TRUE LIFE WITH CHRIST
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Col 3:1-11; Ps 145:2-3,10-13; Lk 6:20-26 ]
We all seek true happiness in life. Where is life to be found? Those who are rich are not necessarily happy. They who are successful are also not truly happy. Even those of us who have beautiful families may feel that something is missing in our lives. So not only are the poor, the needy and the sick not happy, but even those who are seemingly doing well in life are not happy as well. So where can we find real happiness in this life?
St Paul tells us that true life is with Christ, and the life we have is hidden with Christ in God. If we seek fullness of life, then we must come to Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (cf Jn 14:6) And when Jesus asked Peter whether he would also leave Him, his reply was, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6:68f) So if anyone seeks fullness of life, then he or she must come to Christ.
With baptism, we have been made children of God. But baptism is not just a ritual but an act of dying to Christ in our old self and living a new life in Christ. St John wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 Jn 3:2f) This calls for a death to the old self because as St Paul says, we have died. The more we die to ourselves, the more our life hidden in Christ will shine out in us. “But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.”
For this to be a reality, we “must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god.” Indeed, desire for worldly things is the cause of many of our woes. We desire sensual pleasures, fame, wealth and power. In themselves they are earthly and acceptable. It is only when these things control our lives and make us see them as ends in themselves that they become idols. The truth is that when there is no true love in life, and we allow our passions to take charge of our lives, and when we make use of others for our vested interests, that such passions will lead to greed, envy, pride, gluttony and anger.
Christians must show themselves to be different from those in the world. St Paul advised us, “And it is the way in which you used to live when you were surrounded by people doing the same thing, but now you, of all people, must give all these things up: getting angry, being bad-tempered, spitefulness, abusive language and dirty talk; and never tell each other lies.” Allowing our passions to control us is to show ourselves still under the bondage of the Evil One. When we are in an angry state, we lose our temper and take it out on others. It shows the lack of maturity and restrain in dealing with difficult situations and the mistakes of others. The lack of self-control is a sign that the Spirit of the Lord is not with us.
This is what the gospel is suggesting through the beatitudes. These beatitudes are about choices. Jesus gives us His blueprint for happiness in this world and in the next. But the beatitudes are more than His words; it is the encapsulation of His entire life on earth. He lived a life of poverty, of total openness to the Spirit in whatever He did. By the power of the same Spirit, He was able to stand courageous in the face of His enemies. “Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh. Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as a criminal, on the account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.” Jesus has turned the values of the world upside down.
This is what St Paul is calling us to do. He said, “Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died.” Yes, we are called to focus on the things of heaven. In other words, we are to see the spiritual aspect of our lives. To look for the things of heaven is to look for what ultimately lasts in life. The things of this earth, even if they are not immoral, are passing and only the means to enjoy the transcendent values of this life. In themselves they can only give us pleasure, which is passing. But we must seek for what ultimately makes us happy. We must seek for values like truth, love and compassion. These are the transcendent values of this life and hereafter.
It is within this context that St Luke speaks about the mission of the Church to restore the dignity of the poor and the hungry. St Luke is inviting us to share in the mission of the Church, of giving preferential option to the poor. Care for the marginalized and the poor is an obligation of the Church because all are children of God. “How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God. Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.” We are also called to reach out to those in sorrow and to suffer injustices on account of their needs. By reaching out to them, we share in their joy of trusting in the Lord and being filled with good things. Whether we are the givers or the recipients, we give joy to each other by being grateful recipients or generous givers.
St Paul urges us to strip off “your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator; and in that image there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.” To be in Christ is to recognize that all of us are brothers and sisters in the same Lord with the same Father. With this renewed image, we can then treat our brothers and sisters truly as how we treat our own blood brothers and sisters.
In the final analysis, what is it that makes us happy in life? When there is sincere love for each other, mutual understanding and support; compassion for the weak and fellow sinners; forgiveness and acceptance. There will always be enough food for this world if we die to ourselves and our selfishness. There will be no poor people if only those who are rich are willing to share what they have with those who have not; and those who have not are willing to work responsibly for their food. But the truth is that whether it is the poor or the rich, we are not living responsibly in our lives. For those of us who have come to realize that we need very little to be happy in life, and spend our lives in a labour of love and service for the poor, the underprivileged and the wounded, we will find great happiness in life. This is to share in the joy of our Lord.
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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