CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Dt 26:4-10; Ps 91:1-2,10-15; Rom 10:8-13; Lk 4:1-13]
Many of us are wandering in life, not knowing our identity or our purpose. We do not know who we really are. What we are living for. What is the ultimate purpose of life? Is it just to work, eat, play and sleep? After that, as William Shakespeare in his play ‘Macbeth’ said, “And then is heard no more.” Why do we work so hard, make so much money and then have to leave everything behind? Why do we use so much energy to build something for someone to undo what we have done when we finish our work? Indeed, we have no roots and no foundation in life. We do not belong to anyone. This was the case of the fathers of Israel. “My father was a wandering Aramaean. He went down into Egypt to find refuge there, few in numbers.” They, too, were wandering nomads, not having any home that they could call their own. They, too, were a motley crowd of people living in Egypt without a sense of identity. This was who they were.
Indeed, this too was the fundamental challenge that Jesus faced when He began His ministry. The devil confronted Him with the question of identity. Twice the devil began his temptations by saying, “‘If you are the Son of God …” The devil knew that if he could cause Jesus to lose His identity, He would not be able to carry out His ministry or live His life purposefully. The reality is that our identity is tied down to our mission because doing flows from being. Without a clear conviction of our identity, life has no purpose or orientation. This is the same snare that the Devil is using to destroy the world by confusing us about our identity as the children of God, our sexual identity, the meaning of marriage and family. But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Secondly, like the sons of Israel, we too live in slavery. They were slaves in Egypt. “The Egyptians ill-treated us, they gave us no peace and inflicted harsh slavery on us.” They were made to work hard for their masters. They were ill-treated and forced to work without basic resources. Like them, we too live under the yoke of slavery because we are the slaves of power, money, fame and pleasure. We are addicted to sex, envy, and gluttony. We are not in control of our passions and our indulgence. We lack discipline and self-control in all areas of life. We allow others to determine and control our happiness, surrendering our freedom to public opinion and popularity. Again, this was the same trap that the Devil sought to have Jesus under his control. He “showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.'” But Jesus replied, “Scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.”
Thirdly, we all live in anxiety of the future and the fear of death. We live in danger, like the Israelites who were wandering in the desert. From hunger and thirst, from cold and heat, from storms and wild animals, and from their enemies, they had to journey in the desert for forty years. We too face dangers every day. We are worried about our future and that of our children. We worry about their studies, our jobs, our finances and our health, our elderly. Indeed, our minds are full of worries about tomorrow, as if we do not have enough problems of our own today. We struggle with painful relationships, betrayals, injustices and failures. The devil comes to tempt us in such moments to lose faith in God and to crave for more wealth, power and status to secure ourselves. He tempted Jesus on this very basic level of human needs when He asked Him to change stones into bread, apparently a just thing to do. But Jesus would not use His powers to satisfy His needs except for the service of others. He made it clear to the Devil, “Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.”
What was the secret of the Israelites, of our Lord and of St Paul in their struggle against dangers, trials, temptation and sin? They called on the name of the Lord. In the first reading, we read how they “called on the Lord, the God of our fathers. The Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, our toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great terror, and with signs and wonders.” So, too, St Paul echoed the same sentiments. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” And the Lord Jesus at His death on the cross too cried out, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:46)
If we have faith in Him, God will hear us regardless of who we are. St Paul says, “When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask for his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The psalmist assures us, “His love he set on me, so I will rescue him; protect him for he knows my name.”
But it is more than crying out to the Lord and calling upon His name. We must do it with faith and total surrender. This is why St Paul wrote, “If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.” We are called to believe not with our head but with our heart. It is the inner conviction that Jesus is Lord that will save us from our enemies, all fears and all forms of slavery. Without this conviction we will not be able to overcome our foes and especially the temptation of the Evil One. Only because of Jesus’ confidence in the Father’s love, divine providence and power, could He renounce the temptations of the Evil One and not follow Satan’s ways. Intellectual faith alone cannot get us far.
If we have faith in Christ, we would confess our faith in Him by our words and actions. We must celebrate our faith in worship, thanksgiving and sacrifice. This was what the Israelites did every year when they recited the credo. “The priest shall take the pannier from your hand and lay it before the altar of the Lord your God. Then, in the sight of the Lord your God, you must make this pronouncement …” This means to render Him glory and worship. “Here then I bring the first-fruits of the produce of the soil that you, Lord, have given me. You must then lay them before the Lord your God, and bow down in the sight of the Lord your God.” Unfortunately, many of us claim that Jesus is our Lord, but sell Him out for power, wealth, pleasures and fame. We are counter-witnesses to our faith by our conduct.
If we want to strengthen our faith, we must proclaim and share Him with others. By sharing our faith with others, we strengthen our own faith. The only way to evangelize ourselves is to evangelize others. Hence, St Paul reiterates the same thing, “By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.” If you want to grow in your faith, you must share your knowledge of your faith and your experience of Christ with others. That is why every Catholic must belong to a faith-sharing group, and meet regularly to share the Word of God and pray with and for each other.
Like Peter, we know our faith is weak. Like him, we too need to grow in faith. How can we if not to live on the bread of life, the Word of God and the Eucharist? St Paul says, “The word, that is the faith we proclaim, is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart.” So let us continue this journey by strengthening our faith through contemplation on the Word of God deeply. Without the Word of God, we will not be able to resist the temptations of the Evil One. St Paul says, “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph 6:17) During this season of Lent, we must put aside at least half an hour or better still, an hour to pray the scriptures, if possible before the Blessed Sacrament. If we commit ourselves to an hour of prayer daily during the season of Lent, we will be ready to share Jesus’ death and resurrection at Easter.
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.