St Paul says, “Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere.”  This is a fact of life since the fall of Adam.  St John also wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”  (1 Jn 1:8,10) This is because sin lives in us and so we find ourselves helpless to overcome the temptations of the Evil One.  (Rom 7:17-20) No matter how much we try to resist sin, we find ourselves powerless.  The temptations that come from the flesh and the world are too overwhelming for us to reject them.  We are under the slavery of sin.

What, then, is the purpose of the Laws?  Laws are given to guide us and to inform us what is right and wrong.  Laws are provided to help us discern the ethical thing to do in the various situations in life.  St Paul wrote, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.'”  (Rom 7:7) So “before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith.”

But at the same time, knowing the law leads us to sin because as St Paul noted, “sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead.  I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.”  (Rom 7:8-10) If not for the law, we would be sinning in ignorance.  This would be the case of Adam and Eve if they did not eat the forbidden fruit.  Once having eaten it, their eyes were opened and they came to know the shame of their sins.  “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”  (Gn 3:7) But once we know the law, we sin even more because we deliberately go against the law knowingly, out of pride and self-indulgence.   Knowledge of what is right and wrong does not tantamount to having the power to do what is right.  Indeed, as St Paul puts it succinctly, “So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.”  (Rom 7:25b)

In the face of our powerlessness against the temptations that come from the flesh, the world and Satan, like St Paul, we can only exclaim, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Rom 7:24f) Truly, on our own strength, we cannot overcome our sinful tendencies and desires.  This is precisely the reason for the law, to drive us into a deep realization that we cannot obey the laws.  This explains why in every country there are prisons even though everyone knows that committing crimes will land them in prison.  Yet they still commit them anyway simply because they are not capable of resisting the temptations of sin.

How, then, can we overcome our helplessness?  Only faith in Christ as the Son of God can empower us to live the life of the Spirit.  Faith in Christ gives us the grace to be saved.  Faith in Jesus as the Son of God who gave His life to save us strengthens our confidence in God’s unconditional mercy and love for us.  In Christ Jesus, we are guaranteed of the Father’s forgiveness for all the wrongs we have done.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Heb 4:15f)

Faith in Christ makes us sons and daughters of God because we are justified in Him.  “Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”  In Christ Jesus, our sins have been forgiven because He has taken our place for the punishment we deserve.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”  (1 Pt 2:24) Having been given freely in Christ, we cannot but be overcome by His love for us as St Paul did.  He fulfilled the laws not because of fear or by his own strength but by the power that came from His love for him.  He wrote, “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”  (Gal 2:19-21)

The key to fulfillment of the law comes from faith in Christ’s love and mercy for us.  Love is the key to perfect the laws that have been given to us.  The laws are good but without love, they cannot be carried out.  This was what the Lord said to His disciples, “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them. Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.”  (Jn 14:21, 23f) When we love God, we can do everything joyfully for Him.  Obedience is always the consequence of love.  Just before going to His passion, the Lord declared, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.”  (Jn 14:30f)

So we must be clothed in Christ so that we can love the Father the same way He has loved us.  “All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.”  Belonging to Christ means that we are one in mind and heart with the Lord.  We put on the mind of Christ by not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of your minds, “so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  (Rom 12:2)

Today, we are called to imitate the example of Mary who is clothed with Christ for she responded to God the same way that her Son did.  Jesus presented to us in the gospel His mother as a model of faith.  “As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!'”  Mary’s greatest privilege was not so much to be the mother of our Lord but to be given the grace to hear the Word of God and the power to obey it.  This is truly a great grace.  She must have felt the love of God in her heart that gave her the same capacity to respond to God’s Word as St Paul did.

We too must hear the Word of God daily like Mary and pray for God’s grace that His Word can transform our minds and hearts.  On our own, we cannot, but as St Paul says, “to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.”  (Eph 3:20) But this presupposes we are filled with His love.  His prayer for us is “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. Pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  (Eph 3:17-19)

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.