SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 1:8-14. 22; Ps 124:1-8; Mt 10:34-11:1]

The instruction of Jesus to His followers in the gospel is unsettling because it seems to contradict the basis of all true religions, that is, to be promoters of peace and harmony.  But Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”  This is the irony of the gospel message.  It seeks to bring real and lasting peace and unity among all of humanity.

Unfortunately, the world is not seeking true peace but a facile and superficial peace.  The peace and unity in the world is no longer founded on truth, on universal values.  With the denial of God and absolutes in life because of relativism, no one has the truth, or rather, the truth cannot be found.  This is why governments no longer see themselves as moral spokesmen of society.  It is a matter of gathering consensus on what the people would like the government to do.   Truth, therefore, is decided by the majority, which is only relevant for a certain period of time.  Today, unity is about increasing the common space, what society is happy with.  Those things that we disagree with, we keep to ourselves.  We do not bring them out into the public space.

Alas, such conflicts we see in society begin in our own homes.   That is why Jesus used the example of conflicts and division because of the gospel in the family rather than in society. The most difficult and painful part of division is when it happens among our loved ones because we cannot agree on what is truth and love.  How do you deal with your sons and daughters who are into same-sex relationships?  How do you handle your children when they bring their partners into their bedroom and sleep together?  How do you speak to your spouse who does not believe in natural family planning?  How do you discourage your spouse from seeking in-vitro fertilization because you are desperate to have baby?  How do you say “no” to your friend who wants to have sex with you outside of marriage?  If you say “no” to them, it would mean resentment, anger, hostility, quarrels and cold war.

So to maintain peace in our family today, we keep quiet and do not make any comments; see but don’t act.  We are called to accept falsehood, untruths and lies from our family members and loved ones for the sake of peace.  Otherwise, they might leave the family and leave us.  That would even be more painful.  So we live and let live.  We tolerate evil and after some time, as is happening in the world today, we become numb to evil and what is evil and false become the new norm and accepted by society.   Yet, we know that we are living the lie.  We know deep in our hearts that it is wrong.  But we lack the courage to speak the truth for fear of rejection.  So even in the family, the peace and unity is but a fragile peace.  There is no real unity when there is no unity of mind and heart.

Indeed, very few of us would be willing to follow Jesus’ command when He said, “Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me.  Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me.  Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.  Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”   In truth, we prefer our loved ones more than Jesus.  We are afraid to lose our loved ones more than we are afraid to lose Jesus.  Between Jesus and our children or spouse, we choose them.  Between our status or position in life and society, we choose these over Jesus.  This explains why although we are living yet we have no life, because we are afraid to lose our life for Jesus.  We are not ready to carry the cross after Jesus because the cross means shame, rejection, humiliation, persecution, suffering, loneliness and even death.

But why do people champion the anti-life and anti-love of Satan and promote a love that is not based on truth, integrity and faithfulness?  As the first reading suggests, like the new Pharaoh of Egypt, he did not know Joseph. “There came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph.”    Unfortunately, many people in the world do not know God or Jesus or Christians.  They think that we are people who sow division in the world, like the way the contemporaries saw the Lord.   We are not against the world.  In fact, we love the world and humanity so much that we want to help humanity to find the fullness of life and to protect this earth and the whole of creation.  That is why the Church promotes peace, love and harmony through inter-religious dialogue, the need to search for truth, strengthening of family life and marriages, protection of the weak and the poor; care for the sick and elderly, the sanctity of life; respect for others, compassion for those who failed or made mistakes in life, forgiveness and mercy.

The peace that Jesus came to bring is founded on truth.  The kingdom of peace, love and justice contradicts the kingdom of Satan.  Jesus came to teach us to love God and others before self, to empty our lives and die for our fellowmen.  The only truth for Jesus is love, mercy and compassion.  We are to care for the poor.  We are called to respect the person and not make use of people for our selfish pleasures and interests.  Truth calls for honesty, integrity and justice.  Charity calls for the protection of the vulnerable, the weak, the marginalized, the suffering and the poor.  Hence, the gospel seeks to promote the culture of true love, a love that is faithful, caring, selfless and unconditional.  We seek to promote a culture of life where every life is sacred and important to God and to us.

But the world is won over by the kingdom of Satan.  It promotes the culture of selfishness, individualism and death.  This is done by over exaggerating the rights of the human person to the extent that the rights of others are violated.  Can we honestly say that divorce, promiscuity and infidelity are not the result of selfishness?  Can we truthfully say that protectionism and individualism is not putting ourselves and our needs before others? Can we claim that war, killing of a human being from the moment of conception until death, violence and terrorism, do not promote the culture of death?  Can we in charity say that we are doing good when we spread half-truths, unverified information, fake news, destroy the lives of others completely using social media to bash them, especially for those who have made mistakes in life?

But when the world is selfish, when people want to have things their way and for themselves first because of individualism, they are opposed to the universal values of the gospel as they choose to live in half-truths and fake love.  It is always about themselves, their needs, their pleasure, their freedom, their convenience, their rights and their happiness.  It is not about others.  They know that relationships that are not built on true and lasting love cannot last.  They exchange love for lust.  They exchange meaning for pleasure.  They exchange freedom for power.  They exchange life for money.  Indeed, Jesus makes it clear, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?”  (Mk 8:35f)

So what can we do except to call on the name of the Lord, as the psalmist says,Our help is in the name of the Lord.”  The Lord understands us.  He knows we are weak.  But we must continue to welcome the message proclaimed to us.  Jesus said, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me. Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.”  We must welcome the messengers of God and those who proclaim the truth even if we ourselves lack the courage to proclaim it.  Hopefully by welcoming the prophets sent by God in His name, we too can find courage one day to speak the truth charitably, to agree to disagree respectfully, not to condemn but to inspire truth.  Most of all, to live our lives in truth and charity, which is the best witness to the gospel of authentic life and 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.

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