REALIZING UNITY IN HIS TIME AND BY HIS STRENGTH
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 SM 5:1-7, 10; MK 3:22-30 ]
Building unity is crucial not just for our mission, but it is the foundation for peace, happiness and progress in every organization, society, religion and nation. This is what the Lord said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand.” The beginning of the fall of a nation or any organization is disunity. When the country is fragmented, when religious leaders are fighting among themselves, when society is divided, the peoples cannot work together for the growth of the organization.
Preserving and fostering unity is a very daunting task, especially in this modern world. In the olden days, leaders could use their juridical authority and power to unite the people. But today, no one listens to authority unless authority agrees with him or her. In a world of relativism and individualism, with diverse opinions on every issue, it is very challenging to get everyone on board. There will be strong dissenters who want to have things their way. Still, in the business and corporate world, they can hire and fire. Not so in the Church, because compassion and patience are very important virtues that leaders must exercise or else he loses credibility in leading his flock. That is why religious leaders often appear to be weak and inept because they fail to discipline or enforce the rules on dissenting individuals and groups. But if they do, then they are condemned for lacking compassion. Either way, the leader will be penalized. A leader pleases no one.
Indeed, this is the strategy of Satan to destroy the world. His task is to sow doubt and create confusion. This was what he did when Jesus was accused of casting out devils in the name of Beelzebul. By sowing doubt, people will lose confidence in authority. Today, we see lots of fake news being passed around in social media. The Devil is the father of lies. Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn 8:44) He is doing this today by promoting relativism and individualism. He is confusing people on their own sexual identity, the meaning of marriage and family. He is the one who tempts people to pornography, promiscuity, infidelity and causes marriages and beautiful relationships to break up.
This explains why St John Paul II underscored the importance of communion in mission and mission in communion. “Communion with Jesus, which gives rise to the communion of Christians among themselves, is the indispensable condition for bearing fruit; and communion with others, which is the gift of Christ and his Spirit, is the most magnificent fruit that the branches can give. In this sense, communion and mission are inseparably connected. They interpenetrate and mutually imply each other, so that ‘communion represents both the source and fruit of mission: communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion’.” (Ecclesia In Asia, No 24)
How, then, can we cultivate this spirituality of communion? First and foremost, we need to be in communion with the Lord. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:4f) Without communion with the Lord, we will not have the capacity to love our brothers and sisters, and the patience to listen to them and their struggles. Indeed, to fight against the Evil One, we need a strong man to help us. “But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.” St Paul writes, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (cf Eph 6:10-12) What does this armour of God consist of? Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, Word of God and prayers. (cf Eph 6:13-18)
The spirituality of communion must include dialogue in the search for truth. Dialogue is an important principle in bringing divergent parties together, even if it is a very trying exercise. Often in dialogue, we might never agree on everything. Still, we need to persevere and never give up hope. Again, St John Paul II wrote, “As the sacrament of the unity of all mankind, the Church cannot but enter into dialogue with all peoples, in every time and place. Her efforts to engage in dialogue are directed in the first place to those who share her belief in Jesus Christ the Lord and Saviour. It extends beyond the Christian world to the followers of every other religious tradition, on the basis of the religious yearnings found in every human heart. Ecumenical dialogue and interreligious dialogue constitute a veritable vocation for the Church.” (Ecclesia In Asia, No 29)
King David is a good example of one who ruled his kingdom based on the principles of communion and dialogue. He sought to unite Israel but he did not take things into his own hands. He did not become King of Judah until he was 30 years old. When he was anointed king over all Israel, he was then 37 years old. It was the third time that he was anointed. Earlier on, he was secretly anointed King by Samuel when he was still a young boy. (1 Sm 16:13). Then he was made king of Judah after Saul’s death. (2 Sm 2:4) It took many years before the promise of the Lord was fulfilled in him. All these years, David waited patiently for the Lord to fulfill His promise. He was not in a hurry to take the crown from Saul or from anyone. He took the waiting period as an opportunity for him to strengthen his character and his army.
Firstly, he knew and trusted in the Lord. He clung on to the promise of God. “Of old you spoke in a vision. To your friends the prophets you said: ‘I have set the crown on a warrior, I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David my servant and with my holy oil anointed him. My hand shall always be with him and my arm shall make him strong.” Indeed, “He grew greater and greater, and the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.” He knew that it was the Lord who established him as king; not by his own strength. He was aware that his greatness came from God. That was why throughout his life as king, he kept a close relationship with the Lord. He put God first in his life. He served the people according to the covenant laid down by the Lord. His stronghold was not the army or his strength but in the power of God. Unlike the pagan armies who relied on conquest, power, armies and wealth to be successful, David relied completely on the Lord of Hosts.
Secondly, he won over the hearts of the people, especially of Israel, by his genuine love for them. When Saul died, David lamented for him. He did not take the life of Saul but his enemies did. Even after his death, he did not forcefully take the throne from Saul. He allowed Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth to take over the throne since he was next in line to succeed Saul. But Ish-Bosheth was too weak a king. He relied on Abner, his military commander. When Abner was murdered by Joab, David’s military commander, he was upset. He made it clear that he had nothing to do with the killing of an innocent life. In fact, he grieved over the loss of an outstanding military warrior. To show that Abner’s killing was not his plot, he walked behind the bier as a symbol of him leading the mourning. He even ordered Joab to mourn with the rest as well. Then Ish-Bosheth was murdered by his own men in the end. Again to show his innocence, David had the assasins killed. He accorded both Abner and Ish-Bosheth a proper burial. By his devotion to Saul and graciousness towards Saul’s tribes, he showed his sincerity. Through such actions he eventually won their trust. All the tribes, recognizing that they needed a strong leader to fight against the Philistines, pledged their loyalty to David.
We too must work at communion, relying on the Lord and not just our strength. There will be times when our plans are wrecked by wicked and divisive people. But like David, we must remain firm and trust in the Lord. We must abide by God’s time. He knows when to unfold His plans for us. In the meantime, we need to work with all our strength, relying on His grace and wisdom to forge greater unity among ourselves and those under our charge. It will not be easy but with patience, we will overcome the obstacles to peace and unity. There is no other road except through dialogue and genuine love in order to bring unity and peace.
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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