CHRISTIAN HOPE FOR WORLD PEACE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 2:1-5; MATTHEW 8:5-11 ]
We are living in a world that has changed so rapidly beyond our imagination. This is a fast moving technological age. Technology has made life easier for us. Certainly, life is much more comfortable than the days of our forefathers. But technology is blind. It is amoral. Depending on who harnesses it and for what purpose, technology can be employed for good or for evil. This explains why technology, whilst it has its advantages, can also be used to destroy lives through wars, acts of terrorism, spreading of fake news slandering the reputation of people, and also for cheating and deceiving innocent and trusting people. Ironically, more than ever, in spite of sophisticated equipment and weapons, this is the most unsafe world we are living in because anything can happen; wars, religious conflicts and terrorism.
What, then, is our basis and hope for world peace? The first reading from Isaiah says that world peace will come about when everyone knows their place in this world and acknowledges God as the creator and source of all life. “In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of the Lord shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. All the nations will stream to it, peoples without number will come to it; and they will say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths; since the Law will go out from Jerusalem.’” Indeed, only when all men walk in the ways of the Lord can there be peace. Without taking directions from the Lord, man cannot agree among ourselves because we are all short-sighted and do not possess the wisdom to know and understand everything.
We need the laws of God to guide us to walk the right path. As the psalmist says, “I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’ And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. It is there that the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord. For Israel’s law it is, there to praise the Lord’s name. There were set the thrones of judgement of the house of David.” Walking in His way, we will foster peace in our midst. “He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war. House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
But why are there religious conflicts when all religions profess to lead their faithful to God? This is where each religion must ask whether they are teaching the truth and where this truth comes from? If it is from man, then we cannot claim to have the absolute truth. Only through God’s revelation, can man understand the fullness of truth. Consequently, different religions possess different levels of truth accordingly. We are not here to pass judgement. This is what the Church in the Modern world says of other religions. “Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing ‘ways,’ comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.” (Nostra Aetate, No 2) Every religion therefore must purify herself in the truth.
Consequently, “The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.” (NA, No 3) Together, we are called to share our faith so that we will be enriched in our own understanding of our faith as we listen to others who too have truth and goodness in their religions to share with us. With humility, we can always learn from others and through other religions examine our own faith and be purified through them.
So if there are religious conflicts, it is because of an inadequate interpretation of the Sacred Texts. Some followers narrowly interpret the texts in such a way that it becomes exclusive and divisive. All religions, if they are from God, must promote peace and goodwill among all of humanity. Exclusivity is a danger and we cannot afford to act in such a manner today because it will lead to greater division, conflicts, wars and resentment among believers of different faiths. With mass communication and digital communication, we need to be more sensitive in what we say and teach so that others will not feel offended by our teachings. All true religions must point the way to peace and goodness. So long as they are teaching what is true and good, they too partake of God’s truth and love.
Of course for us, Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life because He shows us the face of the Father. This of course is the Christian claim rooted in our personal encounter with Him in His passion, death and resurrection. Without this prior encounter with the Risen Lord, no one can make this claim. This is what St Paul wrote to the Romans, “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.” (Rom 10:9f) So not all can make this confession of faith. Only on this basis is the Christian claim that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life to the Father is founded since as He told Philip, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. (Jn 14:10-11; Cf Jn 14:4)
Yet, even if they have not yet come to this truth, it does not mean that they have no inkling of God. It is significant that the Centurion, although not a Jew, showed his faith in God, perhaps not exactly in the way the Jews worshipped the One God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. His faith in Christ was also not that of a divine person but he could somehow sense that Jesus was truly a man of God, who mediated God to him. He did believe that he possessed the powers of God to do the works that only God could do. Hence, he said to Jesus, “Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.” So even with an inadequate faith in the identity of Jesus, the Lord responded to his request. We can thus believe and hope that even those who do not know the Lord personally, could come to experience Him in other ways as the Holy Spirit makes it possible.
The Constitution of the Church in the Modern World gives this possibility. “All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.” (GS 22) On our part, we must live the life of Christ in such a way that others will come to see us as the messengers of God and be inspired by our lives to search for the Way, the Truth and the Life in Christ themselves. We are called to bring life and love to them. No amount of words and doctrines can convince people except by a life of inclusivity, justice and charity.
We must not conduct ourselves like the Jews who were exclusive in their approach to non-Jews. They excluded others from the Kingdom. The warning of Jesus to such people is this, “I tell you that many will come from the east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.” By preventing others from entering the Kingdom because of prejudice and arrogance, we will further cause division and scandals in the world Let us be peacemakers and bridge builders if we want the world to be a world of 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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