MISSION OF BUILDING A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 14:21-27; Ps 145:8-13; REV 21:1-5; Jn 13:31- 35 ]
What is the world like today? Are you happy with what is happening in the world and the how the future of this world and humanity will become, not just for yourself but your children’s children? Watching the happenings and living in this world today cause us much excitement and yet bewilderment. There are lights and shadows. On one hand, we see the great strides in technological progress in all areas of our life. Our lives have changed tremendously because of modern technology in biological and medical sciences, mass communication, robots and automated machines.
On the other hand, the culture is changing radically. The traditional values of humanity which underscore fidelity, loyalty, charity, compassion, justice, truth and stability are being ditched in the name of relativism, individualism and freedom. Marriage and family are being redefined, so too, one’s gender. Over and above these challenges, there is a change of attitude towards the sacredness of human life. Whilst on one hand, people are advocating abolishment of the death penalty and conceiving babies through in-vitro fertilization; on the other hand, we are killing thousands of babies every day. Now they are advocating euthanasia for the elderly, the sick and those who are economically and socially unproductive. Indeed, there are so many inconsistencies and contradictions in the world today.
What, then, is your hope for the world tomorrow? What is your dream? We need to be clear of what we want the world to be. A man without a dream has no future. Without a clear vision, he has no direction in life, no purpose. He just drifts on in life, pushed around like a rolling stone that gathers no moss. This is what relativism is all about – acting according to one’s whims and fancies. There is no foundation. We are driven by the world, by activities, by events and programs and by popularity. We are not clear of why we exist or how we want to exist. We do not know our purpose in life.
Some appear to have dreams. The problem is that most of us have small dreams only. We think of getting rich, owning a luxury car, a big bungalow, living lavishly and a jet-setting lifestyle. But such dreams are inward-looking, myopic, selfish and self-centered. By seeking to protect what we have, we will lose them because the world at large, if not properly directed, will take away our peace, unity and progress.
So we need to think BIG. This is what the scripture readings are asking us to do. In the second reading, St John gives us the vision of God for humanity. “I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth.” There was no sea because the latter was a symbol of death, suffering and misery. The sea was where all dangers and sea monsters lived. With the sea gone, St John wrote, “He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness.” God is transforming the world and humanity. The New Jerusalem will be dressed as a bride. As the bride of God, she will be pure, holy and devoted to Him alone. She will represent the New Humanity that has been redeemed by God.
Most of all, heaven is described as a place where God lives in man. “Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them.” It is not so much a place but the presence of God. We are the dwelling place of God. This is what the Lord promised us. “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (Jn 14:23)
How, then, can we realize this vision that God has for humanity and creation? We must be glorified in Christ, just as God glorified Himself in Jesus. “Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified.” The glorification of Jesus is His passion, death and resurrection. In giving His life for the salvation of the world, Christ showed Himself to be the love, mercy and compassion of God. In dying for us, He revealed the depth of God’s love for us and His forgiveness. So by His death, Jesus glorified the Father. In turn, the Father confirmed Christ’s love for Him by glorifying Him in the resurrection. By raising Jesus from the dead, the Father set His divine seal on the works of Jesus and His claims that He was one with Him in mind and heart.
Just as Jesus was united with the Father in filial love, so too the Lord addressed His disciples in such affectionate terms as well when He called them, “My little children, I shall not be with you much longer.” Jesus was inviting them to the same intimacy of mind and heart He had with His Father. Just as Jesus shared in His Father’s vision for humanity, we too must share in Christ’s vision for humanity which is to build the Kingdom of God. This means to allow God to reign in our hearts and live in us. This was what the early Church and early apostles did. They went about proclaiming the Kingdom of God. We too must do the same.
But what is the best way to proclaim the Kingdom of God if not through love in the way Jesus loved us? Jesus told His disciples, “I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” Our mission to bring others to Him entails that we first love each other in Him. Without unity among ourselves, we cannot convince others that Christ is in us or that He lives in our midst. In the early Church, many were converted because they saw the love and unity among the Christians.
This was how the early Church spread the Good News. Their genuine love for one another was expressed through the fraternal concern they had for each other and this love went beyond their Christian communities towards other Christian communities as well. They were not parochial-minded. The Christians saw themselves as brothers and sisters in Christ regardless which community they came from. We are told how “Paul and Barnabas went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. We all have to experience many hardships they said before we enter the kingdom of God.” Strengthening and encouraging each other in the mission was how they cared for each other and supported each other. For the Christians, there was only one mission which was to bring Christ to as many people as possible, regardless of their origin. The Church can only be successful when we work together as one Church for the common mission of bringing Christ to all peoples beyond our parish boundaries and parish community.
Secondly, we are told that in their mission, they remained connected with those who sent them. Paul and Barnabas were sent by the Church at Antioch and so after completing their work, they returned to render an account of what they did. The apostles knew that they were sent and so those who sent them deserved to know what had been done. In this way, the newfound churches were always connected with the church that found them. Accountability is needed today in mission. We are all accountable to one another. Just as the Father sent the Son and the Son sent the apostles, we who have been sent by the bishop are accountable to the bishop for the work we do in our diocese too. In this way, unity in mission is always maintained.
Thirdly, we need to pray for leaders who have the passion to bring Christ to all. Wherever Paul and Barnabas went, “in each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.” There is a dire need for us to appoint leaders in every community too, whether they are clerical or lay. But before we can do so, we need to pray and fast like the early apostles so that those whom we choose to be leaders of our community are faithful, passionate and model disciples of our Lord. Unless we have anointed leaders who are selfless, convicted and passionate, the mission of the Church would be impacted. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt 9:37f)
Finally, let us follow the apostles. After doing all we can, we must entrust everything to the Lord. We must never think that it is our work but rather the work of God in us. In all they did, they commended everything to the Lord. We too must believe in the primacy of grace. It is not only to work for the establishment of God’s Kingdom, we must pray for its coming. Only with His grace alone, can we accomplish what He has commanded us to do. When the Lord commended His apparent failed mission to the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit at Pentecost sent by the Lord to the Church empowered her to complete the mission of Christ.
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.