GOODWILL BUT UNTRAINED SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Col 2:6-15; PS 145:1-2,8-11; Lk 6:12-19]
“The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.” (Mt 9:37) Indeed, there are many people in the world seeking truth and love, and the Good News of salvation but we have very few labourers in the vineyard of the Lord. But if these few labourers we have are of high quality, we still can spread the gospel to the whole world since Christ started with only Twelve apostles. In the final analysis, it is not about the number of labourers but their quality.
The truth is that many who give themselves to the ministry in the Church, whether part-time or full time, are not properly formed for the work of evangelization. Most who have been touched by the Lord offer their services to assist in the spread of the gospel. But many of them are not just ill-formed in the faith but are themselves wounded emotionally and psychologically. Often, in the process of serving in their ministries, their Old Adam resurfaces, causing others to be hurt. This explains why there is a high turnover in Church involvement. Many are disillusioned, hurt and angry with the Church.
What does it take to perform our ministry? How can we be effective? Ongoing formation is critical to the work of evangelization. It does not mean that we must be fully formed, healed and are saintly before we can engage in the mission of the Church. But it does mean that even whilst we serve the Church and engage the world, we need to constantly form ourselves in our faith. The real problem is that many are just keen to reach out to others and to minister, but they themselves are not being ministered to or formed. There is output without a corresponding input. This is the cause of many being jaded and burnt out. They seek to do the mission of Christ using their own resources, strength, ingenuity and talents.
We are called to take the cue in today’s gospel by following Jesus in the way He fulfilled the mission of His Father. The foundation of Jesus’ mission is His intimacy with His Father. Again and again, the gospel records that “Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.” Jesus was always in constant union with His Father in everything. He was always in conversation with the Father. When the Devil tempted Him to change stone to bread, His reply was, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4) So the strength and wisdom of Jesus’ ministry come from His communion with the Father.
More so when it comes to making important decisions in leadership. In the gospel, we have Jesus praying all night as He wanted to make a decision on who to appoint as His apostles. The list that He chose was not based on logical thinking and human wisdom. Otherwise, He would have chosen a more qualified and united group. Instead, He chose a motley crowd; those without qualifications, incompatible in temperament and poles apart in intellectual capacity and motives in serving Him. Among them were revolutionaries and a traitor.
This was precisely what St Paul wrote, “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters; not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1:26-29) The choice of the apostles came through prayerful discernment in the power of the Holy Spirit and not through rationalistic thinking alone.
It was because of His intimacy with His Father that He was filled with the Father’s love and energy. As the evangelist recounted, “He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.” Indeed, He was infused with the energy of God and suffused His Father’s healing grace on everyone who came into contact with Him. This is what St Paul wrote, “In his body lives the fullness of divinity, and in him you too find your own fulfilment.”
Clearly, without being immersed in the Father’s love, we will lack the capacity to preach and to heal. That was why St Paul urged the Christian community saying, “Your whole life according to the Christ you have received – Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted to him and built on him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving.” A Christian, especially a disciple and an apostle of our Lord, must found his or her entire life in Him alone. Christ must be the center, the foundation and the reference point of his or her life. A Christian draws energy and wisdom from the Lord. Like a plant, his life is rooted in Him and he nurtures himself with the food that is given him by the Lord.
A Christian must come to the Lord daily to learn from Him about life and the world. Whilst earthly wisdom is a participation in divine wisdom, it remains inadequate and incomplete. It is just a partial understanding of life. Only Christ gives us the full answer to all the questions and mysteries of life. Hence St Paul wrote, “Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some second-hand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ.” As Christians, are we convinced that Christ is the answer to all our problems and queries, or do we refer the judgement to the world? Indeed, we must hold “firm by the faith you have been taught.” Without constant study and praying of the Word of God, sharing of the Word and reading up on the Catholic Faith, how can we ever grow in knowledge of the treasures of our faith and deepen our knowledge and relationship with the Lord?
Secondly, a Christian must realize that he is never alone. He belongs to a covenanted people. He is a member of the New People of God through baptism. This is what St Paul said of the Christians. “In him you have been circumcised, with circumcision not performed by human hand, but by the complete stripping of your body and flesh. This is circumcision according to Christ.” Circumcision was a sign of being made a member of the People of God in the Old Covenant. That was why all Israelites and Jews had to be circumcised. But St Paul wrote that as Christians, the real circumcision is not of the flesh but of the heart by having faith in Christ and giving up our entire body and soul to the Lord. This was the way Christ incorporated us into His body, the Church. We too must also surrender our will and our mind to the Lord and work with the rest of the members of the Body of Christ in one mind and in one heart. A Christian must never walk alone but always with the rest of the Church because we are called to be members of the body of Christ. Our faith is nourished and strengthened by the members of our community.
Finally, effective witnessing is when we live out our baptismal promises. “You have been buried with him, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead. You were dead, because you were sinners and had not been circumcised: he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us all our sins.” Having our sins cancelled by the death and resurrection of Christ, we are all saved and loved by the Lord. We are reconciled with the Father through Christ. As a redeemed people, we must now live out the graces of baptism given to us. With Christ, we must nail ourselves and our sins to the cross by living a graced life. In this way, we too become the glory of God and exude His love and healing grace.
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.