From Ashes of Failures to New Life
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As Catholics, we cannot but be filled with sadness, disgust and shame at the daily scandalous revelations involving the Church at the highest hierarchy. To know that our revered leaders have failed in protecting the integrity of the Church and her faith by their horrific misdeeds, particularly against innocent young people, have led many to lose confidence in the Church and her leaders. For some, their little faith has been so shaken that they have chosen to leave the Church.
The truth is that the scandals that are rocking the Church is not altogether new. The Catholic Church is certainly experiencing a very dark period, but I think the corruptions in the Church during the Middle Ages were even more scandalous. The only difference is that then there was no social media or internet to carry the scandals across the globe, and instantaneously too, so the impact on the faith of the people was limited. Yet, in spite of the scandals the Church did not break apart. In fact, by God’s grace, it led to the reformation and counter-reformation. God always has a plan for His Church. Hence, we must have faith that the revelation of these scandals will only help to purify the Church of all the corruption and sinfulness, and she will come out more purified, holier, stronger and better.
Indeed, we might be disillusioned like the disciples at Emmaus who were downcast and disheartened as they said, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” (Lk 24:19f) Jesus reprimanded them saying, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:25f) The weakness of Christ on the cross and His death is the basis for our resurrection.
Instead of falling into self-pity, reacting defensively, losing our faith or becoming disheartened, we must see that our so-called enemies are doing us a favour. By exposing the sins and weaknesses of the Church, they are being used by God to purify us and to strengthen us. From being too complacent and lacking consciousness of the need to repent of our sins, we have become a more humbled and compassionate church. The hierarchy of the Church must, in humility, learn to listen to the voice of lay collaborators. She must accept the need to share the power of governance with the laity. Indeed, it is not just the hierarchy that needs conversion but the entire Church. No one is exempted from the purging fire of holiness. Whilst it is easy to point fingers at the leadership of the Church, especially its clergy and religious, yet the contamination of the Church affects all her members. Our priests are after all, the products of a broken and wounded society.
So, not only is the Church in need of conversion, but society as well, because we are all part of society. In a secular society that is anti-religious, advocating worldly relativistic and materialistic values, promoting Satanism and evil, division and hatred; our faith and values, especially that of the young, cannot but also be eroded and compromised. The attempts of society to isolate religions from public life and turn society into an atheistic humanity can only lead to its own destruction. Without faith in God, and in the next life, there can be no motivation for anyone to do good or to even seek what is good and true; much less to sacrifice their lives for the future of humanity. It will be a case of each man for himself, grabbing whatever he can for his immediate enjoyment without any thought for the future of humanity or ecological consciousness and responsibility for the life of planet earth.
Indeed, we are now seeing the full works and designs of the devil in this present turmoil. Beginning with the promotion of atheism and secularism, faith in God and the Sacred were banished from public space and emplaced with New Age concepts, and the spirit world was sought for occult powers. Then the individual’s identity was confounded with the blurring of gender, leading to the redefinition of the family unit and the destruction of the institution of marriage. Now, the last bastion of attack is the foundation of the religious institution, namely, the hierarchy of the Church. Once all these foundations are weakened, morality will collapse, truth will be blurred, and the individual will become dysfunctional and society will collapse.
In such moments, the Lord is also asking us, as He asked Peter and the disciples when they were scandalized by His teaching on the Bread of life as His flesh and blood, “‘Do you also wish to go away?'” Will we, “like many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him”, or Simon Peter, say to Him, “‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.'” (Jn 6:66-69)
Truly, only faith in Jesus as the Holy One of God, as the Word of God in person who has the words of Eternal Life can save us. This faith in Jesus as the Son of God is founded on our faith in the resurrection of our Lord. It is this faith in Christ as the Risen Lord and the Son of God that gives us certain hope. Indeed, when we celebrate Easter, it is our confidence that this Church which is founded by Christ in the power of His Holy Spirit and which He promised to be with us until the end of time (Mt 28:20) will remain so. Furthermore, we have the assurance of His promise to Peter that on this faith in Him as “the Son of the Living God” He will build His Church and “the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (cf Mt 16:16-18) In weakness, we find our strength in Christ.
So whilst it is inevitable that the Church has to go through the purification process, she will rise up from the ashes, sharing in the fullness of the New Life of Christ given to us at Easter. To celebrate Easter means to rejoice in the belief that Christ will ultimately triumph over evil. Hatred will be overcome by love, falsehood by truth, darkness by light, death by life. The Father’s fidelity to Christ by raising Him up from the dead is the basis of our faith in Him that He will raise up the Church again when we are purified and transformed in holiness of life. This is what Easter means, namely that Christ lives on in the Church and in each one of us when we die to ourselves and allow Him to live in us. St Paul wrote, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry.” (Col 3:1-5) The Risen Christ is our Hope, Our Life and Our Joy. Alleluia! He is risen in each one of us and in our midst when we die with Him.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Most Rev. William Goh
Archbishop of Singapore
21 April 2019