VINDICATION FOR THE JUST
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Malachi 3:13-20; Ps 1:1-4,6; Lk 11:5-13 ]
We can identify with those Jews who were disappointed with God. They felt cheated and short-changed for being good. “It is useless to serve God; what is the good of keeping his commands or of walking mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? Now we have reached the point when we call the arrogant blessed; yes, they prosper, these evil-doers; they try God’s patience and yet go free.” This is how we feel when we have given ourselves to the service of God, observed His commandments and sought to live out the gospel in our lives. But being good does not seem to pay in this world. Often, it looks like the evil, selfish and dishonest people are enjoying the goodness of life and are successful. “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken, and chastened every morning.” (Ps 73:13f)
This was how the psalmist felt about the wicked who grew in their riches. They seemed to be more blessed than those who were good. “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had well-nigh slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs; their bodies are sound and sleek. They are not in trouble as other men are; they are not stricken like other men. Therefore, pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out with fatness, their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.” (Ps 73:2-9)
If we are feeling this way, let us see things in proper perspective. God will eventually vindicate the just. The prophet Malachi said, “But the Lord took note and heard them: a book of remembrance was written in his presence recording those who fear him and take refuge in his name.” The good we do should not be thought of as wasted. It is written in our hearts. It will bear fruits in our lives, not always immediately but in the future. Indeed, a time will come when the wicked will have to pay the full price for their sins and wicked deeds. “For the day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts, leaving them neither root nor stalk. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.” This is the assurance of the Lord through the prophet Malachi. “On the day which I am preparing, says the Lord of Hosts, they are going to be my own special possession. I will make allowances for them as a man makes allowances for the son who obeys him. Then once again you will see the difference between an upright man and a wicked one, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve him.”
Indeed, we can be short-sighted in the way we look at success and failure, blessings and curses. Not all worldly success and blessings are good for the human person. It is how we use them for others. Conversely, not all sufferings are bad because they can help us to become better and more empathetic with those who are suffering. This is what the Lord is teaching us in the gospel. He said, “What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg?” Very often we are mistaken in our choices of what is good in life. We mistake stone for bread, snake for a fish. We only see the externals and we think that the wicked with their ill-gotten possessions are happy or the wicked and manipulative people who cheat themselves into office are secure. Again, the psalmist says of those who appeared to be doing well. “Truly thou dost set them in slippery places; thou dost make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes, on awaking you despise their phantoms.” (Ps 73:18-20)
Consequently, the responsorial psalm invites us to place our trust in the Lord. “Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord. Happy indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked; nor lingers in the way of sinners nor sits in the company of scorners, but whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders his law, day and night. Not so are the wicked, not so! For they like winnowed chaff shall be driven away by the wind. For the Lord guards the way of the just but the way of the wicked leads to doom.” This is what the gospel is also encouraging us as well, to place our entire trust in God’s divine wisdom and providence. By pondering over the Word of God and drawing strength from Him, we will be fruitful like the tree “that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper.”
Trusting in the Lord requires persistence as in the man who went to his friend in the middle of the night to ask for three loaves of bread for his guest. But the man was already sleeping with his family and it was inconvenient for him to get up without disturbing the entire family. And the Lord said, “I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.” So when things do not appear to be on our side even when we are sincerely doing the right and honest thing and we see wicked people manipulating the situation and conniving with other parties to go against us, we must remain firm in our principles. Our integrity and honesty will one day be rewarded because there are others who are seeking people with integrity to work with them, not simply people who are intelligent. Being smart and intelligent without integrity will destroy all that we are building and doing.
God knows what to give us and when to reward us. Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” God will only give us what is good for us. He will not give us apparent happiness in life but He wants to give us the fullness of life. Only God who is all wise knows what is ultimately good for us. We might think something is good and we would like to have it. But it can be destructive, perhaps not now but in the future. We are short-sighted and we do not see far. This explains why some of the public policies that are based on pragmatism and satisfying the pleasures of our people will bring about more problems in the future of which we cannot manage.
That is why we should not be asking for more things, or for our petitions to be answered but the Holy Spirit, as Jesus advised us. God wants to give us nothing less than the gift of Himself. To have the Holy Spirit is to have the mind and heart of God so that we can choose rightly. Making the right discernment is what we need to ask of the Lord. Thus, the Lord instructs us to ask, search and knock. “So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.” Why must the Lord give us only when we ask, search or knock? In another text, the Lord said, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Mt 6:31-33)
By asking and searching, we will come to know what is truly good and lasting for us. We seek for the Kingdom and His justice first because without them, the rest of the things would not be used wisely when we have time. Often those who suffer might appear to be the losers but they are the ultimate winners. We might not be able to see the outcome of their suffering. But in due time, God will manifest to us that truth will triumph over falsehood; goodness over evil and love over hatred. So let us pray for a living faith in God. This is a faith that enables us to see the way God sees us. This is a faith that is courageous, persevering and hopeful in the face of trials, disappointments and setbacks. Such a faith will see us through in life, giving us peace, joy and consolation in our suffering.
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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