SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 JOHN 4-9; LUKE 17:26-37 ]
There was a supposedly intelligent and successful king. To entertain him, he had a fool. But this fool was a real fool; not just playing the role of a fool. The king would laugh at the fool for the foolish things he said and did. One day he gave the fool a staff. He said, “Take this staff and keep it till you find a bigger fool than yourself.” Many years down the road, the king was old and was dying. His family, his court officials, his ministers, his servants, and last of all, the fool stood around his bed. The king in sadness said, “I have called you to wish you all farewell. I am about to depart from you. I will be embarking on a long journey. I will return no more to this palace.” Then the fool came up and said to him. “Your majesty, one question before you leave us. In the past, whenever you went on a journey to distant places or to some other country, you would always dispatch messengers, security guards, police, and soldiers ahead of you to make preparations for your journey. So may I enquire what preparations your majesty has made for this long journey you are about to undertake?” “Alas!” replied the king, “I have made no preparations.” “Then,” said the fool, “you may have this staff back since I have finally found a bigger fool than myself.”
Indeed, are we prepared for the last journey we take in life? Have we made provisions? This is the question that the Lord is asking of us when He spoke of the coming of God’s Kingdom. The truth is that the kingdom will come when we least expect. He said, “As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the Flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.”
What is more, the writing is all on the wall. Jesus said to the disciples, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.” In other words, if we see many vultures hovering over the sky, we know that a carcass is there. The signs that warn us of the future are also present before us. We see someone who appears to be in the best of health suddenly suffer a heart attack; a young man at the prime of his career meets with an accident and is disabled for life; a professional discovers she has fourth stage cancer; a businessman finds his business collapsing because of changing economic conditions. Truly, many things are not predictable in life. We do not know when the time will come for us to meet the Lord. We are like this great king who became a fool at the end of his life. He had done much for the kingdom, but he did not make provisions for himself. We can be very successful in life, making achievements and a name for ourselves in this life, but a failure in the eyes of God.
When that time comes, we cannot bring anything of this world with us. We cannot bring our loved ones with us. We cannot bring even a pin out of this world, much less our wealth and property. Everything would have to be left behind. This is what the Lord said, “When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.” In another place, the Lord said, “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Mt 16:26) This is the most important question that we need to ask for ourselves, less at the end of our life, not only will we find ourselves unprepared to leave this place, but to realize that we have lived in vain.
So how can we live in such a way that we are always prepared for death? St John gives us the answer, which is to love one another. “It has given me great joy to find that your children have been living the life of truth as we were commanded by the Father. I am writing now, dear lady, not to give you any new commandment, but the one which we were given at the beginning, and to plead: let us love one another.” There is only one commandment in the final analysis, which is the commandment to love one another. Love is the only commandment and indeed the only law. “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom 13:8-10)
What does it mean to love? We all claim to love and yet we are hurting each other. Even the gangster and the mafia claim that they are doing all the illegal things out of love. Men and women, or even those of the same sex orientation, have sexual relationships outside of marriage in the name of love. So whilst St Augustine in one of his writings says, “love and do what you will”, is true, it is not so easy to determine what love is unless love is lived in accordance with the truth. St John wrote, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (1 Jn 3:18-20)
“To love is to live according to his commandments: this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of love.” This is what the responsorial psalm says as well. “They are happy whose life is blameless, who follow God’s law! They are happy who do his will, seeking him with all their hearts. I have sought you with all my heart; let me not stray from your commands. I treasure your promise in my heart lest I sin against you. Bless your servant and I shall live and obey your word.” The laws of God are to guide us to live a life of love, compassion and justice. When we live out these laws, we find peace in our soul. St John wrote, “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.” (1 Jn 3:21f)
Lest we think that love is merely an abstract word, or a set of laws and principles, it is not the case. The love of God is not just words and promises but it is a reality because God loves us concretely and personally in the flesh. This was what St John was combatting in his days when many Christians strayed from the truth, denying the humanity of Jesus. They could not accept that God could become man in the flesh because of their Gnostics background, believing that matter was evil. They believed that God was pure spirit and therefore Jesus, who was God, cannot be human. To deny the humanity of Jesus means that we are not saved because we will never be able to do God’s will. But because we believe that Jesus was truly human and that he did God’s will with a human will, we too are empowered to do likewise.
Jesus is for us the Way, the Truth and the Life. In Christ Jesus, we are shown the example of unconditional love, humble and selfless service, unconditional forgiveness, compassion and charity. St Peter wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 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.” We too must walk the footsteps of our Lord. St Paul urges us, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. (cf Phil 2:5-8)
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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