JOY COMES FROM LIVING A BLAMELESS LIFE IN CHRIST
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 40:1-5, 9-11; 2PT 3:8-14; MK 1:1-8 ]
Deep in the heart of every human person, there is this feeling of unrest and unhappiness. In spite of the fact that we have such an affluent life, we cannot deny that many of us are not happy. We have so many anxieties, fears, and emotional problems like anger, resentment and unforgiveness. Indeed, like the people of Israel, we are waiting for consolation. We hope that we can be liberated from all these problems that afflict us. The question is, can we really live a liberated and joyful life as prophesied in the first reading? Or is the prophecy just another utopian dream?
The conviction of the Church is that this dream can become a reality. Advent precisely celebrates our hope for liberation. Advent is a message of hope that our sufferings will be over soon. This will happen when the Lord comes and lives within us. This is the day of the Lord, a day of deliverance and therefore to be awaited with joy and not with fear. In a concrete way, the day of the Lord will come for us in a special way at Christmas.
How do we prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming into our lives? The first thing that is required of us is repentance. John invited his people just as he now invites us to repent and confess our sins so that we might find forgiveness and so that the Holy Spirit can be given to us. But the word repentance is most frightful for many of us. We simply do not like to hear that word. It sounds like a bad word to us because repentance means giving up, turning around; and that is what many of us are unwilling to do. The fact is that not many of us want to give up our present way of life. We want to cling on to our old life-style. We know it is not the best but we are not yet willing to exchange it for something else. Perhaps we are not too sure if there is something else better than what we have now.
Hence, instead of speaking about repentance, we should perhaps speak more positively about living a blameless life so that we can share the joy of the kingdom as Prophet Isaiah tells us. Unless we are convinced that it is of a greater joy to live a blameless life than to live our rotten life of self-centeredness, anger and bitterness, then we will not give up our old life. So repentance is not something that is we have to exercise our will and go against our very grain to do; something contrary to our nature. On the contrary, true repentance is not so much to turn away from what we are doing but to turn into ourselves so that we might be faithful to who and what we are. This is true repentance.
So when we speak about repentance, we are not talking about trying to be something or someone we are not. Repentance is the call to be faithful to oneself. This is what Peter meant when he spoke about living a blameless life. To live a blameless life is to live a holy life. Now, what is a holy life if not a life that is wholesome; a life that is integrated; a life that is lived harmoniously within oneself and with others; a life that is in Christ. Yes, only a blameless life, that is, a life lived in clear conscience, true fidelity to oneself and a deep trust in God can give us real and lasting peace and joy.
Now to live such a life, all we have to do is to simply stop doing what is against our nature. And truly, if we reflect on ourselves, we are doing many things against our nature. How can we say that our lives are in accordance with our nature when they are filled with valleys of prejudice; when we stand up like mountains of pride and walk in the crooked paths of injustice? Concretely, isn’t it against our nature to be selfish since we all want is to be loving and in harmony with others, yet we are always thinking about ourselves; isn’t it against our nature to eat or have more than we need, especially when others are hungry or deprived; isn’t it detrimental to our inner peace to hold grudges and resentment against others, and yet we hold on to grievances for years, refusing to let go, letting these hurts to fester in us? Therefore, only by realizing the harm we are doing to ourselves, can we have the wisdom and strength to get rid of them.
The beauty of truth is that the moment we stop acting contrary to our human nature, our real nature appears. That is what Isaiah says in the first reading. He says that the moment when everything becomes levelled, that is, when everything becomes normal and settled, then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed. In other words, the moment, we give up our resentments, we find peace; the moment we eat moderately, we become healthy; the moment we give up our desires, we no longer compete and crave; the moment we learn to accept, we become at peace. Yes, the corollary of unhappiness in life is happiness. That is why Peter says that when we live lives without spot or stain we will be at peace.
Indeed, life is like a well-spring. It is said that all of us are like springs. The water in us wants to flow out. This water is love. This water is life. And it is when we allow the water of life and love to flow out from us that we find our happiness because that is the nature of a spring and our nature as well. Consequently, all we need to do is simply to remove the stones which are the obstacles to life and love. Once the obstacles are removed, then we become normal again. Conversely, not to allow life and love to flow out from us because we continue to live lives that are contrary to our nature, is to live abnormal lives. Naturally, a person who lives an abnormal life cannot be happy because he is not one with himself; nor authentic to himself. In the words of John the Baptist, to be authentic to oneself is simply to allow the Holy Spirit who is living in us to be operative in our lives. To be authentic to oneself simply means to live the life of the Spirit.
This is the invitation of God to us today. He wants to give us a new heaven and a new earth. Isaiah tells us, God is like the good “shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.” He is not asking us to give up anything that is good for us. He is not a joy-killer or a life-killer nor a wet blanket. No, he does not want us to burn ourselves by courting danger. He wants us to realize that all the things that we have been doing will in the end be burnt up. Desires, ambition, wealth, power, unforgiveness, licentiousness, slander, etc will destroy us in the end. This is what Peter is warning us about. We must see the vanity of our useless pursuits in life. All these things will pass away. The tragedy is that we are really blind, in fact so blind that what we think is good for us is actually the cause of our unhappiness and sorrows in life.
Nevertheless, as Peter says, God has been patient with us all this while. Day after day and year after year, He waits for us, even though we are so slow to respond to His love and invitation. But that is not the only meaning when Peter says that one day is a thousand years and a thousand years is one day for the Lord. The reality of this statement is that God is always coming. God transcends time. He is beyond time. He is always inviting us. But the question remains: Are we going to miss another opportunity again? Are we removing all blockages and obstacles that prevent the Lord from coming close to us? Our peace and happiness is dependent on our positive response.
If the answer is in the affirmative, then the implication is that the joy and happiness which God wants for us would also be given to us immediately the moment we welcome him into our lives. We must not limit the Day of the Lord’s coming to a physical last day on earth. Rather, the Day of the Lord is that day, it could be any day, when the Lord comes into our hearts because we allow Him in by opening our doors to Him. On that day, the new heaven and the new earth will already be ours; and all our anxieties and sadness and sufferings will be dissolved in flames because peace and righteousness now lives. Indeed, the last Day has already begun today. This is our hope and the promise is real.
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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