BE THE RADIANCE OF GOD’S GLORY
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Acts 15:1-2.22-29; Ps 67; Rev 21:10-14.22-23; John 14:23-29]
In the second reading, we read of John’s vision of the New Jerusalem radiant in the light of God’s glory. “In the spirit, the angel took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. I saw that there was no temple in the city since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple, and the city did not need the sun or the moon for light, since it was lit by the radiant glory of God and the Lamb was a lighted torch for it.” Indeed, so bright was the light of God’s glory and that of Christ that the city was no longer in darkness and there was no other need of another Temple or other light. In other words, the New Jerusalem was so suffused and permeated the glory of God’s presence dwelling in it.
The Church as the New Jerusalem is called to be that city as well. In the gospel, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:14, 16) This is the fulfilment of the prophecy of Ezekiel of a renewed Temple when he wrote, “the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord is There.” (Ez 48:35b) The Church is called to be the sign of God’s presence in the world. The seven sacraments of the Church are celebrated so that His presence can take effect in our lives, helping us to live out our vocation as Christians and so be the light of Christ in the world.
But how is it that we are not the glory of God in the world? It is because we have not yet become the sanctuary of God. That is why we are sad and unsettled. There is no peace in our hearts. Without peace there can be no joy. Many of us are like the apostles. Their hearts were troubled and they were afraid because they heard the Lord saying, “I am going away.” When the Lord is absent in our lives because of sin, we feel unsettled and divided within and without. If there is so much division in the world, in our families and community it is because God is not in us and we act from our wounded humanity, our fears and selfishness rather than love and compassion. We are afraid of the future, our studies, our jobs, our relationships and our health. We are not too sure whether we can meet the challenges ahead of us.
That is why the Lord has come to give us peace and joy. The peace that He gives us is not the peace of the world. “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.” The peace of the world is external peace. It is fragile and dependent on external circumstances of which we will never have control. The peace of the world is one that is without struggle, without pain and without activity. But this is not the peace that Christ brings. He wants to give us a peace that the world cannot give. This peace comes from our deep security that is found in Him. When we know that Jesus is with us, we can overcome all things and we will not be afraid of challenges and trials in life.
Indeed, the early Church had to deal with inner division in Christian living and in doctrines. At first, the widows of the Gentile community were neglected. Then in today’s first reading, some Jewish converts to Christianity wanted to impose their traditional practices and customs on the Gentile converts. There was intense dispute. This matter was brought to Jerusalem, the mother Church, to handle. Through prayer and dialogue, they came to settle on what the true doctrine of salvation was – faith in Christ – and how as Christians they should accommodate each other and be sensitive to each other’s customs. Indeed, the Lord was with them in their struggles. Peace was not an external matter but being in Christ.
When we are assured of Christ’s presence, we can overcome all things in life. We might face tremendous challenges, but when we have a friend or a confidante, their support will give us strength and perseverance. What more if that friend is Christ! That is why St Paul could say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) And he wrote to the Romans, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:37-39) When we know that God is with us and His love is for us, we can scale every mountain because of the strength that comes from His love and assurance that we will triumph.
And this is the faith of the Church all these years even in times of uncertainty. With the scandals rocking the Church, we will remain firm and strong because Jesus told Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18) Again, the Lord after commissioning the Church promised us, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) This is why we must remain firm and never lose confidence in the Church. In spite of its sinfulness, because of the weaknesses of the members, His grace will triumph in the end. So we should not be afraid, timid or anxious since this is the Church of Christ, the Church of God, and not a mere human institution. This explains why we can still be at peace when we see so much inner division and hostility from without.
How is this peace given to us? How can we share in Christ’s peace so that we can be like Him, remaining calm and confident amidst the storms? Christ’s peace is given to us with the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the gospel, Jesus told the disciples, “You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return. If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe.” Jesus’ return to the Father at the Ascension was to bring us the Holy Spirit whom the Father promised to send in His name. By His death and resurrection, Jesus assumed His divinity and together with the Father sends us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. His presence in us gives us the security and love and peace we need.
It is in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that the Father and Son make their home in us. In the gospel Jesus says, “If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him. Those who do not love me do not keep my words. And my word is not my own: it is the word of the one who sent me.” In the first place, God dwells in us through His love because the Holy Spirit is the love of God poured into our hearts. (cf Rom 5:5) It is only when we encounter God’s personal love in the Holy Spirit in a real and intimate manner, that can we say with confidence that God is with us. We are called to welcome the Holy Spirit so that He can fill us with His love, peace and joy.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit makes it possible for the Word of God to live in us by leading us to a deeper knowledge of our Lord and understanding of His Word. “I have said these things to you while still with you; but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit is given not to lead us to Him but to lead us to Christ. Without a consciousness of the Holy Spirit in us, Christ remains a historical person, a man who lived in the past. Only those who have encountered the Spirit of Jesus know that He is alive and that He continues to work in and through us. It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to understand the Word of God, make it our own and in faith believe in the Word thereby bearing fruits in our lives.
It is only when we live out the Word of God that God lives in us in a real way. When we think and feel with the Lord, we enter into His life and love. Only when we put on Christ, can we then truly be the radiance of God’s glory amongst men. The Holy Spirit dwells in us, not just in love, peace and joy, but gives us a deeper conviction of the Word of God and the grace to live out the Word of God in our lives. Those who fall in love with Jesus and are filled with the Holy Spirit when they read the Word of God, know it is God’s words and not just human words. (cf 1 Th 2:13) This explains why many Catholics who have no consciousness of the Holy Spirit in their hearts are not convicted and enlightened when they read the Word of God; nothing that they read strikes their hearts or catches their eyes.
So let us not give up but continue to work for the building of His Kingdom on earth. We must continue to shine forth the light of God in us. But to do this, we must always be in the light by remaining one with Jesus and the Father in the Holy Spirit, in prayer, listening and meditating on the Word of God, finding strength in Him and being consoled by His love. In this way, together with the psalmist, we can praise God saying, “O God, be gracious and bless us and let your face shed its light upon us. So will your ways be known upon earth and all nations learn your saving help. Let the nations be glad and exult for you rule the world with justice. With fairness you rule the peoples, you guide the nations on earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. May God still give us his blessing till the ends of the earth revere him.”
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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