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*Visitors must be registered on mycatholic.sg with Church of the Holy Trinity.
Private worship will be suspended in the event the chapel is in use.

Chapel Private Worship Hours*
Weekdays: 
9am – 1pm
2pm – 5pm

Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays:
Closed

 

Columbarium Visiting Hours
Weekdays:
9am – 1pm
2pm – 5pm

Saturday
10:30am – 1:00pm
2:00pm – 3:00pm

Sundays & Public Holidays
Closed

Masses are capped at 250 attendees for Masses.  Kindly book your Mass online at myCatholic.sg.  Admission is strictly by advance booking. Please bring your NRIC for verification and TraceTogether Token for check-in.

Monday to Friday:

  • 6.30 am
  • 6.00 pm

Saturday:

  • 6.30 am
  • 5.30 pm

Sunday:

  • 6.45 am
  • 9.00 am
  • 11.00 am
  • 1.00pm (Mandarin)
  • 5.30 pm

Public Holiday:

  • 9.00 am only
  • Sunday Mass – 10:00am
  • Weekday Mass – 12:00 noon

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12 May, 2021, Wednesday, 6th Week of Easter

May 12, 2021

PROCLAIMING CHRIST IN THE MARKETPLACE


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 17:1522-18:1; JOHN 16:12-15 ]

The call to proclaim Christ to non-believers takes on a two-pronged approach.  St Paul was clear that he had to proclaim Christ to those who already shared much of their beliefs in God, as in the case of the Jews who shared with the Christians the faith of the Old Testament.  This explains why when addressing the Jews he would, like Peter and Stephen, draw from the Old Testament, going back to the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets.  This is what the Christians had in common with the Jews.  However, when it came to faith in Jesus as the Promised Messiah and His resurrection, which confirmed His divinity as the Son of God, this was a stumbling block.  The idea of a crucified Messiah was scandalous to the Jews.

However, in today’s first reading, St Paul was addressing not the Jews but those who did not share in the tradition of the Jews and the Christians.  Rather, he was addressing a group of intelligentsias, the philosophers who were thinkers of the day.   They belonged principally to two groups, namely, the Epicureans and the Stoics.

The Epicureans were materialists.  They did not believe in an after-life or a spiritual realm.  They believed that the universe came about because of the random mixing of atoms.  For them pain and suffering were seen as evil.  Hence, they pursued happiness by living life to the fullest on earth, not worrying about the next life.  To them, there was only one life to live and one should live it to the fullest.  This is how the world is living today.

The stoics on the other hand believed in reason and not just matter.  Reason shaped matter.  Nature, in their view, was rational and had its own laws.  Happiness was to just follow the laws of nature and act according to it.  One had to accept things as they were and not go against the laws of nature.  This explains why the Stoics seemed heartless and emotionless because they followed their reason rather than their feelings.  They fought against their passions and believed that happiness was found when one acted according to what was right and true.  In other words, happiness was to be found in living a virtuous life.  This is akin to Confucianism.

The approach to such a diverse philosophical audience was to establish what was common between the Christians and the rest of them.  Indeed, when we speak to people who have no share in our tradition, the way of natural theology would be the politically correct approach.   More so when we are living in a very secular, materialistic and relativistic world.   Beginning with what we hold in common will help us to engage them immediately.  So what did they have in common? St Paul drew their attention to the fact that people sought God.  They were religious-minded. “Paul stood before the whole Council of the Areopagus and made this speech: ‘Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I noticed, as I strolled round admiring your sacred monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God.”   Indeed, this must always be our starting point.  Deep in the heart of every man, man is looking for fulfillment, meaning and purpose.  All of us seek love, truth and meaning, besides comfort for our body as well.  This is because we are made of body and spirit.

Hence, evangelization does not mean proclaiming something so new that our listeners do not already know.  It is just that they could not name the vacuum and the void in their life.   They are seeking something more, something that could satisfy them completely, since even the things of this world, after some time, will reach its saturation point, and then we will become frustrated and restless again.   St Paul put his finger on the heart of the quest.  “Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it.”

Evangelization is to make explicit what is implicit in the hearts of men.  It calls for the courage to name that reality, that void, that desire for comfort, for love, for truth and for life.  St Paul once again affirmed that the Unknown God was in truth known to them in their hearts and minds.  He said, “Since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands. Nor is he dependent on anything that human hands can do for him.”  God, by whichever name you call Him, is the Ultimate ground of life, the Ultimate meaning and the Ultimate destiny.  Whatever we do, we cannot domesticate God in a place, a statue or even in a temple or church.  Of course, through rituals and sacred signs we are brought to encounter God but God is greater than whatever rituals or signs or shrines we have built for God.  The Lord said to the Samaritan woman, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jn 4:23f)

St Paul then went further to affirm the unity of humanity.  He said, “On the contrary, it is he who gives everything – including life and breath – to everyone. From one single stock he not only created the whole human race so that they could occupy the entire earth. Yet in fact he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said: “We are all his children.”  We are all God’s children created by Him and therefore we all belong to the same human family.  This explains why every human person has the same desires, hopes and goals in life.  We are all seeking fullness of life, love, truth and happiness.  Everyone is concerned about his physical, affective and spiritual well-being.  The corollary to this truth that we are God’s children means, as St Paul wrote, “we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by man. God overlooked that sort of thing, when men were ignorant.”

This is why theological language is always anthropomorphic.  In other words, God is greater than whatever we can think of Him.  All that we say is simply human words or human expressions of what we desire to convey about certain aspects of God.  Hence, theological affirmations of God follow the triple Via, via negativa, via positive and via eminenza, that is, we must deny that we affirm about God is exactly what we say, for example, God is love in the way we love.  This is followed by via positiva which affirms that when we say God is love, it does convey truth.  We end by affirming that all we could say about God is greater than whatever we can think or conceive or say.  This is via eminenza.

However, natural theology can only go so far.  This can only prepare the ground but the leap of faith must be taken.  This was why when St Paul spoke about the crucified Christ and His resurrection, they laughed at him.  It was absurd and ridiculous to think of a Messiah, or worse still, of a God who was crucified and rose from the dead.  The resurrection of Christ requires faith.  This is why the Lord said, “I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth. He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine.”  Unless the Spirit of truth enlightens our minds and touches our hearts, no amount of reasoning can lead a person to find faith in Christ.  As St Paul said, the Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, Christ is the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.  (cf 1 Cor 1:23-25)


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


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.

11 May, 2021, Tuesday, 6th Week of Easter

May 11, 2021

THE ADVOCACY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 16:22-34PS 138:1-3,7-8JOHN 16:5-11]

In the gospel, the disciples were sad when they knew Jesus was going away.  This is understandable.  We will also be sad when we know that our loved ones are going away, even if not in death but simply to another place, another land or another job.  When we have grown attached to the person we love or are dependent on for strength, love or needs, we will be anxious and troubled.  However, Jesus assured His disciples that He would not be leaving them orphans because He would be sending the Advocate, the Holy Spirit who will be with them.  He said, “Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this.  Still, I must tell you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going because unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you.”  Jesus will come back again in the Holy Spirit.  If Jesus did not go, He would always be confined to specific places and be available only to a small group of people.  But in His Spirit, He could be present in all His believers, regardless of space and time.   For this reason, it would be better that He returned to the Father so that He could ask the Father to send us the Holy Spirit.

What does the Holy Spirit do?  Three things, He would do.  Firstly, “when he comes, he will show the world how wrong it was, about sin.”  What is it about sin?  The Lord said, “proved by their refusal to believe in me.”  The ultimate sin is the sin of impiety, as St Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.”  (Rom 1:18-21) In rejecting Jesus, the world is led to sin.  “God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”  (Rom 1:28-31)

Secondly, the Holy Spirit will reveal “who was in the right, proved by my going to the Father and your seeing me no more.”  Indeed, those who condemned Jesus to death on the cross thought they did the right thing.  The Jews thought Jesus was a false messiah, the Romans thought he was a political rebel and the people thought He was a fraud.  By His death and resurrection, Jesus showed that death does not have the last word.  The Father who raised Jesus from the dead was His vindication; that the Father approved of all that Jesus said and did.  The resurrection was the seal of the Father on the life and work of Jesus.  If Jesus were to stay on earth and did not die, it would have been difficult to claim His divine identity with the Father.  At most, we would say that Jesus was a good man, a man of wisdom and compassion.  But we would not be able to affirm with conviction that all that He said is true unless He is God.  His return to the Father at the resurrection and ascension confirms that Jesus belongs to God and is One with God.

Thirdly, when the Holy Spirit comes, He will expose the truth about ourselves.  He will show the world what is true judgement by proving that the prince of this world is already condemned.  By condemning Jesus, we have already condemned ourselves because we reject the light.  The Lord had already said this earlier to Nicodemus, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (Jn 3:17-21)

The words of Jesus and His promises came true in the life of the apostles.  We can be certain that when St John wrote all these, he had in mind the Christians who were persecuted by the authorities and their fellow Jews.  They had to face opposition and persecution daily.  Yet, they were not fearful or sad but remained defiant, focused and singular-minded in proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus.  This was because they had the Holy Spirit and were led by the Spirit, they were joyful in suffering and in humiliation because they knew that they were suffering for the name of Jesus, not for themselves.  Indeed, if not for the presence of the Holy Spirit, how could Paul and Silas, who were whipped and flogged, locked in prison and in stocks continue to pray and sing God’s praises?  They were not lamenting or groaning in their pain or anxious about their life or their future.  On the contrary, although they were in prison, they were interiorly free in their hearts.  Such genuine expression of joy and freedom in the midst of pain and imprisonment had the prisoners quietly listening to them.  They must have been amazed at what they saw and wondered how they could imbibe that same joy and freedom the disciples had.

Again, the Holy Spirit came to vindicate their feelings and their testimony by freeing them from jail and from their chains.  When praying and singing God’s praises, “suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. All the doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners.”  This is a divine confirmation of the truth of what Paul and Silas was teaching.  God was with them and they did nothing wrong.  God vindicated them and proved who was right.  The so-called magistrates did not investigate properly and fairly. Instead, they simply listened to the powerful who were incensed by Paul who delivered their slave-girl from the evil spirit that gave her the spirit of divination and from whom they were making money by her fortune-telling.   The judges listened to the mob who were most likely instigated by others.  By breaking the chains and opening the prison door, the Lord confirmed their innocence.  Since the wicked people did not offer justice, God showed His divine justice by setting Paul and Silas free.

Finally, the Holy Spirit comes to bring righteousness to those who believe in Him.  “When the gaoler woke and saw the doors wide open he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Don’t do yourself any harm; we are all here.’”  It is strange that the prisoners did not rush to get out.  It was because only those who were converted to the Lord are truly set free.  The gaoler rushed in, “threw himself trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and escorted them out, saying, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’” The answer is clear, “Become a believer in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, and your household too.”  That night, after hearing the Word of God preached to them by Paul, he and his entire household was baptized.

Baptism gives new life through the forgiveness of sins and healing of the body, and welcome into the family of God.  “Late as it was, he took them to wash their wounds, and was baptised then and there with all his household. Afterwards he took them home and gave them a meal, and the whole family celebrated their conversion to belief in God.”  The gaoler who washed the wounds of Paul and Silas were now washed clean of their sins.   The act of washing the wounds of Paul and Silas was a sign of their repentance and regret.   Hence, after the washing of the wounds of Paul, they were then washed of their sins through baptism.  All were healed because of their faith in Jesus.  This faith in Jesus was expressed in their love and hospitality given to each other.  That they could now sit together to have a meal meant that faith in Christ had reconciled them as a family of God.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


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.

10 May, 2021, Monday, 6th Week of Easter

May 10, 2021

THE HOLY SPIRIT AS THE PRINCIPAL AGENT OF EVANGELIZATION


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 16:11-15PS 149:1-6,9JOHN 15:26-16:4]

When St John wrote the gospel, the early Christian community was already facing persecution by the Jews.  In A.D. 70, the Christian Jews were expelled from the synagogue.  Many of them were marginalized and excluded from the larger community as well.  St John, writing in AD 90, wanted to remind the Christians that such persecutions should be expected.  The Lord had already forewarned them.  “I have told you all this so that your faith may not be shaken. They will expel you from the synagogues, and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God. But I have told you all this, so that when the time for it comes you may remember that I told you.”

At the same time, they were not alone in their struggles.  St John wanted to assure them that the Lord was with them in the Holy Spirit which He promised to send from the Father. “When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness. And you too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the outset.”  Indeed, the work of evangelization is not a human enterprise.  It is the work of God carried out principally by the Holy Spirit who inspires and empowers the disciples of Christ to be witnesses in the world.  Disciples of Christ, therefore, must be mindful that they do not undertake the mission without relying on the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the principal agent of the work of evangelization, not the ingenuity of man.  Pope Paul VI in his encyclical, Evangelii Nuntiandi, no 75 wrote, “Techniques of evangelization are good, but even the most advanced ones could not replace the gentle action of the Spirit. The most perfect preparation of the evangelizer has no effect without the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit the most convincing dialectic has no power over the heart of man. Without Him the most highly developed schemas resting on a sociological or psychological basis are quickly seen to be quite valueless.”  Indeed, we must not reduce the mission of the Church into a secular mission where success is measured by productivity, talented and resourceful leaders, eloquent and inspiring teachers or the use of technology, sound, music, digital videos, lightnings, etc.  This was how the early Church witnessed to the gospel; when the apostles were threatened by the religious leaders not to speak about Jesus, they gathered together with the community to pray. “‘Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’  When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.”  (Acts 4:29-31)

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son.  He is our advocate and counsellor.  He is the One who teaches us all that Jesus had taught us.  He does not teach us new things since Christ is the fullness of revelation but He makes all things new.  The Lord told the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”  (Jn 16:12f) St Paul wrote, “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.” (1 Cor 2:11-13) This explains why the world rejects Jesus and persecutes us because as our Lord forewarned us, “They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself.”

Through the Holy Spirit, we come to understand deeper and better what the Lord has revealed to us.  As Vatican II in Dei Verbum teaches, “This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.”  (Dei Verbum, 8)

The Holy Spirit is the one that inspires us in our minds and put the right words onto our lips so that we can speak the truth with clarity and conviction.  When the evangelizer allows himself to be placed under the gentle influence of the Holy Spirit, he will utter words of wisdom that he would never have thought of, or consoling and wise words of counsel that he never planned. That was why the Lord told the disciples, “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”  (Mt 10:19f) Indeed, we read that the Sanhedrin, hearing Peter and John speak in defence of Christ with boldness, “realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.”  (Acts 4:13)

The Holy Spirit is the One that opens the heart of the listeners and convict them of their sins.   This was what happened in today’s first reading when the Lord opened the heart of Lydia to accept the Word of God preached to her by St Paul.   Only the Holy Spirit can open our hearts and touch us.  This is why we can proclaim the same message and yet not all can respond radically.  How responsive one is depends on how open one’s heart is; it has nothing to do with one’s social or intellectual status.    The Lord said that when the Holy Spirit comes, “he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” (Jn 16:8) We can read the Word of God but it will not strike our hearts unless we are inspired by the Holy Spirit.

This is why it is important to ask for the Holy Spirit’s assistance in listening to Him and searching for the truth as we read the signs of the time.  Before Jesus ascended into heaven, “He ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’”  Docility and attentive listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit is critical for the work of discernment and seeking direction in responding to the call of our Lord.  We must place ourselves under His inspiration.  In our mission, the Holy Spirit plays a critical role.  Hence, we can appreciate why Pentecost is the beginning of the mission of the Church. 

So let us open our hearts to the Holy Spirit following the example of Lydia.  The Holy Spirit does not force His way into our hearts but we must be willing to cooperate with His grace.  We need to make time to pray, to quiet ourselves with the Bible on our side and speak to Him from the depths of our heart, listening to Him, reading the scriptures for inspiration when prompted and keeping the ears of our hearts open.  Indeed, when we begin to listen from our heart, the Lord will plant His thoughts in us and move our hearts to respond to His voice.  When we listen to Him deeply, we will also experience deep joy and peace.  For the Holy Spirit is given to us in our weakness so that we can have the strength to bear the trials of the apostolate.  For as the Lord tells us as well, when the Spirit comes, He will give us a peace that the world cannot give, a joy that is complete and a love that dwells in our hearts, so that remaining in Him, and He living in us, we will be able to transmit His love to others.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


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.

09 May, 2021, 6th Sunday of Easter

May 10, 2021

THE CAPACITY TO LOVE INCLUSIVELY AND TOTALLY

All religions, indeed, everyone in the world knows that love is the key to happiness and unity in the world.  But the love that we give is only confined to our friends at best and, perhaps to some extent, to the poor and suffering.  Even then, love is fundamentally focused on ourselves.  Even for our loved ones, not many are ready to sacrifice everything for them, much less to die for them.  But the Lord in the gospel made it clear, “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”  When love is exclusive, it brings division!

Thus, we are to love not just our friends but strangers and our enemies.  Isn’t that the way the Lord loves?  He did not just love His disciples.  He lived what He taught when He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”  (Mt 5:44-47) Jesus cared for all, the sick, the lepers, the tax-collectors, the prostitutes, and He forgave and prayed for His enemies when He was on the cross.  (Lk 23:34)

Indeed, God’s love for us is inclusive.  Jesus died for us whilst we were still sinners. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”  (Rom 5:6-8) In today’s first reading, Peter also came to realize “that God does not have favorites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.”  Indeed, God loves every one of us regardless of our race and even religion, so long as we fear God and live according to our conscience.

But He wants us all to know His love more personally and deeply through His Son who gave His life for us, so that we come to appreciate the love and mercy of God in Him.  God’s love for us is seen when He “sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.”  For those who believe in His Son, they will receive His Holy Spirit.  Indeed, after the kerygmatic sermon of Peter detailing how “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil”, and how He was put to death and rose from the dead so that “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  (Acts 10:38-43) And we read that “While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners.”

The foundation of Christian love is the prior love of God given to us in Christ Jesus.  Christian love, unlike that of the world, does not originate from the human person but from God Himself.  This is what St John wrote, “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.”  It is our experience of God’s unconditional love and mercy for us that gives us the capacity to imitate Him in loving one another, including our enemies.  Jesus told His disciples “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you is to love one another.”  St John’s letter reiterates this commandment to love. “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”   The proof that we know God and His love is when we love like Him.

However, the origin of love comes from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  When St John wrote, “God is Love”, he is speaking of the Father’s love.   This love is concretely made present in the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.  If Jesus were able to love the way the Father loves us all, it was because Jesus was identified with the Father in love.  As a man on earth, Jesus experienced the unconditional love of His Father, calling Him in the endearing and affectionate term, “Abba, Father.”  Hence, He said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.”   It was His personal experience of His Father’s love and hearing the Father saying to Him twice, at His baptism and at the Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son”, that gave Him the impetus to live out His sonship.

Living out His sonship is simply to manifest the Father’s love in His life.  Jesus was obedient to His Father.  Obedience is often seen as a subservient word, where one is forced to do things against his will.  But obedience for Jesus was not a reluctant obedience.  It was a natural response to the Father’s love because He shared His mind and heart.  He said, “I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”  Keeping the commandments of His Father was proof that He was one with the Father in love and in understanding.  Jesus said, “Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.”  Conversely, when we do not obey His commandments, it shows that we are not of the same mind as Him.  Jesus was truly the Son of God because of the mutual will and knowledge He shared with His Father.  This made it possible for Jesus to claim, “The Father and I are one.”  (Jn 10:30)

Of course, unlike Jesus, we do not share in the divine nature of God; only His will and mind.   For us who are baptized in Christ Jesus, we too are called to live out our adopted sonship in Christ.  Jesus said, “You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants anymore, because a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.”  We are His friends if we share the same mind and heart with our love when it comes to glorifying the Father and sharing His love with our brothers and sisters, which means every human person regardless of race, language or religion.  We can truly claim to be friends of Jesus when we share the intimacy of His love.  Otherwise, we are merely servants carrying out His orders blindly, reluctantly and even resentfully.

How then can we do it?  How do we remain in His love by keeping His commandments unless His love is first poured into our hearts?  St Paul wrote, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  (Rom 5:5) So the beginning of love comes from the Holy Spirit.  Upon hearing the sermon of Peter, the Holy Spirit descended upon Cornelius and his household and friends so that they could experience the love of Jesus in their hearts and be convicted of the truth of what Peter was saying about Jesus.  Without this initial and concrete experience of the Holy Spirit, baptism would just remain a ritual, not a true encounter with God.  When the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, we will hear the Word of God with conviction and receive it as St Paul said, “not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”  (1 Th 2:13) Only through the Holy Spirit, can the Sacraments effectively mediate the grace that the Lord wants to give us – forgiveness of sins through baptism and reconciliation, His wisdom and love through His body and blood in the Eucharist and the other graces for life’s journey.    

The Church is preparing for the Feast of Pentecost in two weeks’ time when we are called to renew and be awakened to the Holy Spirit given to us at baptism.   We are called to prepare ourselves to be docile to the Holy Spirit so that His power and love can be at work in our lives.  When the Holy Spirit is with us, we will share the joy of our Lord and His disciples even when persecuted or faced with trials in our life.  In this way, we will bear much fruit because working in union with Jesus, asking everything in His name, we will bear fruits of joy, peace and love in our lives.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


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.

08 May, 2021, Saturday, 5th Week of Easter

May 8, 2021

DISCERNING HEART


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 16:1-10PS 100:1-3,5JOHN 15:18-21]

Being a Christian is to follow Christ, which means, to take up our cross daily and follow after Him. Jesus told His disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?”  (Mt 16:24-26) This is the message of today’s scripture readings.  As St Paul told the Christians on the way back to Antioch, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) In today’s gospel, Jesus in no uncertain terms warned His disciples, “if they persecuted me, they will persecute you too.”  Indeed, we will face trials, opposition and persecution from within and from without.

From without, we have to contend with the world. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you.”  We have been chosen by Christ to be in His kingdom and Jesus made it clear, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (Jn 18:36) As Christians, we do not belong to this world, not in the sense that creation is not important to us or that we cannot enjoy the blessings of creation.  The world in this sense means the worldly values and individualistic and materialistic trends of society.  This is why the world hates us because we are not one with the worldly values of society, such as living promiscuous lives, advocating a culture of death of the vulnerable and the elderly, waging war and extermination of our enemies, living only for this world and its pleasures, promoting a licentious form of freedom that does not respect the freedom of others.

Second, we expose the evils of this world.  Jesus asked us to be the light and salt of the earth.  (Mt 5:14-16) This calls for denunciation of the sensual and self-centered lifestyle of this generation.  Of course, prophets are not welcome in the world.  Evil and self-centered people do not wish to be told that they are doing things that are destroying the rest of humanity.  When we speak out for justice among nations, for the poor and the marginalized, integrity of life, protection of the family and marriages, safeguarding the innocent and vulnerable, we can expect to be attacked and opposed.  When we live a righteous life, our ethical lifestyle, our attitudes towards work and sexual morality will be a stark reprimand to those whose lifestyle is contrary to ours.  When we live in the light, darkness and evil will be exposed.

Thirdly, we will face opposition because we are associated with Jesus.  This is what the Lord said.  “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too; if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well. But it will be on my account that they will do all this, because they do not know the one who sent me.”  People find Christ a threat to their status quo.  It was so during the time of Jesus, and it is still the case today.  Being identified with Jesus brings opposition.  We are often misunderstood, as if we are taking away peoples’ freedom by asking them to submit to the Word of God and the teachings of Christ.  Sometimes, Christianity is seen as a joy killer and guilt-tripping the hearts of people.  On the contrary, Christ has come to give us life abundantly. (Jn 10:10) He comes to give us true freedom (Jn 8:31f), a joy that is complete, (Jn 15:11) and a peace that the world cannot give.  (Jn 14:27)

From within, we, too, also have to face opposition from our fellow Catholics and Christians as well.  There is disagreement in doctrines, especially moral doctrines, in the observance of the laws of the Church, especially liturgical laws.  There is disagreement on the way we do things, the way we worship, the way the Church is being managed.  We have complaints all the time and dissatisfaction from the community.  Within the Church, there is division in opinions and in operations.  There is also jealousy from others who envy our position and rank in the Church.  Gossip, slander, competition, power-play for honor and glory.  These are the spiritual worldliness that Pope Francis warns us about.

This was the case of St Paul in his apostolic mission as well.  He was facing opposition from within and without.  But what is significant was that Paul had a discerning heart.  He was reflective and docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  He did not insist on his ways but at the same time, he held on to his principles.  With respect to non-essentials and sensitivity to others, he was attentive. 

Firstly, he was struggling with the Jewish Christians when they sought to impose the Jewish ceremonial rituals and laws on the Gentile Converts.  They wanted the Gentile Christians to adopt Judaism over and above faith in Christ.  Salvation, instead of being given by grace, became a merit that could be earned through a meticulous observance of the laws.   The matter became so divisive that it almost divided the Church.  But Paul remained firm on his principle that salvation is through faith in Christ and by the grace of God and not through the observance of the laws.  So when the matter was dealt with by the Council of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem affirming this principle, Paul, in today’s first reading, was willing to compromise by asking Timothy to be circumcised because he had a Greek Father.  Paul was not inconsistent in his principle, as this was already spelt out clearly.  But he compromised because with Timothy circumcised, it would make their apostolic mission easier and more receptive to the Jewish Christians; not that it was necessary but it was expedient.

Secondly, Paul also had to deal with a leadership tussle between him and Barnabas.  In Acts 13:13, the leadership changed from Barnabas to Paul.  This could have caused some unhappiness among the supporters of Barnabas.  Perhaps, this could have caused Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark, to drop out of the missionary trip, or it could have been due to the hardship of the rough terrain, or he could have missed home.  Regardless, because of that, when Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, “Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord.”  (Acts 15:37-41) Again, on hindsight, we see the grace of God at work in this separation because the Word of God was able to spread further with two groups of missionaries, one led by Barnabas with John Mark supporting Peter, and the other, Paul supported by Silas and then Timothy.  Eventually, by God’s grace, Paul was reconciled with Barnabas (cf 1 Cor 9:6) and Mark (2 Tim 4:11).

Then when Paul wanted to enter Asia to spread the Word of God, the Holy Spirit told him not to preach the word in Asia.  “When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas.”  There were obstacles to his plans, but Paul was receptive and did not force his plans on God.  He waited and God gave him another mission to Macedonia.  “One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us’. Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News.”  God works all things for our good when we cooperate with His grace.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


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.

07 May, 2021, Friday, 5th Week of Easter

May 7, 2021

BEARING FRUIT THAT WILL LAST


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 15:22-31PS 57:8-12JOHN 15:12-17 ]

“You did not choose me: no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last.”  As disciples of Christ, chosen by Him, we are commissioned to go out and bear lasting fruits for the Lord.  It is not enough to bear fruits.  Very often many who are engaged in the ministry cannot sustain their programs or their mission; they start well with great enthusiasm, but such excitement and euphoria do not last.  The indication that we are truly working for the Lord is when we bear not just fruits but fruits that will last.  In other words, those whom we reach out to should grow in discipleship, in maturity and in selfless service.

How can we ensure that the fruits we bear will last? Earlier on Jesus spoke of the need to be in union with Him.  This is the fundamental foundation of our mission.  “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”  (Jn 15:4f) But it is not enough to be in union with Jesus, we must also be in union with the rest of the branches of the vine.   This is why the gospel begins and ends with the command of Jesus that His disciples must love one another. “This is my commandment: love one another.”

However, the Lord does not simply command us to love one another.  Because left to ourselves, we all have different definitions of love.  Today, the word “love” is used in many different ways.  Everyone claims to love, but oftentimes, our love is driven by love of self, more so than a genuine love for the other.  In other words, our love is not always unconditional, free and selfless.  We love with the desire to possess and control, so much so that at the end of the day, what we gain from the relationship becomes more important than making those we love feel loved and accepted for who they are.  Human love unfortunately is very possessive.  Because it is possessive, it tends to be exclusive. This is why the Lord added to the command to love one another, “as I have loved you.”

How then does Jesus love us?  He loves us to the extent of laying down His life for us.  He said, “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”  Jesus showed us that true love is when we give our life not just for our friends but even for our enemies.  St Paul wrote, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”  (Rom 5:6-8) Jesus made it clear to His disciples that He “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28) Love calls for sacrifice and self-denial for the good of those we love.

Secondly, the Lord regards us as His friends.  Jesus said, “You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants anymore, because a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.”  As friends, the Lord reveals to us all the secrets to life.  Friends do not hide any secrets from each other because of mutual trust and mutual revelation. There is disclosure of each other’s feelings and thoughts. Friends might not always agree with each other but they have the same heart, the same love for each other.  It is this mutuality of heart that keeps the friendship going even when there is disagreement in what must be done and how it should be carried out.  In genuine friendship, there is no barrier.

Thirdly, the Lord wants us to be fruitful. True friends seek the good and promotion of their friends’ interests.  Hence, the Lord said, “You did not choose me: no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you is to love one another.”  Jesus desires that we grow and bear fruits in life.  A true friend does not seek to dominate us or prevent us from growing in love, in our career, in our other relationships with others, etc.  Indeed, the joy of a true friend is to see that our friends succeed and even better us in life.  This was how John the Baptist saw his friendship with our Lord.  He said, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason, my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (Jn 3:29f) A true friend helps us to attain our potentials in life.  That is why a true friend is always positive, affirming when we do well, and forgiving and encouraging when we fail.

These were the same principles of love that the early Christians sought to live out in their lives when they met with challenges in their communion with each other.  Whilst all the disciples loved Jesus and had the common desire to bear fruits for the Lord’s vineyard by bringing more disciples to the Faith, yet between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians there were tensions.  The Jewish Christians, still steeped in their Jewish tradition and customs, found it difficult to sustain fellowship with the Gentile Christians, especially at meals because their practices were offensive to their traditions, as in the case of consumption of food sacrificed to idols; consumption of meat from animals killed by strangling and without first draining the blood.   Of course, there were other practices as well, of which the most important was the question of circumcision.  So when some Jewish Christians in their desire to keep the communities together insisted that the Jewish traditions be observed by the Gentile Christians, there was strong reaction.

What is edifying was that they did not fight among themselves and caused a schism or division.  Instead, in charity and in unity, they asked that the issues be referred to the apostles and elders, the mother church in Jerusalem for mediation.  They were willing to listen to each other simply because all of them had the same love for Christ, the same heart for each other, even when they were not of the same mind.  It was their love for each other that prevented the communities from going their separate ways.

Significant too, was the affectional and fraternal tone of the leaders in Jerusalem when addressing them.  After a long discussion, they sent out a letter addressing them as brothers.  “The apostles and elders, your brothers, send greetings to the brothers of pagan birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia.”  Indeed, it showed the humility and servant leadership of the apostles in Jerusalem.  They did not act in an authoritarian manner but as brothers.  Yet, they did not shy from the issues.  They reiterated the fact without accusing them of acting wrongly, but rather without their authority. “We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority from us.”   What is even more instructive is that they did not just send a letter, but they sent their personal representative to explain the details, the reasons and the background; a letter would not have achieved the same effect.   They wrote, “We are sending you Judas and Silas, who will confirm by word of mouth what we have written in this letter.”

Finally, their love for each other is seen in the way they were willing to compromise and accommodate each other’s sensitivities.  On one hand, they did not wish to impose the entire Jewish ceremonial laws and rituals on the Gentile Christians.  On the other hand, to protect fellowship especially at meals, certain considerations had to be given to the Jewish Christians.  Hence, the compromise was this, “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols; from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.”  True love requires sacrifice even if it does not require us to die for each other.  As St Paul wrote, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  (1 Cor 13:4-7)


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


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.

06 May, 2021, Thursday, 5th Week of Easter

May 6, 2021

A JOY THAT IS COMPLETE


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 15:7-21PS 96:1-310JOHN 15:9-11 ]

Are you seeking true joy in life?  In spite of the fact that you are doing relatively well, holding a good job, a successful business, a loving family, are you truly happy?  Is there something missing in your life just like the woman in Samaria, seeking living water?  If not, then Lord Jesus says, “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.”  To find complete joy, our joy must be of the same joy as Jesus’.  To find joy we must first find Jesus.  Only Jesus can complete our joy.

What then was the joy of Jesus?  It was the joy of basking in the love of the Father.  Jesus’ great joy was to be one with the Father in everything.  Jesus’ joy was to be the Father’s beloved Son.  Indeed, the strength of Jesus’ ministry came from His constant communion with the Father in prayer and in doing His ministry. Knowing that He and the Father were one gave Him the confidence and trust in aligning His will to that of the Father.  His food, as Jesus tells us, was to do the Father’s will.  Even though doing His will was extremely difficult, Jesus commended everything into His hands.  His greatest desire was to give glory to His Father.  “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.”  (Jn 17:4)

The second secret of Jesus’ joy was to pour out the joy that He received from His Father to us.  This is what the Lord Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” He reached out to us in joy.  Jesus revealed to us His Father’s love.  He was sent by the Father to show us His Father’s love and mercy.  He did this not just in words but in concrete actions by reaching out to those who were dying, sick and disheartened.  He came for the poor and the lost as the Good Shepherd.  Most of all, He laid down His life for us and died for us whilst we were still sinners.  He came to forgive us for our ignorance.  By His death, He came to give us His Spirit, the love and joy of God.  The great joy of Jesus was that we share in His Father’s joy. “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  (Jn 17:26) True joy cannot be contained within oneself.  Indeed, creation is the consequence of the abundant joy and love in the heart of the Trinity.  From this inner love of God, creation flows from God.  From the heart of the Father, came Jesus to save us from damnation.

To remain in His love is the way to remain in God’s love.  We too must have the heart of God in loving, first by allowing Him to love us; and then by pouring out the love we have received to others.  This is what the Lord meant when He said, “Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”   There is ultimately only one commandment; it is the commandment of love.  When we love like God, even to the extent of giving up one’s life for others, then we remain in the love of God and our joy would be complete.

That was how the early Christians loved each other and allowed this love to grow in leaps and bounds.  In the first reading, we read of the struggles of the early Christians with the conversion of the Gentiles to Christianity.  The Jewish Christians had to live and work side by side with the Gentile Christians.  But their Jewish customs forbade them to mix with the Gentiles, especially when it came to eating with them.  They were still observing the Jewish laws of circumcision and the Mosaic laws.  At the same time Paul and Barnabas, through their preaching and missionary work, brought many Gentiles to acknowledge Christ as their Lord and Saviour.  So there was a dilemma in resolving this tension of being Jews and Christians, and yet accepting the Gentile Christians as their equal to the covenant promises.

What prevailed finally was the love of Christ in them.  Instead of being narrow-minded and protective of each community’s interests, they saw the bigger picture of reaching out to all nations in the proclamation of the gospel.  James cited from the prophet Amos, “After that I shall return and rebuild the fallen House of David; I shall rebuild it from its ruins and restore it. Then the rest of mankind, all the pagans who are consecrated to my name, will look for the Lord.”  The gospel is not just for Jews.  Those desiring to be Christian need not adopt Judaism and its customs.  We are all chosen people of the New Covenant in Christ.

Peter helped them to broaden their perspective on what salvation entailed, namely through faith in Christ and grace alone.  St Peter said, “God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us.  God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith.  It would only provoke God’s anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support?  Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.”  Clearly, salvation is not through obedience to the Mosaic laws but faith in Christ.  Anyone who is sincere and have faith in Jesus is saved.

This love of Christ is also demonstrated in dialogue through listening.  Love is always attentive to the pains and needs of all.  Love does not impose one’s vision and perception on others.  Love is always reaching out and being receptive of others.  So when they met, they were not shouting down each other’s assessment of the problem.  Rather, they met as brothers trying to find the best solution for everyone.  So they began by listening to the apostles and the elders.   Most of all, they were ready to listen to the testimonies of Paul and Barnabas on the work they were doing, “describing the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans.”   This is what is required of us in living out the love of God, especially when it comes to building community – the readiness to listen to each other and to think of each other’s interests and not just one’s own.  Humility and charity wins the day.

As a consequence, they came to a compromise.  The judgement was not just a rule declaring that the Gentiles need not observe the Mosaic laws.  Whilst in principle it was the case, in practice it would not be a loving thing to do because for 2000 years, the Jews upheld the law of Moses tenaciously.  To ask them to accommodate the pagans would take time and could not be done immediately.  Hence, it was ruled that out of charity and consideration to the Jews, the Gentile Christians should observe the four basic rules.  James said, “I rule, then, that instead of making things more difficult for pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.”  So in order not to make things difficult for both the Jews and the Gentiles, only the most sensitive rules were kept.

Indeed, for us today, two of these rules are still relevant to us in seeking perfect joy.  If we want to remain in Jesus, it is more than just worshipping Him and praising Him; we must also obey His commandments, which is love.  We must constantly be alerted to the fact that we must abstain from anything that is polluted by idols, that is, to be motivated by the worship of self, egotism and self-centeredness when we do things for ourselves or for others.  When it is about fulfilling our ambition rather than selfless and humble service; when it is a question of indulging in pleasures rather than in sharing our joys with others, then we are polluted by idols.   We too must keep away from fornication or sexual immorality in the broadest terms.  Sexual immorality will lead us to decadence.  This is especially so in today’s world where a promiscuous life is promoted by the world. This promotion of lust instead of authentic love, which involves true sacrifice of oneself for the other, will only lead to frustration in love, emptying us of true joy because of the lack of stability in a selfless and giving relationship.   Lust alone gives us false joy.  Perfect joy comes from self-effacement in love and purity of heart.  This is how we love in Christ.  Perfect joy comes when we love like Him and in Him.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


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.

05 May, 2021, Wednesday, 5th Week of Easter

May 5, 2021

PRUNING REQUIRES COMMUNION


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 15:1-6PS 122:1-5JOHN 15:1-8]

In the first reading, we read of the tensions in the primitive Church arising from converts from the Gentile community.  The first Christians were Jews converted from Judaism.  But as the apostles made it clear, Christianity is not a new religion per se but it is the fulfillment of Judaism.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  Jesus had no intention to start a new religion.  But He wanted to perfect the Law and the Prophets by bringing Judaism to its completion.  It is for this reason too that when the apostles, including St Paul, preached, it was first directed to the Jews and then only to the Gentiles.  The Jews remained the privileged People of God.  That promise had not been revoked even when they opposed the Christians as St Paul said, “As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”  (Rom 11:28f)

Nevertheless, we can appreciate the tensions in the early Church between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians.  The Jews had all the while seen themselves as the choicest vineyard of the Lord.  They were the Chosen People of God.  They saw the Law of Moses and the Prophets as paramount in being faithful to God.  But they also accepted many specific laws extrapolated from those principles meted out by Moses, which they called Oral Law or Scribal Laws.  They observed the ceremonials and rituals meticulously so that they could be considered God’s people.  This was particularly true in the case of “those members of the Pharisees’ party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised and instructed to keep the Law of Moses.”  Again, we can feel with the Jewish Christians.  By becoming Christians, they had already sacrificed much.  Many of them were ostracized from their community.  The former Pharisees lost their dignity and place in Judaism.  They were never comfortable eating with the Gentiles whom they felt were unclean until they adopted the Jewish customs and rituals.

Hence, for them to work together and live as a community, the Jewish Christians felt that it was necessary that they first be proselytes to the Jewish Faith and then over and above the Jewish Faith, accept Christ.  But this would contradict the belief that Christ saves us by grace and not by observance of the Laws.  If the Laws could save them, then accepting Christ would be redundant.  Precisely, it is only through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross that we are reconciled by grace to God.  Indeed, in the gospel, Jesus reiterated this fact when He implied that He was the new Vine and the Christians were His branches.  The Old Vine, Israel, who rejected God no longer was valid.  Anyone who is incorporated into the New Vine, Jesus Himself, will find salvation and bear much fruit.  As a consequence, when “some men came down from Judaea and taught the brothers, ‘Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved’. This led to disagreement.”

Yet, we must understand that God allowed all these tensions and disagreement between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians as the Lord wanted to prune them further.   This was what the Lord said, “Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.”  Christ wanted to prune the Christian community further so that they could grow and bring more into the Faith and find salvation in Him.  But this called for greater sensitivity between the two different cultural communities.  It called for dialogue and compromise so that both could adjust themselves to each other, out of love and respect, even if such customs could give a wrong impression on the salvific work of our Lord.

Dialogue, therefore, is the only way forward to come to a better understanding of each other, to what they were saying and why they were observing certain customs.  A community, especially when it is a diverse one, will be fragmented as we see in so many religious, racial and social conflicts in the world because the sensitivities of each other’s culture are not treated with respect.   So it was certainly in the right spirit that “it was arranged that Paul and Barnabas and others of the church should go up to Jerusalem and discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.”  When the community cannot come to an agreement among themselves, it is important that we refer to a higher authority to mediate and settle the differences.

Hence, we see the importance of being one with the true vine.  This is what the Lord insisted.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.”  To remain with the Vine of course means to be in union with our Lord.  It means to let His Word live in us, that we share His mind and His heart.  This was what the Lord said to the disciples, “You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.”  We dwell in God when we allow His word to live in us.  “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.”  (Jn 14:23f)

But being with the true Vine means also to be one with the community.   We must be in union with the branches as well because fruits can be produced only when we are all connected to the Vine and working together to produce the fruits.   This explains why Paul and Barnabas were sent by the Christian community to Jerusalem for consultation and directions.  When members of an organization or community become arrogant and proud, and alienate themselves from the larger community, they will end up being another sect due to the lack of guidance and most of all, because they have forgotten their roots and are without foundation for their growth.

Thank God, they did not take that route, otherwise the Lord’s warning would have been fulfilled for the primitive Church. “Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt.’  When we cut ourselves from the apostolic Church, we end up deviating from the central beliefs of the Christian Faith.  This explains why fidelity to the apostolic tradition is one of the conditions for orthodoxy.   For us Catholics, because the bishops are the successors of the apostles and the Pope the Vicar of Christ, we are called to be in communion with the teaching of the Church, which we call the Magisterium.  This is to safeguard the orthodoxy of faith and fidelity to the deposit of faith passed down to the Church for generations.

Indeed, because they were ready to dialogue and be in communion and willing to make compromises, the Church could grow from strength to strength.  We read that “as they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they told how the pagans had been converted, and this news was received with the greatest satisfaction by the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and by the apostles and elders, and gave an account of all that God had done with them.”  Accountability and testimony of the fruits of their mission indicated that the Lord was working in and through them.  Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.”  The fruits that they bore were not just more converts to the faith but most of all, it demonstrated the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, especially of joy, love, peace.  (cf Gal 5:22-26)


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


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.

04 May, 2021, Tuesday, 5th Week of Easter

May 4, 2021

STRENGTHENING OUR CATHOLIC COMMUNITIES IN THEIR TRIALS


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 14:19-28PS 145:10-13,21JOHN 14:27-31 ]

In the first reading, we read of the conclusion of the First Missionary Journey of St Paul.  They went to Cyprus and Antioch in Pisidia.  After winning some converts, they were expelled by the Jews who influenced the leaders of the city to persecute them.  (Acts 13:48-52) They fled to Iconium where the same situation happened.  After some became believers, the Jews again incited the people to go against them and they had to flee to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia.  Again, we read “some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium, and turned the people against the apostles. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the town, thinking he was dead.”

In spite of the persecutions, the spirit of the apostles remained high.  Paul took the stoning calmly.  When the stones were hurled at him, he would have remembered how Stephen bravely and calmly endured the stones thrown at him.  But Paul was not discouraged nor vindictive.  He won a silent victory over evil because he got up almost immediately to go back to the city.  It was almost an instantaneous recovery.  Later when he wrote to the Corinthians, he recounted that we might be “persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”  (2 Cor 4:9f) Indeed, Paul could say to the Galatians, “From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.”  (Gal 6:17)

Secondly, they remained focused on their mission all the time they were under persecution.  They did not complain to God or were cowed by the opposition they faced.  They remained defiant and persevering in proclaiming the Good News.  Instead of feeling discouraged, they remained positive about the spread of the gospel.  Instead of withdrawing because of persecution, “they went back through Lystra and Iconium to Antioch. They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’”  This is such an irony for we would think that they would be needing consolation from the rest.  On the contrary, they continued to strengthen those that were just converted, giving them new inspiration and courage to persevere in their faith especially when facing opposition and hardships.

Thirdly, they used their suffering to strengthen the Christian Communities.  The truth is that the disciples were not immune to persecution and physical suffering.  Through the persecutions that Paul went through, he had the authority to strengthen the disciples’ faith and endurance in the face of trials.  He wanted to teach them not to give in to the pressure of the Judaizers’ attempt to turn them away from salvation by faith in Christ and to turn to the law instead.  Just as the Lord had to “suffer these things and then enter into his glory” (Lk 24:26), so too the followers of our Lord “‘have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’”  This remains true today. Entry into the Kingdom of God demands much sacrifices and suffering.  There cannot be a resurrection without death or a crown without the cross.

But, it is not enough to know that to be a Christian entails taking up our cross and following after Jesus.  We must carry the cross with joy and confidence.  This is where we need to turn to the gospel to find strength to carry the cross positively.  It is significant that the gospel began with Jesus assuring His disciples of peace.  He said to them, “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”  Jesus came to give His disciples peace.  But it must be made clear that it is not the peace of the world that He is giving us. 

The peace of Christ does not denote the absence of wars, suffering and persecution.  It is not the ceasing of hostilities from our enemy.  The world’s idea of peace is just the opposite of Jesus’ peace.   The world understands peace as a situation when all enemies are conquered.  It is an emotional peace.   Indeed, the Pax Romana during the time of the Romans was a peace based on the Roman’s subjugating all the other states.  It was an apparent peace.   On the contrary, a Christian is called to find peace in the storms of life.  The peace of a Christian is being calm and confident in the trials and challenges of life, because he is in union with the will of God.  It is a peace that comes from a generous heart and a clear conscience.  His peace is grounded in Christ and in the gospel, not on the external situation or the circumstances.   It is a peace born of a living personal relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

This precisely was the peace of Christ, knowing that He was doing the Father’s will.   It was His union with the Father that gave Him the confidence to face the trials ahead of Him. The Lord said, “I have told you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe. I shall not talk with you any longer, because the prince of this world is on his way. He has no power over me, but the world must be brought to know that I love the Father and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.” When we know the Father and when we do everything in union with the Father, we do it with confidence. This is why this peace is not like that of the world.  It is still felt within us when there are troubles outside. This is a peace that exists within the storms of life.  So long as we know that we are doing God’s will, even in the face of opposition, we are at peace.  

Peace is ours when we are certain of our end.  Jesus assured them that He was going to the Father and that filled them with joy because they too would follow Him.  He said, “You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return. If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”  Indeed, Stephen could die peacefully because he could also commend his life into the hands of our Lord, as he said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59) When there is fear, it is because we are focused on ourselves and are uncertain of our future.  But knowing that our final destiny will be with the Father, will give us peace in our suffering.

Peace, in the final analysis, is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  Peace is a word rich in meaning.  It sums up the blessings of the messianic age.  When the Lord appeared to the apostles after the resurrection, He said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  When He said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  (Jn 20:23)   This peace is the consequence of reconciliation through the forgiveness of our sins.  Peace is when we have a clear conscience before God and man.

With such words of encouragement, the disciples continued to strengthen the communities under persecution.  They helped them to look beyond their suffering.  To ensure that they would always have shepherds to lead them, they appointed a body of elders in each church.  They made provisions for them.  “In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.”  Every community needs to have strong and faith-filled leaders to show them the way and to remind them to be faithful to Christ.  So they appointed the elders to instruct them in their faith so that their knowledge of Christ could grow in maturity.

Finally, they demonstrated that prayer is the only way to secure divine faithfulness.  They commended the leaders and their communities to the grace of God.  As leaders we cannot be with those communities we started all the time.  That is why we need to surrender them to the Lord and leave them to manage their own affairs.  Jesus will somehow guide them, and send the Holy Spirit to guide and protect them.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


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.

03 May, 2021, Saints Philip and James, Apostles

May 3, 2021

SEEING GOD THROUGH INCARNATIONAL MEANS


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 Cor 15:1-8Ps 1:2-5Jn 14: 6-14]

In the gospel, Philip expressed his desire to see the Father.   Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.”  Like Philip, people are looking for God, especially in the world today because of secularism and materialism.  Without God, life has no foundation and no purpose.  Without God, the soul remains incomplete because nothing in this world, not even all the pleasures can fulfill the thirst of his spirit.  Indeed, we all know that we are more than sensual beings even though many of us strive for money and wealth.  We have aesthetic and affective needs as well because the spirit cannot be satisfied by the material things of this world.  In truth, those who have plenty of food and pleasures no longer find them a great joy because such pleasures have their saturation point.

So why does the world not believe in God or in the spiritual?  Because they want to see before they believe.  In this empirical and scientific world, people need to see to believe.  They want proofs and tangible evidence.  But we cannot see God directly or else we die.  Moses asked to see God.  But God said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” (Ex 33:20) Indeed, beatific vision is only at the end of this life when we will see God face to face.   St John wrote, “What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.”  (1Jn 3:2)

Even St Paul did not see the Risen Christ directly.  What he saw was a bright light at noon and heard the voice of the Risen Lord.  Fourteen years later, he wrote, “whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows – was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.”  (2 Cor 12:3f) Whatever was his experience of God in Christ, it was indescribable.  He was caught up in the heavens.  But this vision was given to him only because God had a mission for him so that he could find the strength to endure the persecution ahead of him. God instructed the reluctant and apprehensive Ananias to restore his sight because, “he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  (Acts 9:15f) Yet the real measure of seeing a vision is not the experience itself but how that claim is seen in the person’s life, by his courage to suffer selflessly for God and his fellowmen, by his humility and faith.   St Paul wrote, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”  (2 Cor 4:17f)

Clearly to see God does not mean that we see Him directly but indirectly through the effects of His presence.  This was what the Lord told Moses.  He can see His shadow, that is His goodness and mercy.  “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’ and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”  (Ex 33:19,21-23) 

In other words, for most people, they have all the evidence of God in nature.  They can see God through His works of wonder and mercy and in nature.  St Paul wrote, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse!”  (Rom 1:18-20) Isn’t that what the responsorial psalm declares as well?  “The heavens proclaim the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands.”

However, in Jesus, we see God in person, not just in His works but in His words.   Jesus is the embodiment of God.  Jesus said to Thomas: “I am the Way, the truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you know me, you know my Father too.  From this moment you know him and have seen him.”  Through Jesus, we not only see but hear the Word of God speaking to us in person.  When the Jews said to Jesus, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”  (Jn 8:25-26) He reiterated this later when He said, “I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak.  What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”  (Jn 12:49f)

Most of all, in Jesus, we see the works of God seen in His works of mercy and compassion.  Jesus told the Jews, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  (Jn 10:3237-39) Above all, it is in His passion, death and resurrection that God reveals His unconditional love and mercy. Jesus told Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  (Jn 3:13-16) This is affirmed by Paul when he handed on the tradition, “Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day.”  Hence, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Jesus is the sacrament of God.  A sacrament is a sign that makes real what it signifies. Today, we are called to be the sacrament of Jesus.  The Church is the sacrament of Jesus.  This is because the Lord works in and through His Church.  Jesus lives in us and we in Him because He is the vine and we are the branches.  (Jn 15:1-5).  He promised that “whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father.  Whatever you ask for in my name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  He reiterated this again later. “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  (Jn 15:5,7)   On this basis, we have seven sacraments and sacramentals based on the incarnational approach to God.  Through the Word and the liturgy, not in some form of esoteric, transcendental meditation, using the mind and breath but words, actions and sacramental, we are led into the presence of Jesus.

But the litmus test that we have encountered the Lord in the liturgy and in worship is in works of mercy and compassion.  St James wrote, “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  (Jms 1:26f) Again, he said, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?  So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.   Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder.  (Jms 2:14,17-19) As we celebrate the feasts of Philip and James, both of them lead us to see God through a personal relationship with Him and through the works of mercy and charity we do for our brothers and sisters.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.


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.

Bible

If you love, you will keep my commandments.