ALL THINGS NEW IN CHRIST
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 COR 3:15-4:1.3-6; MT 5:20-26 ]
Everyone is looking for things that are new. The world is changing so fast because of technology. Everything gets outdated in a matter of months. Your computer is outdated within two years. Your mobile phone is outdated within a few months. New things are always coming out in the market so much so that consumerism has created a desire in us to have new things. We become easily bored with old things.
Yet the truth of life is that whilst things get old, the essentials of life, the happiness of life remain the same. For the heart of the human person has not changed since the creation of man. Whether we were born yesterday or tomorrow, we are seeking for freedom, love, unity, peace, truth and justice. Indeed, this is what the kingdom of God is all about. To seek the kingdom is to seek real happiness that lasts. The things of the world will become old and discarded within a short period of time. We get tired of old things but none of us get tired of love, of freedom, joy and peace.
Unfortunately, like the scribes and the Pharisees, we follow the ways of the world and therefore never find true happiness. For the world gives us the old ways to seek happiness and justice. One clear instance of how seeing from the perspective of Christ differs from the world is the way we look at our enemies and those who have done us wrong. In the world, it is based on the principle of revenge, the principle of “an eye for an eye.” As the gospel implies, they teach us to be angry with our enemies, to slander and take revenge against them even to the extent of killing. Indeed, most people think that violence and power is the way to redress injustices or find peace in the world or wherever we are. Yet, precisely because the world believes in revenge and conditional love, there can be no permanent peace. Going to court, taking revenge, saying hurtful things will only make the situation worse. How can we right a wrong with another wrong? How does taking the life of a murderer restore the life of the victim who was killed? For this reason, the Church does not advocate capital punishment. Justice is to make things better for everyone and not a matter of taking revenge on someone who has hurt us. What is of utmost importance for the Church is that a person who has done wrong turns to a new life and becomes a life-giver.
That is why Jesus warns us that “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” Indeed, anger that broods in us will lead to bitterness, causing mental and emotional stress and often leading to violence or self-mutilation. Anger keeps us from developing a spirit pleasing to God. Anger leads to a broken relationship and we find no peace. It also hinders our relationship with God because an unforgiving heart cannot receive the peace of God. Without a blameless heart, we cannot pray properly.
This is what St Paul meant when he spoke of the veil that covers us. Indeed, “whenever Moses is read, the veil is over the minds of the Israelites.” We, too, because of the old and legal way of seeing things, we have allowed our pride, anger, hatred, hardness of heart, selfishness and the refusal to repent to blind us from seeing the bigger picture of life and people around us.
How, then, can we find true peace, freedom and happiness in life? How will old things be new? What is needed is a change of perception. The newness will come from within you. The change will come from within. Because the old has become new, everything outside will be new.
Today, the Lord is going to take away the veil that has taken away your glory, the glory of God in you! Yes, by virtue of our creation, we are made in the glory of God, called to share in His glory. But because of our sins and our ignorance, we have veiled the glory of God from shining out through us. Indeed, compared to the rest of creation, because they do not sin, the glory of God continues to shine through them.
For this is what the responsorial psalm says, “The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.” But how does God’s glory dwell in our land? The psalmist says, when we hear Him proclaiming “peace to his people”, when “kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven”, “when the Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before him, and salvation, along the way of his steps.”
But what is the way to make the glory of God dwell in our land, in each one of us? St Paul tells us, not by our efforts, not by our strength but by the power of the Lord. All we need to do, St Paul tells us, is to accept Christ in our hearts and Christ will remove the veil, giving eternal life and freedom from trying to be saved by keeping the laws. It is not so much a question of loving and forgiving others. This is not Good News. Rather, it is the recognition that we are loved and forgiven. When we surrender ourselves to Christ to save us, He removes our heavy burden of trying to please Him and our guilt for failing to do so. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ provides us freedom from sin and condemnation. In Christ, we will once again feel loved, accepted and forgiven. When we feel loved, we look at everyone else with the same eyes that Jesus looks at us, with love and compassion even for our enemies. A person is said to be truly healed only when he has experienced God’s forgiveness for himself and in turn is seen by the way he sets all his enemies free, identifying with them in their sins and pains. So long as we cannot forgive our enemies from the depths of our hearts, we are not yet healed completely by the Lord. Only those who are saved in Christ, St Paul says, live in true freedom, for “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Indeed, without the veil, we are like mirrors reflecting God’s glory.
Hence, we must turn to the Lord! We begin by listening to what the Lord wants to say to us. This is the exhortation of the psalmist when he said, “I will hear what God proclaims; the Lord – for he proclaims peace to his people. Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land.”
To turn to the Lord is to contemplate His face and glory. When we contemplate on the glory of the Lord, we become lighted up in Christ. By gazing at the nature of God with unveiled minds, we can be more like Him. By contemplating the face of Christ, we are transformed into His likeness, we begin to think and act like Him. Through reflection on Christ, we begin to understand how wonderful and loving God is. As our knowledge deepens, the Holy Spirit helps us to change to become more and more like Christ. The more closely we follow Christ, the more we will be like Him.
We must not misinterpret the words of Jesus or even the message of St Paul as if the laws are not important and that there should be no laws in religion. On the contrary, fulfilling the laws are not even enough for us to enter the kingdom because observing the laws without the spirit of love will make us legalistic, calculative, proud and judgmental. To live a life of true freedom, we go beyond the observance of the laws but live out the spirit of the law which is rooted in love.
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.