11 AUGUST, 2017, Friday, 18th Week, Ordinary Time


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DT 4:32-40; MT 16:24-28 ]

“What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life?  Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?”  These are fundamental questions in life.  If we can answer these questions from the depths of our being, our fundamental option in life would change.  Indeed, when St Francis Xavier came upon this text, his whole life changed.  It suddenly dawned on him what life was all about!

So the truth is that if we want to live, we must live in the most radical manner. Unfortunately, most people always live on the superficial level.  They never bother to ask the ultimate questions of life.  They just drift and go through life without living it.  It is just like the way the greedy man eats.  The food is not tasted but goes straight from his mouth to the stomach.  He never tastes the joy of life.  When we live on the mundane level, we will never find satisfaction in life.

To drift along in life is equally disastrous.  Think of your life’s journey. When you get to where you’re going, where will you be? One year, five years, or even 20 years from now, if you keep heading in the same direction and keep doing what you are doing, what will your life look like? Not only vocationally and financially, but what kind of person will you be? Do you have a pretty clear picture of the way you would like things to turn out, or will you be as surprised when it happens as it does everybody else?  It has been my experience that most people do not spend much time with these questions. But as Henry David Thoreau once said, “In the long run, we only hit what we aim at.” To live aimlessly is to waste this precious gift of life. But to live with direction is to live fully.  Hence, the gospel challenges us to consider why and what we are living for.

In these questions, Jesus is inviting us to examine what is our greatest desire in life? What is it that can bring us real happiness?  Indeed, it is of utmost importance that each one of us must ask the question:  what is the ultimate security of my life or where do I put my security?  The answer to this question is vital since the decision we make will determine our character and our future.  If we place our hopes in material things, money and wealth or in other status symbol, can we find real happiness? Indeed, some have managed to attain what they set out to achieve but only to discover the vanity of it all.

Of what value is money or possessions if they cannot bring us happiness, peace in our heart, relationships with our fellowmen and most of all, our relationship with God?  But St Alphonsus Maria De Liguori said, “We do not fix our affections on borrowed goods, because we know that they must soon be returned to the owner. All earthly goods are lent to us: It is folly to set our heart on what we must soon quit. Death shall strip us of all. The acquisitions and fortunes of this world all terminate in a dying grasp, in a funeral, in a descent into the grave. The house which you have built for yourself you must soon give up to others.” Would we, as Jesus is asking us, exchange our lives for this temporal or illusive happiness?

In the final analysis, only living for God can bring us real happiness.  But how can one live for God unless one is convinced?  The Israelites could live for God only because of the experience of the majesty, power and love of Yahweh for them.  In order to live for God, Moses reminded the people that God is everything – our lives belong to him.   “This he showed you so that you might know that the Lord is God indeed and that there is no other.  He let you hear his voice out of heaven for your instruction; on earth he let you see his great fire, and from the heart of the fire you heard his word.  Because he loved your fathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out from Egypt, openly showing his presence and his great power, driving out in front of you nations greater and more powerful than yourself, and brought you into their land to give it you for your heritage, as it is still today.”

Everything we have is an out-right gift from God.  We owe Him everything, including our very lives.  It’s possible for many of us to give God our money, but not our entire self.  What we give to God or even to our fellowmen is just a token, not even 10% of what we have received from Him!   More often than not, we pay Him only lip-service, but our hearts are far from Him.  A wise disciple gladly gives up all that he has in exchange for an unending life of joy and happiness with God.  Our God gives without measure and to share His life and joy means that we too must do the same.  When we give without measure, what we give actually is never given away.  The joy and happiness we give to others remain with us!  In fact, it is doubled.  We suffer no loss in joy but only material loss which cannot bring us real happiness anyway.

We must therefore make a decision to surrender our entire life to the plan of the Father, for He is our joy and life.  ‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other.” He knows best.  We just have to walk in truth and love and He will take care of us.  “Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you forever.”

Hence, the responsorial psalm invites us to reflect on the deeds of God.  We cannot be convinced that living for God ultimately gives us life unless we experience His love for us.  The Israelites could commit their lives to the One and True God because they experienced His mighty power and love.  “I remember the deeds of the Lord, I remember your wonders of old, I muse on all your works and ponder your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is great as our God? You are the God who works wonders. You showed your power among the peoples. Your strong arm redeemed your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. You guided your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”

Similarly, if Jesus could live for God only, it was because of the experience of His Father’s love.  For Jesus lived a radical life for God and His kingdom even unto death.  Jesus did the Father’s will and lived according to the Father’s plan and vision.  His mission was rooted in the unconditional love of God as His Abba Father.  For us to do the Father’s will requires that we live according to our vocation, which is the vocation of love. To live life radically, one must lose one’s life, that is, to give up this present kind of life for the life of Christ.  “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

To live for God is to offer our lives to Him.  The cross that Jesus speaks about is the symbol of our total commitment and giving.  When we love we are ready to suffer.  Because Jesus loves the Father, He was ready to carry the cross.  Similarly if we love then we will be ready to carry the cross.  Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Of course, carrying the cross presupposes that we believe that that is the way to life; that the cross of Christ leads to victory and freedom from sin and death.  To carry our daily cross means to love our spouse, children, colleagues and bear with each other’s imperfections and negligence.  It means to keep on forgiving our brothers and sisters, tolerating their limitations and human frailties.  It entails living out our vocation faithfully each day, and being responsible in our duties.

To love means to carry the cross.  Those who cannot love are those who cannot suffer the cross of loving.  They only love themselves.  But when we love, we are ready to sacrifice ourselves, our pleasures and comforts for the greater joy of bringing happiness and love to other people’s life.  Do we seek true joy and happiness or passing pleasures and the happiness of life that comes from earthly things, like power, glory and pleasures?  So with St Ignatius, we pray, “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will, all that I have and possess.  You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them; all things are yours, dispose of them according to your will.  Give me your love and your grace, for this is enough for me.” (Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)

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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