Letting go of the Past by Clinging to our Future in Christ
My dear brothers and sisters,
The peace of the Risen Lord be with you!
Peace is the first gift of Easter which the Lord imparted to His disciples. Peace comes from the victory of Christ over sin and death. With His resurrection, we know for certain that everything has been overcome and conquered. Evil is not the last word because the goodness of God has triumphed. Injustice is defeated by the justice of God in raising His Son, who was unjustly crucified as a criminal, from the dead. Sin, too, is overcome by the forgiveness of God in the death of His Son. Finally, death, too, is conquered by the resurrection of Christ. In Christ we know that there is a certain future, a sure hope of justice, peace, joy and new life. Nothing can destroy the plan of God for humanity. What will happen at the end of time is the reign of justice, peace, righteousness, joy and love in the Holy Spirit.
But what was won by Jesus is ours only if we allow the Risen Lord to enter into our hearts. Jesus is coming to our lives but we must open the doors of our hearts. So long as we stay behind closed doors and remain in the tomb, we cannot see the light or find freedom in life. The New life gained for us by the Lord must be accepted by us. The tragedy is that some of us remain dead in our tombs even though Christ has already risen. The stone has been removed but we are not willing to come out. Sin and death have been overcome, but many of us are still living in sin and fear of death. What is it that prevents us from leaving our tomb to face the rising Sun of the day?
Firstly, it is guilt. Many of us continue to live in our guilt for the mistakes we have made. We cannot forgive ourselves for the wrongs we have done. We live in regret for the missed opportunities and wish it were otherwise. Indeed, many of us hate ourselves for causing so many to suffer because of our foolishness and selfishness. We have gone for confession many times and yet never felt forgiven or freed from the chains of our past. We need to cling to Jesus who promised us that our sins are forgiven. Just as He offered forgiveness to the apostles who betrayed Him, we too must embrace His mercy and forgiveness.
Secondly, we cling to the hurts others have inflicted on us. We cannot forgive or let go of the sufferings in our lives. Many of us continue to live in our past. The unpleasant memories continue to haunt us and unsettle us. We continue to bear grudges, harbour suspicions and hatred of our enemies and those who have betrayed or hurt us. We forget that we are sinners as well, and just as the Lord has forgiven us for our many sins, we too must forgive in order to receive the full forgiveness and healing grace of God. So long as we allow our grievances to have a hold over us, there can be no joy, peace or freedom.
Thirdly, we are still in our hole because we are fearful of the future. We worry all the time about our health and our finances and our loved ones. We want to be in control, especially during this time of economic uncertainty. Our worries about our financial commitments and health keep us awake. Instead of doing what we can and meeting each challenge along the way, we dare not take risks. We dare not surrender ourselves to divine providence, making full use of the opportunities that come our way. Instead, we live in the past, finding refuge in those nostalgic times, as if they were better than today, when then we too were not happy. We do not want to change the status quo. We seek to relive the past when the Lord wants to give us better things in the future. We are like Mary Magdalene who wanted to cling to her love for the Jesus of History when the Lord was inviting her to a deeper love and union with Him, the Risen Lord, so that she too can share the joy of the Trinitarian love of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.
So what must we do to enter into the New Life that Christ has won for us? We must live the present from the future revealed to us. What Jesus has shown to us all, the ultimate victory over sin, hatred and suffering, even death, should also be ours. We must be clear that in Christ we can do all things in Him who strengthens us. (cf Phil 4:13) Having seen the reality of the future blessings ahead of us, we need not fear, not even death, for death, the last enemy of man has been overcome. (1 Cor 15:26) Instead, we can live boldly each day in the midst of challenges, trials, confusion and difficulties, knowing that the grace of Christ will bring us to a triumphant end.
Indeed, when we live from a certain and clear future of what could be for us, we can then forget our past and let go of the unpleasant events in our lives easily. Like those of us who have suffered much for our children when they were young. Now that they have grown up and are doing well in life, we share in their happiness and joy. The sufferings of the past and the sacrifices made are forgotten. These are remembered not with sadness but with joy, for we know that it is only through pains that we are now able to experience the joy of success. So, too, when we think of the joy of friendship, love and harmony among friends and family members; the thought of being reunited again will help us to forget the silly mistakes made in the past, since all of us are growing and learning how to love more perfectly in life.
With St Paul, let us push forward, leaving the past behind and strive each day to be one with Christ in His death and resurrection. He said, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13f) With the apostles, we must now live our lives confidently and courageously. Easter means that we are sure of ultimate victory and guaranteed of everlasting life, of joy, love and peace with God.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Archbishop William Goh