CHOSEN BY LOVE FOR LOVE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EZK 16:1-15.60.63 OR EZK 16:59-63; IS 12; MT 19:3-12 ]
In the first reading, we read of the gracious and unconditional love of God for His chosen people. This was what Moses said to the people, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you – for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Dt 7:6-8) Indeed as we read in the first reading, Israel was nobody. They were slaves in a pagan land. “But the Lord in His kindness and mercy, delivered them from their misery. ‘I saw you struggling in your blood as I was passing, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live, and grow like the grass of the fields.’”
Our situation was like that of the Israelites. Many of us came from very poor families. Our forefathers did not enjoy the privileges we have today, education, nice houses, modern amenities, work and holidays. But we have been chosen freely by love because of God’s generosity. God purposely chose what is weak to shame the strong. This is what St Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians. “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1:26-29)
Indeed, we are what we are today because of the many people who have played a part in our lives, our parents, our guardians, our teachers, our friends and society at large. Without their contribution, we would never have been able to form ourselves and be able to do what we do. It is the caring and nurturing milieu that has shaped us. For those of us who attended mission schools, it was the Catholic ethos and values that formed us in Christian character. Through the ambience and people we grew up with, we have now become successful leaders and contributors to society.
Indeed, we have been chosen by love for love. This is what the prophet Ezekiel said. “I loaded you with jewels, gave you bracelets for your wrists and a necklace for your throat. I gave you nose-ring and earrings; I put a beautiful diadem in your head. You were loaded with gold and silver, and dressed in fine linen and embroided silks. Your food was the finest flour, honey and oil. You grew more and more beautiful; and you rose to be queen. The fame of your beauty spread through the nations, since it was perfect, because I had clothed you with my own splendour – it is the Lord who speaks.” Truly, we were chosen by God because He is love and He wants to share in His love. Because we are loved by God, in turn we are called to love others. “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 Jn: 11f)
This is where the warning lies. When we become successful in life, there is often this temptation for us to forget our origin. This was why the prophet reminded the people of their origin. “By origin and birth you belong to the land of Canaan. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. At birth, the very day you were born, there was no one to cut your navel-string, or wash you in cleansing water, or rub you with salt, or wrap you in napkins. No one leaned kindly over you to do anything like that for you. You were exposed in the open fields; you were as unloved as that on the day you were born.” This was the same reason why Jesus in speaking about marriage went back to the origin of God’s plan. When they asked Jesus, “’Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?’ It was because you were so unteachable’ he said ‘that Moses allowed you to divorce wives, but it was not like this from the beginning.”
What is the divine plan of God? We are created for the purpose of love. It is out of His love that we were created and redeemed. It is because He loves us that He instituted the sacrament of marriage so that man would not be lonely. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Gn 2:18) Indeed, we are not chosen only for ourselves but for the love of God and for others. We are called to love. It is immaterial whether we are married or single. We are called to love God and our fellowmen according to our vocation in life. As Jesus said to the disciples who asked, “‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”
Love must be faithful. “This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.” Whether we are married or single, we must be faithful to the call to love. We must be wholeheartedly convinced that our common vocation is to love. Unless we look beyond ourselves to others, we will never be able to find life. We must have this focus in life, which is to love and be loved. Being focused and finding focus.
Love must also be fruitful. When we love we are creative and proactive. The Lord commanded us, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Gn 1:28) As we have received love, we must now love others. As we have received life, we must be life-givers. Once we were poor and deprived. Now that we are better off, we must remember those who are without love and the opportunities of life.
Indeed, love is always grateful. Like the psalmist, we must give thanks to God by praising Him in our lives by witnessing to His love and wonders at work in us. “Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name! Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples! Declare the greatness of his name. Sing a psalm to the Lord for he has done glorious deeds; make them known to all the earth! People of Zion, sing and shout for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” We must be careful that we are not carried away by our success. This is what the prophet is warning us. “You have become infatuated with your own beauty; you have used your fame to make yourself a prostitute; you have offered your services to all comers. But I will remember the covenant that I made with you when you were a girl, and I will conclude a covenant with you that shall last forever.” We must not become proud and arrogant, forgetting the many people who looked after us and cared for us when we were then so deprived and helpless.
Alas for those of us who have received and are ungrateful, we will suffer the consequences of self-centeredness and our sins. Then history would repeat itself. We will do what our parents did to us when they had no time for us and when they abandoned us or when they were unable to look after us. The Lord invites us to repent, “So remember and be covered with shame, and in your confusion be reduced to silence, when I have pardoned you for all that you have done – it is the Lord who speaks.”‘
Of course, we love not with our own strength but in and through Him alone. This is the prayer of the psalmist. “Truly, God is my salvation, I trust, I shall not fear. For the Lord is my strength, my song, he became my saviour. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” We need to come to Jesus regularly to be strengthened by Him. Alone, we do not have the capacity to love and to serve. Only Jesus, the source of love can empower us to love selflessly and give ourselves for the greater good of society and humanity, especially the less privileged ones of society.
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.
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