REKINDLING OUR ZEAL FOR THE LORD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Cor 1:18-22; Ps 118:129-133,135; Mt 5:13-16 ]
In today’s gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: “’You are the salt of the earth.’… ‘You are the light of the world.’” Clearly, Jesus expects His disciples to make a difference in the lives of their fellowmen. Do we bring our riches to enrich the rest of humanity? Do we share our resources with others to make this world a better place? Like salt, we are called to make this world a vibrant place to live in. Like salt, we are called to add value to what others are doing. Unless, we make positive contributions to the lives of our fellowmen we are not living out the gospel.
Besides being the salt of the world, we are called also to be the light of humanity. Our task as Christians is to lead people to the fullness of the light and the fullness of truth. We who have been enlightened in the truth about our identity as the sons and daughters of God and called to share in the life of Christ must, like St Paul, also proclaim the mystery of God’s plan for all humanity. All of us are members of the family of God but not all are aware of their calling to share in the fullness of life that Christ has shown us in His passion, death and resurrection. Most of all, we are called to share in the Trinitarian life of God, a life of joy, abundant love and life.
However, the more important questions are those which Jesus posed to us – “But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house.” The truth is that some of us who have been passionate in spreading the Good News to everyone have lost our passion and zeal. Indeed, there is much turnover in Church membership and active involvement. Many who are newly baptized or have found the Lord are full of life and are committed to many activities in the Church. They are zealous and happy to be able to serve Christ in His Church. But along the way, many lose their zeal. Some become jaded, others are disillusioned and some even resentful.
What are the reasons for losing our zeal and our shine? Firstly, we fall into routine. When we do the same thing again and again, we get used to what we do. Initially, we do with our mind and heart. But when such activities, which include spiritual practices such as daily mass, meditation and devotional prayers are repeated, they get done mechanically. The lips are moving but the heart is far from God. This is true even in Church activities. We can simply be singing correctly in the choir but without the heart and the sentiments. We can be teaching catechism but we are just imparting information, not a conviction. Extra-ordinary communion ministers could just be distributing the hosts as quickly as they can, but without the consciousness that they are bringing Christ to those who come to receive them.
Secondly, we become jaded because of burnout. The danger for those who are active in Church is that people are always looking for a willing horse. So those who are already committed in the Church are often asked to do more and more. They join a few organizations as their services are needed. They do not know how to say “no.” Eventually, they over commit. They get tired and fatigued. They have no time to pray or even have time for family and work. As a result, everything starts crashing and from over involvement, the person gives up everything.
Thirdly, we lose our zeal because of the lack of support and opposition, not so much from without the Church but from within. The most insidious enemies are those within the Church. They have nothing but negative criticisms. They have nothing good to say about anything. They are skeptical and destructive in what they say. Some have ulterior motives because their interests are compromised. Some seek power and popularity. When we meet such wet blankets, we get easily discouraged. As it is, the work we do is out of passion, voluntarism and generosity on our part. But when we receive little support, we become disillusioned, resentful, and it would be a matter of time before we lose our zeal and passion. We react by just maintaining the status quo, afraid to rock the boat and become mediocre in our commitment. The fire and zeal are extinguished by the harsh critics in our life. After some time, we will say to ourselves, “Why should I suffer such ingrates? Why should I be bothered with the organization; after all I am providing a free service!” Truly, we have many good and dedicated people who have given up serving the Church simply because they were rejected.
Fourthly, some lose their zeal because of the world. Instead of changing the world, they have allowed the values of the world to change them. Instead of Christianizing the world, they have allowed the world to secularize them. When we are too much of the world and not just in the world, we will lose our faith and values. The truth is that many Catholics do not have Catholic friends of Catholic influence other than the Sunday mass they attend. Being in the world most of the time, they pick up values that are contrary to the gospel and to the faith. As a result, the light that they have received from the Lord dims over time. No one loses his faith immediately. But our faith, just like love and zeal, dies out over time when we do not rekindle it. So we must not allow the world to influence us; adopting values such as promiscuity, consumerism, relativism and living a sensual life of pleasure and fun.
“But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again?” The responsorial psalm gives us the answer. “Let your face shine on your servant. Your will is wonderful indeed; therefore I obey it. The unfolding of your word gives light and teaches the simple. Let my steps be guided by your promise; let no evil rule me. Let your face shine on your servant and teach me your decrees.” Indeed, there is no other way than to turn to the Lord for His mercy and enlightenment. The lack of prayer life is the primary cause of losing zeal and passion in our ministry. The lack of intimacy with the Lord is the cause of losing our relationship with Him.
That is why St Paul reminds us of the anointing that we have received and that we have been given the first pledge of salvation. “Remember it is God himself who assures us all, and you, of our standing in Christ, and has anointed us marking us with his seal and giving us the pledge, the Spirit, that we carry in our hearts.” When we were baptized and when we received the Holy Spirit, we were filled with His presence and given the gifts as well. What we need to do is to renew our lives in the Holy Spirit. We need to renew our relationship with the Lord, contemplating on the Word of God and receiving the sacraments with devotion and fervor.
Finally, let us cling to the fidelity of God towards us. St Paul was able to remain firm in his faith and ministry because he knew that Christ is reliable. He said, “I swear by God’s truth, there is no Yes and No about what we say to you. The Son of God, the Christ Jesus that we proclaimed among you was never Yes and No: with him it was always Yes, and however many the promises God made, the Yes to them all is in him. That is why it is ‘through him’ that we answer Amen to the praise of God.” We can rely on Christ because He is the fulfillment of the promises of God as prophesied in the Old Testament. In Christ, all that God has promised His people are fulfilled. That is why, Christ is the fulfillment of the plan of God for humanity. With confidence in Christ’s fidelity to us, we can continue to persevere in our faith and ministry, regardless of the trials and difficulties,because we know that just as the Father was faithful to Jesus even at death, He will be faithful to us if we continue to shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing our good works, they may give the praise to our Father in heaven.
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.