SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Titus 2:1-8, 11-14; Luke 17:7-10]
St Paul wrote to Titus, “It is for you to preach the behaviour which goes with healthy doctrine.” It is not enough to teach the right doctrines about the Christian Faith. Just knowledge of the doctrines of the Church will not save us unless we draw out the implications of what and who we believe in concrete living. Jesus made it clear that there are only two commandments for us to observe. “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12:29-31) That is the reason, why sharing a common faith is necessary if we want to preserve the unity and peace of the family. Otherwise, the unity among the family members would be superficial. When we come from diverse faith backgrounds, necessarily, the way we look at life and our values would differ. This could lead to disagreement, arguments and eventually hostility, especially in the areas of marriage, sex and raising children. Indeed, this is often the main challenges in mixed marriages when both parties are adherents of different religions.
Yet, knowing the right doctrines or sharing in the same values is not sufficient to preserve the strength and unity of the family. We need good mentors to show us how to live out what we believe. Today, people are looking for witnesses, much less teachers. Simply teaching our young what they should do without doing it ourselves will have very little impact on them. They can easily sniff out the hypocrisy and double standards in how we apply the rules. Imposing laws on them can make them resentful of us, or if they had imbibed them without questioning, when they become adults, they will in turn do the same to their children. The other extreme position is to have parents who just allow their children to run their own lives without much guidance. This too could be disastrous.
So what is needed is teaching that is accompanied by personal example. St Paul challenged the Jews, saying if they knew “his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?” (Rom 2:18-23)
Thus, St Paul instructed Titus to urge the elderly, the parents, married couples and young people to be mentors of each other by setting good examples in the way they conducted themselves in Christian living. Of course, the circumstances during St Paul’s times and ours are different. Whilst not everything might be applicable to our times, yet the basic principles of a good Christian life remains constant. The underlying principle is that all must show good examples to their juniors, living exemplary lives according to their state, whether they are elderly, grandparents, parents, married or young people.
Indeed, those of us who are elderly, especially grandparents, must show our children how to live their lives graciously. Even as elderly, we can offer them our wisdom and our sense of moderation in responding to situations. St Paul said, “The older men should be reserved, dignified, moderate, sound in faith and love and constancy.” We should act as sage and wise counsellors for the young. This requires us to live in a contemplative spirit, with calmness and patience. On our part, we should not be overly dependent on them and make them feel obligated towards us. We should find our own life. We should learn to let go of them, allow them to live their own lives, without interfering how they live or manage their household if they are married. Our approach must be non-intrusive, helpful but not interfering. As elderly, we must show to the younger generation that we can age with dignity by being involved in the lives of others, giving ourselves in whatever service we can render to the community and by living our lives as fully as we can each day without complaining and lamenting.
Those who are married must teach their children how to be loving parents. “They are to be the teachers of the right behaviour and show the younger women how they should love their husbands and love their children, how they are to be sensible and chaste, and how to work in their homes, and be gentle, and do as their husbands tell them, so that the message of God is never disgraced.” Whether men or women, the point is that parents must set the example of love in married life. How they treat each other will be how the children treat each other and later on how they will treat their partners. Children observe what their parents do. If parents are always squabbling, fighting, shouting at each other, belittling each other, criticizing and putting each other down in front of their children, they in turn will do likewise.
So the best way to teach our children and our subordinates is to love and to act with charity. Leaders and parents set the tone and direction for how the community operates. Most children and subordinates take the cue from their leaders. Therefore, if we want to see how the community operates and what their culture is like, we just have to look at the leaders. What they do will affect those under their charge because they imitate their leaders. This is why St Paul said, “In the same way, you have got to persuade the younger men to be moderate and in everything you do make yourself an example to them in your sincerity and earnestness and in keeping all that you say so wholesome that nobody will be at a loss, with no accusation to make against us.”
Our greatest example of course is Christ Himself. He is our leader and mentor. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. St Paul based his exhortation on the fact that we exercise proper mentorship because Christ has set for us the example of how we should live and lead others in life. “You see, God’s grace has been revealed, and it had made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.” Christ our leader in salvation and perfection, (cf Heb 5:8-10) has taught us to be true servants of God and of our fellowmen in selfless love and service. By walking in truth and love, we lead others to follow us to God. Through our mentorship in life, in love and truth, those under us will imitate our good examples and be inspired by our lives. Truly, if we fail to inspire those under our charge by the way we live, it means that we have failed miserably in leadership.
In the gospel, Jesus reminds us that at the end of the day, we are merely servants of each other and of God. He made it clear that we are here to serve one another, whether as leaders or followers. There is nothing to boast about or claim credit for what we do. This is because the Lord has graced us with His gifts so that we can do what He is asking of us. Like the dutiful servant who always put his master above and before himself, even after coming back from working in the fields, we too must say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.” Indeed, after having done all we could in serving our Lord though those people placed under our care, we should thank God for giving the grace and the opportunity to serve. So let us be servants through exemplary leadership in lifestyle.
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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