SINGULAR-MINDEDNESS IN MISSION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Gn 32:23-33; Ps 17:1-3,6-8; Mt 9:32-38 ]
In the gospel, we read about Jesus doing good works and how He was grossly opposed, misunderstood and slandered. He was on the mission of mercy, reconciling sinners with God, healing them of their illnesses and delivering them from the Evil One. But after casting the devil from a dumb demoniac, the man was able to speak again, and the people were amazed, saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel”. Only the Pharisees thought otherwise. They accused Him of collaborating with the Evil One, claiming that “It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.”
We who serve the Lord often feel that way too. We render our services to the Church and to the poor. We use our time and resources for the good of the community. We sacrifice our sleep and our enjoyment for the glory of God. But often, we are misunderstood. We are criticized and judged wrongly. We are opposed even by our own brothers and sisters. We get all kinds of snide remarks that question our motives. We feel unappreciated and discouraged. In moments like these, we feel like quitting and giving up all our association with the Church, the organizations and the people who opposed us. Many of us feel like withdrawing to our own comfort zone and our shell, living for ourselves instead of for others.
But was that the way Jesus acted when He was rejected by the Jewish leaders and falsely accused? Instead of focusing on His enemies and detractors, the Lord kept His focus on His mission and the people He was called to serve. “Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness. And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” He focused on the people’s needs and their hunger for God and for His love and mercy. Jesus did not focus on His pain and fall into self-pity and depression.
We, too, when we are opposed and feel discouraged by the nasty things people say about us, especially on social media, we should stop reading such negative comments on our Facebook and Instagram, etc. Often, such negativity comes from people who are jealous and envious. Some are hurting and lash out at us because their conscience is pricked or because their vested interests are challenged. Rather, we should focus on the good works we are doing, and the many lives we have touched and healed, given hope and meaning. We should direct our attention to the sufferings of others and those who are ready to accept the good news we are offering to them. Those who do not want or are not interested, we should respect them and just pray for their openness to God’s grace. It would be against our well-being to get angry with them or worse still, become vindictive and seek revenge against them. We just have to leave them alone, as Jesus did with the Pharisees. Instead, He continued with His mission of mercy among those who were desperate to find healing and grace.
Secondly, we must remember that we are called and chosen to do His work. Jesus knew who He was and He knew what He was called to do. Affirming our call is important so that we do not give up so easily. When it is something we choose to do, we can give up because it is our choice. It is just like a hobby or some preference for food or music. We can change our taste for clothes, personal interests, etc. But if it is a call from God, there is no question of giving up. St Paul said, “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.” (1 Cor 9:16-18)
Indeed, this was the case of Jacob. He too was wrestling with himself and therefore with God, his identity and mission. Over the years, he had learnt humility and greater self-awareness. He was remorseful for cheating his father, Isaac, and his brother, Esau, of his birthright. So he needed God’s grace and blessing to give him the courage to meet his brother and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Hence, before he crossed the ford, he sent his family across the stream first, whilst he remained back in prayer. It was an intense prayer, like that of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane before He faced His enemies. The reward of that night spent in prayer earned him the consolation and affirmation of God of his mission. The angel said to him, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; because you have been strong against God, you shall prevail against men.” To be given a new name means that he is given a new mission, which was to continue the plan of God for Israel and for humanity. Only with that strength, did he find the courage to meet Esau and seek forgiveness. (cf Gn 33:1-15)
Thirdly, we must invite others to share in our mission. We can be sure that when Jesus saw the crowd who were hungry for God and for His mercy, He must have wondered how He could reach out to every one of them. He said to His disciples, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” Indeed, He knew that He could not personally attend to all, far and near who sought God.
We do not carry on the mission of Christ alone. It is not enough to offer our services to the Church or to the poor. Alone, we cannot do much and alone we will feel discouraged when we are overwhelmed by the demands made on us or the challenges we face in service. Whilst it is important that we volunteer ourselves, a good volunteer or ministry member must also rope in others to work and collaborate with him or her for the greater good of the Church. There are some church ministry members who want to work alone. They want to do everything themselves without soliciting the help of others. We must be careful that our motives are not impure. We must guard against wanting all the attention and glory for ourselves, seeking recognition, honour and praise when we do our work well.
That is why we need to purify our motives in serving God. If we want to be effective in our ministry, we must serve without self-interests. Jacob had to wrestle with God over his imperfections and wrong motives of wanting to be the leader of Israel. He had cheated Esau and his father. But over forty years away from home, learning how to grow in grace by working for Laban, even being cheated and manipulated by him, he got married to two of his daughters, contending with the competition of his wives for his attention and with eleven children, he too had matured. We, too, must always ask ourselves sincerely and honestly, whether we are serving God and His people, or ourselves. We must not fall into the same deception of the Pharisees who were more concerned about their position in society rather than the needs of the people and their sufferings.
So how can we best attract people to labour in the vineyard of the Lord? We must make them fall in love with Jesus first. That is why the Lord asked us to pray. Only in prayer can we meet God face to face as Jacob did. “Jacob named the place Peneil, ‘Because I have seen God face to face,’ he said’ and I have survived.'” Unless we meet God, we will not be able to find the strength to reach out to others. Priestly and religious vocations, and lay workers and volunteers come from a praying, worshipping and faith-filled community. Without a personal encounter with His love and mercy, there can be no mission.
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.