) Indeed, when we truly reflect on His passion and death for us on the cross, then we too will come to appreciate His love and sacrifices for us. Only when we know His love for us, will we be ready to die for Him because we die for those who love us.
What was more, the Lord not only revealed Himself to the undeserving Saul but chose him to be His apostle. He encountered His mercy. He wrote “I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles.” (Gal 1:15f) For us too, are we grateful that we have been given the gift of faith? Precisely, because we take our faith for granted and our vocation as if it is a career we chose on our own, that we lack gratitude for God’s blessings. Instead of seeing it as a great privilege, we view it as a duty and a chore!
This is the command of our Lord, that we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves. This commandment is not new as it is taken from the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Indeed, this command to love God and our neighbours with our entire being, mind, body and spirit appears to be, humanly speaking, unreasonable and even impossible. But this is not the case because it presupposes that we, like the Israelites, have encountered the power and mercy of the Living God. We need to have our own Exodus Experience, which for us Christians, is the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord, if we are to obey this command of our Lord taken from Moses. Without first experiencing the power of His resurrection and the love and mercy from His passion, it would not be Good News for us but simply a message, inspiring as it is, but not someone we can relate to.
St Paul reminds us that only “If we hold firm, then we shall reign with him. If we disown him, then he will disown us.” Indeed, we are obliged as disciples of the Lord to be firm in our beliefs. By denying our beliefs, we will end up disowning ourselves because we will lose our identity, focus and meaning in life. We are what we are because of our beliefs and values. By not standing up to our faith, we will lose everything that we stand for, especially the future generations who will suffer the loss of truth and values. By not being faithful to our vocation, by living a double life, we will be unfaithful to ourselves. It is not God who will reject us but we will reject ourselves because of the lack of integrity in our lives.
How do we stand firm in our faith and remain faithful to the Lord? Firstly, we must cultivate the right attitudes of faith flowing from His love and mercy. We must renew our love for the Lord and His love for us. Without this renewal and reappropriation of His love, we will not have the passion to be identified with Jesus, because we identify ourselves with those whom we love. St Paul strived to be as generous as the Lord was to him. He expressed his grateful love by extending the Good News he had been given to others. In other words, he obeyed the commandment of the Lord to love his neighbours by sharing with them the Good News. He wrote, “So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.”
Secondly, we must cling on to God’s fidelity to us. St Paul assures us that He will be with us in our struggles. He cited from a hymn that says, “If we have died with Him, then we shall live with Him. If we hold firm, then we shall reign with Him. If we disown Him then He will disown us. We may be unfaithful, but He is always faithful, for He cannot disown His own self.” In our times of trial, we might feel like giving up. But thinking of how the Lord was faithful to the end, we should find strength and courage. “Consider Him who endured such hostility against Himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (cf Heb 12:2b-4) The psalmist affirms His faithfulness when he prayed, “His ways are faithfulness and love for those who keep his covenant and law. The Lord’s friendship is for those who revere Him; to them He reveals His covenant.”
Thirdly, we need to constantly find strength and direction from the Lord in a world of relativism, with so many voices clamoring to be heard. We need to be discerning and watchful of the current trends and values that are being promoted in the world and unconsciously adopted by Catholics because they are in the world. More often than not, we Catholics subscribe to the values of the world simply because we are influenced by the mass media, movies and our secular friends. Like the psalmist, we need to turn to the Lord for direction with the help of the authoritative teachers of the faith. “Lord, make me know your ways. Lord, teach me your paths. Make me walk in your truth, and teach me.”
Finally, let us persevere by keeping our conscience pure and focused on our Lord. St Paul urges us, “Do all you can to present yourself in front of God as a man who has come through his trials, and a man who has no cause to be ashamed of his life’s work and has kept a straight course with the message of the truth.” The author of Hebrews wrote, “Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Heb 12:2) Let us keep our eyes on the Good News, that is, the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord so that we keep remembering His love for us and how through His resurrection, hatred is overcome by love and death by new life.
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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