MAKING CONNECTIONS: EVENT AND WORD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 3:1-10; PS 105:1-4,6-9; LUKE 24:13-35 ]
It is ironical that when things are doing well for us, we never ask, “why?” We never stop to ask why we have been blessed or given such gifts in life. What does God want us to do with the gifts that He has blessed us with? Instead, we take for granted our health, blessings, our loved ones and our career. Indeed, those of us who are born into well-to-do families often take our food, our comfortable houses and cars for granted. As a result, we become complacent in life. We go through life oblivious of what is going on around us and so live a life of ingratitude and even irresponsibility. This is particularly true of children today when their parents provide them with everything, including luxuries and holidays. What is a privilege or a blessing becomes a right.
But when tragedy strikes, then we begin to ask the question, “why?” Why me and why has this happened to me and my loved ones? Indeed, only in time of privation and suffering do we begin to ask the reasons for our loss, whether of our loved ones, our health, wealth and job. We begin to find fault with others and ultimately blame God for our suffering. Suddenly, when things go wrong, God comes into the picture. In good times, God is hardly thought of and even when we are successful, the credit does not go to God but to our hard work and ingenuity. But when things do not turn out the way we desire, then God is to be blamed. Only then, do we begin to question God’s existence and His love for us.
But this was not the case of the crippled man who was healed by Peter and John. The man was begging for money but God wanted to offer him more than just material things. “Peter and John looked straight at him and said, ‘Look at us’. He turned to them expectantly, hoping to get something from them, but Peter said, ‘I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!’ Peter then took him by the hand and helped him to stand up. Instantly his feet and ankles became firm, he jumped up, stood, and began to walk.” This man who was healed immediately knew that it was God who cured him. Hence, “he went with them into the Temple, walking and jumping and praising God.”
However, the people could not understand the significance of the event. We read that “everyone could see him walking and praising God, and they recognised him as the man who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. They were all astonished and unable to explain what had happened to him.” This clearly goes to show that miracles in themselves cannot convince people to faith. We can see the sign but not the meaning. In fact, the healing of the crippled man brought different reactions as we read later on. The Jewish leaders arrested them, questioned them and “ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:18)
This, too, was the case of the disciples at Emmaus at the death of our Lord. They were disheartened at the events that unfolded at the end of the life of Jesus. They could not make sense of them. They could not understand how Jesus who proved to be “a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people” of whom the people had high hopes to liberate them from the Roman’s control could instead end up with the Jewish religious leaders handing “him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified” by the Romans. These events were inexplicable. Over and above such tragic events were the dubious information that they received from some sources. They said, “some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.”
Consequently, it is important to apply the words to the events to bring out the significance. As Emmanuel Kant says, “Perception without conception is blind; conception without perception is empty.” It is not enough to have a sense of awareness of an event. We must give an interpretation to it. This is true for every event in our life. What happens to us and what we experience must teach us something about God, about life, ourselves and about others. We must not let the events of daily life pass each day without learning something from it. This is why the Church always encourages us to do daily examen, which is not just about going through those events when we missed out God’s presence in our lives because we acted negatively, but also those events when God’s presence was manifested. In this way, we learn from our mistakes and shortcomings and at the same time, become grateful for God’s love being mediated to us through events, big or small. It is not necessary that big events bring out the love of God but even daily events when seen with the eyes of faith, wonder and gratitude.
That was what St Peter did immediately after the healing of the crippled man. We read that “all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s, astounded. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, ‘Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? ‘ The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. (Acts 3:11-16) St Peter explained to them the cause of the healing of the crippled man. He was only an instrument. He only helped the man to stand up but the healing came from the Lord through the invocation of His name. And this could only be possible because the Lord whom they crucified is risen.
Jesus did the same thing for the disciples at Emmaus. In contrast to the more forceful and direct manner of Peter, His approach was one of gentleness and gradual understanding. He sought to win over their confidence first by listening to them and making the journey with them. “Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.” It was through listening to them with great respect that they began to talk more. Jesus allowed them time to heal their pains by giving them the opportunity to articulate their confusion and disappointments.
But when it came to the point when Jesus felt they were ready to hear Him out, He awakened them by confronting their ignorance. He said, “‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.” With the help of the scriptures, Jesus was able to show the meaning of His passion and death as a prelude to His resurrection and glorification so that the world will know that He is Lord and Saviour of all.
Indeed, for us too, we must learn from Peter and our Lord to find explanations for the confusion in this world about faith, doctrines and morals from the scripture. If the disciples had only referred to the scriptures and read the prophecy of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52,53 or reflected on Psalm 16, 2:7, 110:1 and Deuteronomy 18:15 and Daniel 7:13-14, they would have been able to understand that the death and resurrection of our Lord was already foreshadowed in the scriptures. But like the disciples, we are foolish and short-sighted. Instead of consulting the Word of God for answers, directions in life, the truth about morality and doctrines, we appeal to the so-called philosophers of the world.
We too must search the scriptures for the answers to the events of our daily life. We must seek directions from the Lord. This is how we connect our life events and make sense of them for our growth and our inspiration. This is what every homily seeks to do. Better still, if we could form a group of people with whom we can share the Word of God together. It is always in the community that we discover the directions of God and the meaning of our lives. Indeed, it was in fellowship that they came to understand their struggles and recognize the presence of Jesus in their lives. We too must journey together in faith, knowing that Jesus is with us in the Christian community gathered together in His name, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist.
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.