PREPARE TO MEET YOUR GOD!
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12; Ps 5:5-8; Mt 8:23-27 ]
God was deeply disappointed with Israel because Israel took their election for granted and abused the privileges given to them. As He said, “You alone, of all the families of earth, have I acknowledged.” Indeed, of all the peoples on the earth, God in His mercy and graciousness had chosen Israel to be His own. God told Israel, “It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you – for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Dt 7:6f) Furthermore, the Lord also said, “You are a people holy to the Lord your God; it is you the Lord has chosen out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” (Dt 14:2)
Don’t we as well? Don’t we take our privileges for granted in life too? We have been blessed with good health, with a loving spouse and family, with good education, prospective career and faithful friends. But what have we done with the blessings we have received? Do we treasure our loved ones, make time for them and be with them? Do we show our appreciation for what they do for us? Do we share our blessings with others? If we are inward-looking, demanding and ungrateful for what the Lord has given to us, and use what we have for evil rather than good, for ourselves rather than for others, then the Lord will soon come and deliver His judgement on us as He did with the Israelites.
What is God’s judgement? He will punish us with the very sins that we commit. What we reap is what we sow. “Therefore it is for all your sins that I mean to punish you. Do two men take the road together if they have not planned to do so? Does the lion roar in the jungle if no prey has been found? Does the young lion growl in his lair if he has captured nothing? Does the bird fall to the ground if no trap has been set? Does the snare spring up from the ground if nothing has been caught? Does the trumpet sound in the city without the populace becoming alarmed? Does misfortune come to a city if the Lord has not sent it? No more does the Lord do anything without revealing his plans to his servants the prophets.”
This is why the Lord allows us to face the storms in life. It is not about the storms. It is about meeting God in the storms. We read that the disciples were in the boat and a storm developed suddenly. Even though they were professional fishermen, we were told that it was so “violent that the waves were breaking right over the boat” and in their fear, they went to wake the Lord up saying, “Save us, Lord, we are going down!” Like the disciples, if we are not careful, when the storms of life suddenly come, we will not be able to handle them in spite of our resources. Wealth, power, health are all false security because all these can be taken away as we see what the Covid-19 pandemic has done to the economy in the world and the lives of many people including the rich and powerful and wealthy. No one is shielded from Covid-19 simply because he is somebody in life.
When the storms set in, those of us without faith will sink with the boat. Those who are unprepared will be swept up by the storms. This is true for many of our Catholics. Their faith is weak. Their knowledge of their faith is shallow. They are hardly familiar with the bible because they only read it occasionally and superficially if at all. Their knowledge and understanding of the doctrines is even lesser. Their relationship with the Lord is one of utility, turning to Him only when they need Him to help them pass an exam, get a job, regain their health or to protect them from harm if they are travelling. They have no real encounter.
So what do you expect when the trials of life set in? They become frightened. They lose faith. Then they turn to other gods and other religions to secure what they seek. Otherwise, they blame the Church or come to conclude that God does not care and therefore does not exist, all because they are not prepared for the trials ahead of them. The Lord said to His disciples, “Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?” When our faith is weak, we are frightened of the future. We are afraid to surrender our lives into His hands.
But for those who have faith, God will strengthen their faith further through trials. St Peter wrote, “In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith – being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire.” (1 Pt 1:6f) St James also said a similar thing. “Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Jms 1:2-4)
Indeed, God meets us in the storm not to destroy us but to strengthen our faith further so that we can find Him in the storms of life. This was what happened to the disciples. When we feel down and out and helpless, this is when the Lord would step in to save us. The reason why many of us never encounter God is because we do not really need Him. Those who are rich and self-sufficient will have difficulties encountering God’s love and power. This is why the Lord remarked, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mt 19:23f) So long as they can depend on themselves, God is only a spare battery or a booster. This is why people in the world today, because they have education, knowledge and technology, think that they can change the world without God. Knowledge and technology are the new gods. Faith in ourselves is a misplaced faith. Only when we are helpless, then the Lord will show us who is in charge! This was precisely what the fishermen experienced in the gospel. When the storm was beyond their ability to control, they turned to the Lord and cried for help.
Indeed, when God shows His mighty hand, then we come to realize that our God is truly the Lord. In the gospel, we read, “he rebuked the winds and the seas; and all was calm again. The men were astounded and said, ‘Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the seas obey him.'” Indeed, who is He that can control the winds and the storms? This was the same question God challenged Job. In two chapters 38 and 39 of Job, the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, “‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:1-4) God interrogated Job on the creation of the world, the control of the weather, the seasons, the rain, the lightning, the animals, etc. The Lord concluded, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Anyone who argues with God must respond.” (Job 40:2) Job’s reply at the end of God’s interrogation, “See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but will proceed no further.” (Job 40:4f) Indeed, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Mt 19:26) Only God can calm the storms because He is Lord.
So it is critical that we must ask the same question, “‘What kind of man is this?” We need to know who Jesus is and strengthen our relationship with Him if we want to be prepared for the storms of life and the judgment of God that will come when we least expect. Otherwise, we will succumb to the storms because we do not know Him well enough to trust Him and submit our lives under His Lordship. Let us nurture our faith by reading the Word of God daily and receive Him in the Eucharist so that His love will always be in us. Faith in Him alone will help us to overcome all trials in life because He says to us, “It is I, do not be afraid!” God is ever ready to rescue us if only we turn to Him in faith and in humility.
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.