SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 42:1-4,6-7; PS 28: 1,6-9; 1 PETER 2:1,4,9-10; MATTHEW 3:13-17

We hear news daily about suffering in the world because of the ravages of wars, civil or international.  Then there are sufferings that come from injustices and poverty.  There is so much division within society and the world at large.  Whilst on one hand, today, society champions freedom and respect for human rights, it has gone to the extreme of putting the individual’s needs and preferences over the rights of others and the larger community.  In the name of advancement in technology, a culture of death is promoted, whether it is abortion or euthanasia, stem cell research involving embryos.  In the name of human rights, a small group of activists seek to redefine the institutions of marriage and the family against the larger interests of the human community.  In the name of freedom, the world promotes relativism without taking into account the greater good of humanity.

Without true justice, there can be no real peace and harmony.  But where is justice to be found except in Truth and Love.  This explains why the fundamental desire of every human person is to seek truth and love.  This desire is implanted in all of us regardless of whether we have faith or not.  We are restless till we find the ultimate truth and the ultimate love in life.  There is no love without truth, just as there is no justice without truth.  Truth in the final analysis is justice and love. It is for this reason; the Church spurns those who try to impose the ideology of relativism in the world.   There cannot be true justice when we ground unity in relativism since relativism says there is no truth or at least no truth can be found.  If that were the case, it is a matter of individual interpretation not just for individual matters but even in matters that affect national and international order.  Hence, we must expose the dictatorship of relativism in the world.

Indeed, like the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, we are called to establish justice and peace on earth.  The Lord said,I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true justice to the nations.  Faithfully he brings true justice; he will neither waver, nor be crushed until true justice is established on earth, for the islands are awaiting his law. I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right.” In the light of our calling to be instruments of justice like the Prophet Isaiah, Catholic education therefore seek to foster justice in the world, a justice that is founded on Truth and Love.  This is what the Lord is asking of you when He said, “I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.”  This goal is of course also that of CJC as you celebrate 40 years in the service of Truth and Love.  Your college’s mission to build a generation of Truth and Love, where we become a people, living and journeying as one, sent to fulfil our collective mission in the world is indeed what Catholic education seeks to do for every young person in this college.  Indeed, the task of the College is to form young people in truth and love so that they can live a life of justice in their relationships with others, and build a society based on truth and love.  The task of the College that like of the Suffering Servant, is to enlighten all men and women that come to this institution, staff, students, parents and those who work with on the true meaning of life in this world.

How can we be true instruments of justice, truth and love?  What is the prerequisite?  We cannot give what we have not got.  Have we discovered ultimate Truth and Love ourselves?  Do we know who we are, the meaning and purpose of life and our final destination?  Have you been led out of darkness into His own wonderful light? We need to be enlightened ourselves before we can enlighten others.  Otherwise, the blind will lead the blind, and they will fall into the ditch. We can to be wounded healers, that is, wounded in the past but have been healed so that we can heal others today!

The Church is called to be the light to the nations only because she believes that God has revealed the truth and love to her.  This is what St Peter wrote, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people at all and now you are a People of God. Once you were outside mercy and now you have been given mercy.”  Having been enlightened in the truth, and found our identity as the People of God through His mercy and love, we now are able to bask ourselves in His wonderful light.

This truth is revealed to us in and through Christ.   He is our Light in the World, the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Christ has shown us the Truth about His Father and about life and love.

Indeed, at His baptism, Jesus reveals to us not just His true identity as the Son of the Beloved Father but our identity as adopted sons and daughters in Him.  At His baptism, ‘the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him.  And a voice spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.”’  This is our true identity.  We are not merely creatures like the rest of creation but we are called to share in the life and love of God even when we are not divine beings.

That is why, because many people do not know their origin, identity and destination in life, they live aimless life, like the Israelites, walking in darkness, with no real meaning and purpose in life other than that of an animal eating, working and indulging ourselves.  There is no direction in life, a direction that sustains us now and beyond.  If we are not living for eternity, we live only for this world.  We can only live for short term goals, like passing exams, increase in salary, holidays, a new car, a diamond ring or a promotion.   But all these goals are short lived; the moment we arrive, we need to start looking for something else.  We are always yearning for more and more.

Secondly, He is the teacher of love. He has taught us the Truth not just in words but in actions, by His very life of compassion and forgiveness.  He directs us to the source of that love.

The origin of Jesus’ mission was His experience of God’s love.  He was identified with the Father in love and compassion.  It was this identification that gives birth to His mission as the Incarnated Son in the world.   Jesus was motivated by the discovery of His Father’s unconditional love.  This must be the same in our case as educators of young people.  This is of course true in every vocation in life.  When we are inspired by love, we will want to do the same to others, to share with others what we have received.  What motivated Jesus in His mission was His own experience of His Father’s unconditional love.  He wants us to share the joy of being God’s children.  Indeed, the reason for His baptism is that we too might follow Him so that we can experience the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of sonship in Christ.  This is what baptism does for us.  Thus, He insisted against the reluctance of John the Baptist to baptise Him.  He was baptised as much for our sakes as for Himself.

This experience of sonship is critical to one’s mission.  For when the Lord heard the affirmation of His heavenly Father, He remembered the same words were spoken to the Prophet Isaiah when He said, “Thus says the Lord: Here is my servant whom I uphold. My chosen one in whom my soul delights.”  Flowing from one’s discovery of our sonship is the mission. Doing flows from being.  Hence, without a conscious understanding of who we are, we will not know what we should do.

This love caused Him to be identified with us by becoming man.  In His baptism, as much as He was revealed to be the Divine Son of the Heavenly Father, He was also identified with man by taking our sins upon Himself.  He told John the Baptist, “Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should in this way, do all that righteousness demands.”   So if we were to be tutored in the truth and in love, we need to be identified with our fellowmen as Jesus did at His baptism.  Unless we are identified with the struggles of our fellowmen especially those whom we form, we will lack empathy and unable to help them in their struggles in life.  A good teacher is one who could identify with the struggles and pains of the students.  Only then can he or she find the most effective solution or way to help them overcome their anxiety, fear and struggles.  This is so true. In the past, we didn’t know that there were such disabilities like dyslexia or ADHD and so we  simply wrote off those children who cannot read or pay attention in class as slow, dull and naughty.

Indeed, there is no better way of formation that is truly effective and life changing unless there is love.  We need to love those whom we teach or form. Gone are the days when we act like discipline masters towards those under our charge.  Love is the only way to build trust and relationship.  Without trust and confidence, no one will listen to us even when we have truth to share.  Truth without love contradicts truth itself.  We become less credible to those whom we teach even when we could be teaching the objective truth.  This explains why priests who teach the truth are not able to change lives because this truth is not seen in their personal life.  This is true of teachers as well.  Students will listen to us only when they know we care for them personally.  This is what the Lord tells us about the way the Suffering Servant must carry out His duties. “He does not cry out or shout aloud, or make his voice heard in the streets.  He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame.” Like Jesus, compassion and mercy win the day even against His enemies.

The work of formation is one of the greatest vocations in life because we deal with persons, not just things.  It is indeed the most rewarding as well because you are not just changing lives in your hands but you are determining the future of humanity as well.  How humanity will turn out, will depend on the students we form for tomorrow.  They will be our leaders and if they are not formed in a holistic way, in intellect, in morals and in love, we will have a society of individualistic persons caring only for themselves.  They will use science and technology not for the betterment of society and humanity but for their own selfish needs which lead to the destruction of humanity.  So the future lies in your hands, teachers and students of CJC.  You are called to give hope and decisive direction to the world that walks in darkness because of relativism, a world without truth and without authentic love.

Formation in Truth and Love is an ongoing mutual process for and between both teachers and students.  We must like from Christ His humility in emptying Himself of His divinity.  Christ was unassuming.  As teachers, we must never think that we are the ones forming others.  In truth we are formed by our students as much as we form them.  That is why we should be grateful that God calls us to the work of education and formation.  It gives us a whole life opportunity to grow in the knowledge of truth and in the work of love, mercy and compassion.  We learn as much as we teach our students.

This is indeed our collective mission not just for CJC but for all.  We invite all people of goodwill, even those of different faiths or without faith, to join us in the pursuit of Truth and Love till we find them.  We must not rest till we are formed fully in the ultimate Truth and Love; otherwise we shortchange ourselves and cannot live fully and authentically.  In the final analysis, if we are sincere in seeking for the fullness of truth and life, we will arrive at God who is the Ultimate Reality since Truth and Love are planted in our hearts.  It is our hope and dream that in Truth and Love, we will all be united, one with each other and together one with God now and for all eternity.  This is our destiny and calling.  We have a transcendent call, to share in the eternal life of God.  We live beyond this world and we want our people to live not just an earthly life but a transcendent life, a life and love that never ends even in death.

So, let us come to Christ who is our Teacher in Truth and Love!   We need to be formed by Christ because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life!  He is the Teacher as He is the Word of God in person.  Hence, St Peter urges the early Christians who were going through persecution saying, “He is the Living Stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him; set yourselves close to Him.” Without founding our faith in Christ, we cannot lead others to the Truth.  Pope Emeritus Benedict said that Christianity is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea but an encounter with an event, a person that opens up a new horizon in life and gives a decisive direction.   This is the great message of Hope we want to share with humanity. We are members of the “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God.”   This is the message that we want to offer to the world.  This is our mission, to sing His praises, His glory.  Amen..

Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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