MISSIONARY ZEAL IS DEPENDENT ON CONSCIOUSNESS OF OUR IDENTITY AND RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ AMOS 7:12-15; EPH 1:3-14; MK 6:7-13 ]
Today, the scripture readings speak about our call. The prophet Amos was called to prophesy to the people in Israel. In obedience, he responded even though he was not a trained prophet but merely a shepherd. Like Prophet Amos and the apostles, we are called to enlighten and call sinners to repentance. We must help them to see that the life they live is without meaning. Similarly, in the gospel, “They set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.” That is why, besides proclaiming the truth, we need to deliver them from their bondages and heal them.
What are the reasons for the lack of evangelical and missionary zeal among Catholics? Firstly, it is because of our failure to recognize our dignity and Christian calling. Indeed, what is the greatest thing about the Christian Faith? That we have been chosen! What did God choose us for? It is this, to share in His life and love. St Paul says, He “chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ, for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace.” Such is the mercy of God, that we are called to holiness of life, that is, a life of integrity, a holistic life. We are called to live a life of love like God, “in his presence.” In this way, we become His adopted sons and daughters in Christ. Living the life of Christ in us, like Christ, we share in His glory and become a light to the nations. This is our great calling as Christians. These are the blessings given to all of us in Christ. This is our purpose in life. This is our destiny. So we cannot, like the rest of the world, say “we do not know the purpose of life, we do not know who we are, we do not know where we come from, we do not know where we will be after death.”
Secondly, many of us have no real personal relationship with the Lord. Our faith in Christ is not real to them. This faith in God’s love however is not something of the past. It remains real even in our days with Christ’s departure into heaven. Today, we continue to have a foretaste of this salvation and the experience of divine sonship through the Holy Spirit living and working in us. St Paul wrote, “Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation, and have believed it: and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.” Indeed, the Holy Spirit is our down payment, our installment, our deposit for the fullness of life that is ahead of us when we die.
How, then, can we overcome our lack of identity as Christians and the shallow relationship we have with the Lord? Firstly, it has to do with our connection with the Word of God. If our relationship with the Lord is weak, it is because we have no love for the Word of God. When we speak of the Word of God, it is more than just a written word in the bible or even proclaimed orally but Christ Himself, who is mediated by both oral and written tradition, words and works. The Word of God or the Gospel cannot be reduced to merely the written Word of God. The Word is a living Person. The bible is the Word of God in the written form insofar as it seeks to mediate to us the personal presence of Christ. It is for this reason that we say the Word is a living Word, not a dead word, written now on paper or even simply spoken, but that it bears fruits in our daily life, and is incarnated in us.
Without praying the scriptures, our prayer life would be affected. The depth of our prayer life is very much dependent on our familiarity with the Word of God. Many of us do not know how to pray other than using the formula prayers taught by the Church. If we cannot pray spontaneously and from our heart, it is because the Word of God does not abide in us. When we are familiar with the Word of God, we pray back the scriptures to God as they become part of our convictions and faith. Through the praying of the Word using the methods as taught by the Church, particularly Lectio Divina, we will come to know Jesus personally, be imbued with His mind and thoughts and most of all, sharing His heart and love.
Secondly, it has to do with our failure to be connected with the Body of Christ. Jesus sent out His disciples in pairs. This is because God wants us to find strength in team ministry. As human beings, ministry can be discouraging, especially in the face of rejection. We need to have a human voice encouraging us and feeling with us, and working together to find new ways to reach out to those who do not know or reject Christ. Mission must always be carried out in communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Otherwise we get disheartened. At any rate, we do not seek glory for ourselves but for Him alone. So it is necessary to collaborate with fellow Christians, work as a team to achieve more for the Lord. When we have someone at our side, we will find strength to endure and persevere in love and faith.
For this reason, we need to form cell groups or belong to a community of faith where we can share the Word of God weekly with a group of five or six persons. If only Catholics pray the Word of God every day for half an hour and have weekly shared reflection on the Word and pray with a small cell group, whether in the office, neighbourhood, among ministry members or just friends, within our family, the Church will be on fire and we will all become great evangelizers in word and in deed. This, I believe, is the key to a deeper intimacy with the Lord and a stronger prayer life leading towards the work of the New Evangelization.
We will see changes in our lives and be strengthened in our faith if we would only come together to pray and share the Word of God together. Family bonds will be strengthened, relationships among colleagues will improve, and there will be greater collaboration among members in organizations. Most of all, we will edify each other by our testimonies of how the Lord works in our lives. This will help especially those who have no time to attend formal talks or sessions on faith, doctrines and scriptures to grow in their faith. By sharing the Word of God with others, we journey in our faith together. We will teach others informally and search the scriptures together.
Indeed, the authority that is needed to proclaim the Word of God efficaciously is not so much a juridical authority but a personal authority based on faith and conviction. Training is secondary, but the most important criterion is obedience in faith to the Word of God. This was what the Prophet Amos said in response to those who tried to discredit him for his lack of credentials. He admitted, “I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets…I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” So it was in faith that he prophesied, not because of any formal training, or upbringing or prophetic lineage. He was responding purely in obedience to God’s call in faith.
If our faith is in God, we only need to rely on divine providence. This explains why Jesus instructed the Twelve, “to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’” The Lord wanted them to rely on His power and grace so that His glory can be manifested. He did not want them to over-prepare, but to surrender to His power. He did not want us to rely on ourselves and our resources alone. He will work in and through us. We must trust in the power of God and totally depend on Him alone.
So let us be true prophets, humble shepherds and faith-filled healers of the Lord so that His glory will be shown and His mercy received. In this way, the divine plan of God will come to fruition and all will be reunited under Christ, the head of the Church, His body, sharing in His sonship and daughtership.
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.