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04 February 2023 Saturday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time

February 4, 2023

SHARING IN CHRIST’S PRIESTHOOD

The letter to the Hebrews focuses on the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the High Priest of our Faith.  As the perfect High Priest, He offered the perfect sacrifice of Himself for the atonement of our sins and opened the way for us to approach God directly through Him.  Reconciled to God, we are now asked to make the priesthood of Christ our own.  This is what the author of Hebrews is suggesting to us: the ways we can participate in Christ’s sacrifice.

The first way to exercise our priesthood is to offer the sacrifice of praise.  “Through Christ, let us offer God an unending sacrifice of praise, a verbal sacrifice that is offered every time we acknowledge his name.”  In other words, we are called to praise God, acknowledging Him as our Lord and God.  Praise is often a response to someone who has done something well or have done us a favour.  When that happens, we offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.   But a sacrifice of praise is given to God even when He does not act according to our will.  This means that we are called to praise God not just in good times but in bad times.  We sometimes cannot see where God is leading us, but we are called to make an act of sacrifice by trusting Him.  This is true especially when our prayers for success in our studies or a project, healing of a terminal illness, or a job that we are keen to get, or a relationship that we want to develop are not answered.  This is where we are called to be like Job who lost his property and the life of his children and yet he praised God.  He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  (Job 1:21) King David also prayed, “It is good for me that I was humbled, so that I might learn your statutes.”  (Ps 119:71) Can we continue to praise God even when we suffer in life?  This is what it means to join Jesus in the sacrifice of praise.  We must continue to honour His name and praise God for His divine wisdom.

The second way to share in Christ’s priesthood is to “keep doing good works” and sharing our resources, “for these are sacrifices that please God.”  Again, doing good works and sharing our talents, wealth and especially time require sacrifice.  Sometimes, it involves personal sacrifices such as our time, energy and efforts.   This is particularly true when doing good works demands more than just doing something for people, like giving money to charity or even helping the poor and those in need, but making time to listen to people, to empathize with them and to show our compassion for them in their illnesses, failures, broken relationships, bereavement, etc.

At times, it calls us to go beyond our duty.  We are called to help even when we are tired and deserve a reasonable rest.  This was the case of Jesus and the disciples.  We read that “the apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat.  So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.”  That is why Jesus was not simply a shepherd but a priest who sacrificed Himself, His rest and His time to be with the people.  He took pity on them.   They were hungry for the Word of God and for God.  In such a situation, we are called to sacrifice our own rest and convenience, to answer the needs of others.  We cannot turn away such people who are desperate to find God.  A true shepherd and priest will make himself available to his people.

The first two forms of sacrifices demand much from us.  Certainly, it is not easy to offer a sacrifice of praise when things do not go our way, or to continue to do good especially when we are tired.  Many of us feel tired and burdened carrying our own cross in daily life, besides the crosses of others.  That is why bishops and priests are tired looking after the parishioners because of the many demands made on them.  Parents are tired having to perform well in their jobs whilst looking after their young children or wayward adolescents or elderly parents.  Yet, this is the concrete way of sharing in Christ’s priesthood because the Lord says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”  (Lk 9:23f)

But sharing in Christ’s priesthood does not stop here.  It goes further by rendering obedience to our leaders.  The author wrote, “Obey your leaders and do as they tell you; make this a joy for them to do, and not a grief – you yourselves would be the losers.”  Obedience is an even greater sacrifice than doing good and giving ourselves to others.  Samuel said to Saul who was disobedient to the Lord. “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is no less a sin than divination, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”  (1 Sm 15:22f)

Many of us are not obedient to our leaders.  We continue the sin of Adam in us, the sin of pride manifested in rebellion.  There is a deep resentment against authority.  We always feel that we know better and we are right, and authority is wrong.  By so doing, we replace the authority above with our own authority.  We set ourselves as the authority instead and supplant the appointed leaders.  The irony is that whilst we do not accept authority above us, we demand our subordinates to submit to our authority!  This is so hypocritical because we are practising double standards.  If we cannot accept authority, we have lost the authority to command obedience from our subordinates.  This was the cause of the division in the Christian Church.  The moment the Protestants rejected the authority of the Pope and set up their own authority, they lost their authority to claim authority over others.  Thus, the Christian church today is divided into many denominations because all are claiming to be the right authority.

That is why those who desire to command must first obey!  Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will unto death.  His whole life was to do the will of God.  Many times in the gospel, Jesus made it clear that He had come not to do His will but the will of His Father. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”  (Jn 4:34) In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord said, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” (Lk 22:42) And on the cross, He said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:46) Indeed, unless we follow Jesus in submitting to the Father’s will as expressed in legitimate authority, leaders appointed by God, we have lost our moral authority to demand that others obey us.

Of course, those in authority must be clear that they are not working for their own vested interests.  They are accountable to God, as the author warns us “because they must give an account of the way they look after your souls.”  Every leader is answerable not just to those in charge of him but ultimately to God.  Leaders must be clear that they are not doing things simply to assert their authority, to protect their position and power, for their security and glory, for their comfort and ego.  Unless a leader is a true shepherd who sacrifices his interests and his convenience, his wealth and time for others, he does not deserve respect.  A leader must be like Jesus the Good Shepherd who puts the needs of His people before His own and even that of His apostles.  So before a leader condemns those who do not follow him, he also must search himself, whether he is working for them, their good, or for himself.

Only in this way can we become like Jesus the Great Shepherd of the sheep and also our High Priest.  In other words, we must become servant leaders, shepherds who are also priests, offering our lives as a ransom for many, to serve and not to be served.  Let this be our prayer as well.  “I pray that the God of peace, who brought our Lord Jesus back from the dead to become the great Shepherd of the sheep by the blood that sealed an eternal covenant, may make you ready to do his will in any kind of good action; and turn us all into whatever is acceptable to himself through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.”  In all that we do, let us seek to do His will and not ours, doing good and making ourselves acceptable to God by glorifying Him in all that we say and do.


Written by His Eminence, Cardinal William SC 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 February 2023 Friday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time

February 3, 2023

MAKING DECISIONS UNDER PRESSURE

As leaders particularly, we are often pressured to take a position, make a statement or execute a decision on matters pertaining to our organization.  Some decisions are difficult because often they have to be made quickly and decisively.  When time is not on our side and there is coercion all round, it is difficult for leaders to remain cool, detached and sober in their decision-making. This was the case for King Herod in today’s gospel. Even as individuals, making a conscientious decision is fraught with struggles and dilemma, especially when it involves a moral issue.  We do not know whether we should report to the authorities or just pretend that we are not aware.  Yet our conscience strikes us and we feel uneasy both ways.  To blow the whistle might cause us our livelihood.  Not to do so means that we are allowing evil and injustice to triumph.

What are the pressures that impact us when making decisions?  Firstly, pressure can come from morality.  When a decision concerns a question of justice and right and propriety, we feel pressured to take a stand.  Such issues could include human rights, right relationships towards our fellowmen, the dignity of life from birth to death.  Herod was faced with the moral issue of taking his brother, Philip’s wife.  John the Baptist reprimanded him, saying, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herod knew it was morally not the right thing to do but he succumbed under temptation. So moral pressure would affect the way we make a decision.  Our conscience will prick us and unsettle us.

Secondly, pressure can come from the dimension of faith.  This was particularly so for Herod, because in his conscience he knew that John the Baptist was speaking the truth which comes from God.  “Herod was afraid of John, knowing him to be a good and holy man, and gave him his protection.  When he had heard him speak he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.”  Herod knew that he was disobeying the commandments of the Lord.  Indeed, many of us in truth know the right thing to do but we lack the will and we lack courage to do the right thing.  We postpone, hoping that the situation will pass us by.  We do not want to confront the pain either in ceasing the wrongs we are doing or in making decisions that will affect our interests.  Yet, in making judgment, whether we like it or not, our faith will determine the values we have and the way we look at moral issues.   This explains why some cannot accept our interpretation of moral laws, whether with regard to abortion, euthanasia, human embryos, same sex union, divorce, etc. when they are grounded on nature enlightened by faith.

Thirdly, pressure can come from politics and power.  At times, we succumb to pressure from political powers, fearing we could be discriminated or penalized.  This political pressure need not necessarily come from the political authorities but from the common good of the people.  As a minority in a secular country, we need to respect that the laws formulated must express the will of the people.  Laws enacted must be wise, just and for the good of all.  It does not favour one religion over another, but they are for the promotion of justice and equality.  So in making decisions, a leader must also consider the larger dimension of society as a whole, and not just from his limited responsibility to his organization, since we are inter-dependent and inter-connected.  In the case of Herod, he was motivated by the wrong use of political powers. He was more concerned about what his officials would think of him if he did not keep his word to his daughter.  “The girl hurried straight back to the king and made her request, ‘I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head, here and now on a dish.’  The king was deeply distressed but, thinking of the oaths that he had sworn and of his guests, he was reluctant to break his word to her.”  Going against his conscience, although there was no necessity to fulfil an immoral wish of his daughter, he agreed to do the wrong thing to show off his power,.

Fourthly, another source of pressure comes from society.  Today with mass digital technology, internet and social media, news, especially fake and distorted news, spread quickly.  Pressure is built up whether a leader speaks or not.  If he keeps silent, he would be accused of cowardice and not protecting the members of the organization or the people that he serves. If he does speak, those who disagree with him will react strongly, not just expressing disagreement but even hate and insults.  Either way, the leader is being pressured.  Today, people use social media to influence the minds and hearts of others and win them over.   With relativism, the truth is hardly heard, but only the popular voice which is spread through half-truths and lies.  People champion a cause not for the good of others but to protect their vested interests, which are sometimes at variance with the good of society.  Herod too wanted to save his pride and show off his generosity and power, but he was pressured to make an offer he could not fulfil.  In his conceitedness, he promised Herodias’ daughter, “‘Ask me anything you like and I will give it you.’  And he swore her an oath, ‘I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.’”

Fifthly, pressure often comes from our loved ones.  This is perhaps the most difficult to resist because we love them and are afraid to lose their love or we have no heart to say “no” to their request.  Again, this was the case of Herod.  He was pressurized from all corners.  He was forced to behead John the Baptist against his wish, because Herodias, who was humiliated by him, was vindictive towards him.  She wanted to silence John the Baptist completely so that she would no longer have to be reminded of her sin and guilt and be shamed publicly by him.  For a long time, Herod was passive.  To appease Herodias, he had “John arrested, and had him chained up in prison…”  But that was not enough to pacify her.  She wanted nothing but the head of John the Baptist, which she eventually got by manipulating and putting pressure on her daughter to ask for his head after she performed a beautiful dance before Herod.

The truth is that when we do not decide rightly, justly and courageously, our reticence, our mistakes and our cowardice will come back to haunt us for failing in our responsibility.   This was how Herod felt.  It was a decision that he deeply regretted when he made the offer to Herodias’ daughter which led to the execution of John the Baptist.  So much so, he lived in constant guilt throughout his life, never able to forgive himself for killing a man of God whom he knew so well.  This was the reason why he was haunted by nightmares about John the Baptist coming back to life.  Indeed, “King Herod had heard about Jesus, since by now his name was well-known.  Some were saying, ‘John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’  Others said, ‘He is Elijah;’ others again, ‘he is a prophet, like the prophets we used to have.’  But when Herod heard this he said, ‘It is John whose head I cut off; he has risen from the dead.’”  The price of being pressured into silence, or speaking or acting foolishly will cause us greater distress, loss of credibility, and result in more harm to those people under our charge.

In the first reading, Christians were told to be calm in the face of persecution.  As Christians we must hold on to our faith in good times and in bad times.  We must abide by our Christian principles regardless of the outcome.  This is what the author of Hebrews asked of us.  He reminded us, “Jesus Christ is the same as he was yesterday and as he will be for ever.”  Instead of succumbing to external pressures we must respond with personal conviction from the values of the gospel.  Some of these fundamental principles would include, love for our brothers and sisters, including strangers, “for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”  Whatever we do must be done out of pure love for all regardless of who they are.  Secondly, we must empathize with those who are suffering.  As in the case of the early Christians, they were told to “keep in mind those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; and those who are being badly treated, since you too are in the one body.”  Thirdly, we must protect marriage and family life because this is critical to the survival of society.  “Marriage is to be honoured by all, and marriages are to be kept undefiled, because fornicators and adulterers will come under God’s judgement.”

In the final analysis, we are called to put our faith in God’s providence and love.  The psalmist assures us that God is our light and strength.  “The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom shall I shrink? Though an army encamp against me my heart would not fear. Though war break out against me even then would I trust. For there he keeps me safe in his tent in the day of evil. He hides me in the shelter of his tent, on a rock he sets me safe.”  Let us surrender our lives to Him knowing that He will look after us. “Put greed out of your lives and be content with whatever you have; God himself has said: I will not fail you or desert you, and so we can say with confidence: With the Lord to help me, I fear nothing: what can man do to me?” 

Lastly, to find strength and courage, the author invites us to “Remember your leaders, who preached the word of God to you, and as you reflect on the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.”  Our faith will remain strong when we think of our Lord, the prophets who died for truth and justice, the martyrs who died for their faith in Christ, and the many holy men and women who had served God and humanity.  Remembering the good and saintly people will give us strength and courage to follow their example in being true to the gospel, resisting the negative pressures that come from the Evil Spirit, the Flesh and the World.


Written by His Eminence, Cardinal William SC 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.

02 February 2023 Thursday, Presentation of the Lord

February 3, 2023

A LIGHT TO THE NATIONS PRESUPPOSES HOLINESS OF LIFE

Christmas is a celebration of the light that has come. Christ the Light of the world who appeared in the darkness on Christmas night symbolically takes possession of the Temple.  He comes to sanctify us and make us People of God, consecrated to Him.  Through Christ, we now walk in the light and in truth.  Christ’s coming has given us hope because we know that we are called to be God’s children.

Having been beneficiaries of that light, we are called to be that light.  Hence, today, we carry candles as our commitment to bring the light of Christ to the world.  Indeed, this is what the call to new evangelization entails.  We are called to proclaim the gospel, the Good News of our Lord so that humanity can find hope and purpose in life.  This is certainly what the Holy Father, Pope Francis is asking of us when he wrote the encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, the joy of the gospel.

How can we be that light in the world?  Like Jesus, we are called to be the sign of contradiction in the world. Simeon prophesied, “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”  Through our lives, in words and deeds, we are to enlighten the world.  In other words, we are called to live a life of holiness.  That is why, Pope John Paul II wrote in Novo Millenio Inenunte, “I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness.”

What is holiness if not to let the light of Christ shine through us?  Holiness is the most powerful light that shines brightly.  The mission of the Church presupposes holiness and is a call to holiness.  What is holiness?  Simply, it means to live out our vocation and calling in life.  Holiness is to consecrate our lives to the Lord.  We are called to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God by consecrating ourselves to the Lord in whatever we do and say.  Giving ourselves for the love and service of God and our people is what consecration entails and what holiness is all about!  In the case of Simeon, we read that he was an upright man and a man devoted to God and His people. Just by living a righteous life, he gave glory to God and became a light to others.  In another situation, Anna, who become a young widow seven years after her marriage, did not allow herself to wallow in self-pity but gave her life to serve God in the Temple, “night and day with fasting and prayer”.

Similarly, in the case of Jesus, He lived out His vocation as a man on earth.  The gospel tells us that He grew in age and in wisdom.  He submitted Himself to the authority of Joseph and Mary as He grew up. “Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.”  In the letter to the Hebrews, we also read of how Jesus shared in our humanity. Indeed, “it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham.

It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. That is, because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.” Jesus was a man like us in all things except sin, going through the same struggles and temptations of daily life as He sought to proclaim His Father’s love and mercy by His words and deeds.

Holiness in life therefore does not require us to perform extraordinary feats.  We all need to live out our vocation as God’s sons and daughters in the way the Lord has apportioned for us. Being true to ourselves and true to God in living the life of the gospel is what holiness is all about.  As St Theresa says, it is to do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.

Yet, we know that it is not easy to live a life of integrity.  Because of our fallen nature, we fear death, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us. We are afraid that we are not loved sufficiently.  We are afraid not just of physical death but separation from our loved ones.  We are afraid we might not have enough.  Hence, we have this self-preservative instinct.  This is the root of all sins. Death is the cause of selfishness. Christ, by assuming our human nature, enables us to overcome the fear of death.  It is significant that when Simeon saw the Lord, he was no longer afraid of death for he said, “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.”  The fear of death, of the unknown, is because one does not know the Lord.

For this reason, we need living examples so that we can trust God sufficiently to take care of us.  Consecrated life is the sign of God’s divine providence and faithfulness.  Religious are called to be a sign of hope to the world and to testify to the fidelity of God’s love for us.  They are to live their lives in such a way that contradicts the ways of the world.  Like Jesus, religious are called to be the instrument for the rise and fall of many so that their hearts will be pierced like Mary, and eyes enlightened “so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.” That is why today, when we celebrate the day for consecrated life, the Church rejoices that we have in our midst, people who truly want to live a life of holiness.  Consecrated and religious life is the apex of the holiness of the Church’s life when men and women give themselves totally to live the life of Christ, imbibing in the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.  Through their very life, we see the holiness of the Church.

Holiness, according to Pope John Paul II, requires training in prayer.  Without a deep contemplative prayer life, we cannot grow in holiness.   Without a deep reflection on the Word of God and a meditative prayer life, we cannot grow in holiness as we will lack self-awareness.  Only through contemplative prayer, can we grow in union with God, in wisdom and understanding of ourselves, purifying our motives in serving Him.  Today, we are invited to imitate the examples of Simeon and Anna.  Both were prophets because they listened to the voice of God and hence they could discern the Messiah when they saw Him.  They could even prophesy what the future was in store for Mary and her Son.  We, too, cannot truly purify ourselves and grow in holiness without a deep meditative prayer life.

There is no excuse for us not to pray, regardless how busy we are in the ministry.  Success in ministry is not simply the work of our hands but the grace of God.  Every one of us, regardless whether we are priests, religious or laity, must deepen our prayer life so that we can truly unite ourselves with the work of Christ.  We need His inspiration, grace, wisdom and strength to do His work.  Prayer must be the starting point for our ministry.  Without the love of God in us, how can we love freely and unconditionally?  Without knowing His divine providence, how can we surrender our lives and future to Him?  Without encountering His divine wisdom and humility in Jesus’ obedience to Mary, Joseph and to the Father, how can we submit in obedience even unto death like Him?

Holiness, of course, is the grace of God but it requires our cooperation.  We know that we are weak and human.  So long as we are trying sincerely to grow in holiness and integrity, God understands us.  Christ Himself was a man and was tempted in many ways like us.  To Him, who is the throne of grace, we find both mercy and grace. Through our failures and struggles, we will also become more compassionate and be able to identify with the struggles of our fellowmen who try to live a life of holiness.  May our experiences and struggles in striving to live a life of holiness, with all our weaknesses and strengths, be a source of encouragement to all who seek to live a life of grace.  So let us come to the throne of grace always and seek His strength.


Written by His Eminence, Cardinal William SC 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.

01 February 2023 Wednesday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time

February 1, 2023

In the gospel, we read the shock Jesus received upon returning to His hometown.  “Most of them were astonished when they heard him.”  From being astonished, it led to disbelief and rejection. They said, “What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?”  In a terse and heart-breaking remark, the evangelist wrote, “And they would not accept him.”

Indeed, this is often the reality of life.  We should not be surprised as Jesus said, “A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house.”  Those supposedly closest to us, whether they are family members or colleagues, are often our greatest enemies and wet blankets.  They cannot see the good in us but only our faults.  Instead of supporting us, they are always putting us down for whatever initiatives we take.  They oppose us in whatever good we try to do. We receive nothing but discouragement and sometimes even slander.  This explains why many children lose confidence in their studies because no matter how hard they try, their parents would criticize them and ridicule their efforts, destroying their confidence and self-esteem.  So too in the office as well!  Instead of affirming our fellow colleagues, we pass disparaging remarks, make them feel small or inadequate.  Isn’t this the way the relatives of Jesus said as well?   “Where did the man get all this?”

The tragedy is that often those rejected by us are happily welcomed by others.  That is why we prefer to be with those who love us and support us.  When husbands and wives keep putting each other down, they do not realize that they are killing the love between them and indirectly forcing the other partner to seek consolation and support elsewhere.  Children too, when they do not find acceptance at home, would prefer to hang out with their friends instead of being at home in a hostile environment.  Indeed, if you find someone who does not like to be at home, most likely there is no real home but simply a house.  A home is where you expect support, encouragement, understanding, compassion, consolation and love.

Likewise, in our parishes, how often have we had good laity who are professionals and doing well in life offering to devote their time to serving God, only to find discouragement and rejection? In so doing, the Church ends up losing valuable resources to other organisations and institutions, including NGOs and non-Catholic or non-Christian entities, that appreciate them more.   We have lost the services of many talented Catholics in our churches because we fail to appreciate them and value their services.  The irony is that many of them are now doing very well in the world, serving the poor.

What is the reason?  Clearly, most of the time when we find ourselves unable to welcome the prophets in our lives, it has to do with insecurity and self-interest.  The relatives of Jesus were jealous of Him.   They cannot accept that someone who was living with them and once under their authority could now speak in such an authoritative manner.  The scribes and Pharisees also opposed Jesus later in His ministry because they found Jesus a threat to their status quo, their position in society and most of all, they did not like what Jesus said because they felt embarrassed by the truth of His words.  They were all out to remove Jesus as He was a nuisance and an obstacle to their comfort and interests.

We too behave exactly the same way.  This explains why most people have difficulty with those in authority.  They are too proud to obey.  They want things to be done their way, and according to their whims and fancies.  They do not want to be told what to do.  When their vested interests are compromised, they will fight back to retain their status quo.  This is what Pope Francis often warns us; that worldliness has crept into the Church as well.  Even within the Church, there is an unconscious ambition for fame, power, attention, security and comfort. The zeal for the spread of the gospel is often lacking so much so that it is in danger of becoming just another institution that affords security with all the material and emotional benefits.

So if we do not want to lose the assistance and services of our fellow Catholics, we must welcome them.  We must not see others who have talent or fresh ideas as working against us.  More often than not, we react out of our insecurity.  The bottom line is that we do not like our cheese moved.  We want things to remain the same.  We are routine people and we do not like changes.  But without the sacrifices and pain of change, no organization or church can grow.   When we are set in our own ways, just like the relatives of Jesus, we will remain stagnant, unable to receive the blessings of God.  This was what the evangelist said, “He could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.”   By rejecting such talented people and their sincere good will, we are the ones to suffer in the end.  Then we should not be complaining and lamenting why we do not have enough volunteers in the Church.  The answer is simple.  They are not welcome and their professional advice and skills are not appreciated.

Conversely, when we welcome the initiatives of people, we empower them and help them to become better each day.  What people need is our confidence and trust.  When we are receptive, open and docile to their plans and visions, they will be more willing to share and to listen to us and to work collaboratively to bring their ideas to greater heights.  When they see us sincerely wanting to better their proposals and not sabotaging them, they will be more forthcoming and eager to contribute to our interests.  By placing our confidence in them, we help them to become more confident in themselves and more courageous in thinking out of the box and taking risks.

For those of us who are rejected, we should not fall into despair.  As the author in the first reading reminds us, we are sons of God.  “My son, do not scorn correction from the Lord, do not resent his training, for the Lord trains those he loves, and chastises every son he accepts.  Perseverance is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons.”  We are the children of God but we need to be purified and grow in grace, in humility and faith.  “Our human fathers were training us for a short life and according to their own lights; but he does it all for our own good, so that we may share his own holiness.”   Jesus learned obedience through suffering.  It was through the rejection of His own relatives that He could be prepared to accept a wider rejection from the community.  His rejection by His own relatives and townsfolk prepared Him for the final betrayal and rejection of the apostles and those who whom He has helped.

Most of all, the author warns us not to fall into resentment and bitterness.  “Seek peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord. Be careful that no one is deprived of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness should begin to grow and make trouble; this can poison a large number.”   We must learn to forgive like Jesus and use such rejection to grow in compassion for our enemies and trust in the Lord.  Indeed, if we accept the trials of life positively, they can make us better, not bitter.  We must be brave and courageous and see everything not through our wounded eyes and bruised ego but through the mercy and compassion of God.

So let us heed the exhortation of the author of Hebrews, “any discipline is at the time a matter for grief, not joy; but later, in those who have undergone it, it bears fruit in peace and uprightness. So steady all weary hands and trembling knees and make your crooked paths straight; then the injured limb will not be maimed, it will get better instead.”  With a stronger prayer life, a deeper relationship with the Lord, with greater openness and perseverance in establishing dialogue with those who see us as our enemies, and by building bridges instead of walls, we will one day not just transcend our opponents but we will make them our friends.  We will use their taunts for our growth so that we can become better and more purified in love and service.


Written by His Eminence, Cardinal William SC 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.

31 January 2023 Tuesday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time

February 1, 2023

CLING TO JESUS OUR ULTIMATE HOPE

Keep running steadily in the race we have started!”  This is a tall order.  It is easy to start things in life but to run steadily is certainly not easy.  Whether it is the beginning of a new chapter in life, in marriage, in a relationship or in a new job, or in a new project, we are bound to face many difficulties along the way.  There will be trials, unexpected change of circumstances, opposition and setbacks.  When we meet with such difficulties, many of us will withdraw and give up.  Many “give up for want of courage.”

This is especially true in suffering, particularly when overcoming our sinfulness.  We know that we are weak and vulnerable in the face of temptations. We succumb easily to sin “that clings so easily” especially the sin of lust, pride, envy, anger, greed, sloth and gluttony.   We find ourselves too weak to resist sins.  We remain in bondage in our sins.  We lack peace of mind and we feel guilty for not being faithful to the gospel way of life.  We try and try but we always end up committing the same sins again and again.  So much so that we fall into the trap of the Evil One who discourages us by telling us to give up because there is no hope.  After some time, we lose sight of what we are called to be and to do, which is to live a life of holiness.  We get tired of going for confession again and again, especially for the sin of lust.  After some time, we just begin to live with our sins.  This is what the Devil wants us to do so that we can eventually rationalize our sins, be numb to them, and continue to live a double life.   As we continue living a life without integrity, soon we lose God totally.

This is true not just in the area of sin but in every dimension of life.  Some of us are like the woman suffering from haemorrhage who had tried all means to get herself cured but to no avail.  To be afflicted with sickness is something very trying.  The inconvenience, the pain, the lack of mobility and the need for assistance make us feel useless and frustrated.  More so, when we have sought all forms of medical help and yet cannot find a cure.  So we can empathize with this woman who suffered for twelve years.  She not only suffered physically but from social and religious alienation as well, because she was considered to be “unclean.”

Today, we are told that Jesus is our Hope.  She did not give up so easily.  She clung to her last hope and touched the cloak of Jesus.  In faith, she said, “If I can touch even his clothes, I shall be well again.”   And we read that “the source of bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint.”  We too, in all our troubles must never think that we are at the end of the road and give up trying and most of all, praying.  The Lord wants to heal us.  So even if there is a glimpse of hope just by touching His cloak, that is, any available means, we should be receptive because the Lord wants to heal us.  He comes to heal us in many ways and through various means.  All we need to do is to keep on praying and believing.  He will send us His messenger or He Himself would heal us.  So like the woman, have hope and have faith in Jesus.

Jesus is not just our Hope but our final hope too.  In the story of the cure of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus was certainly the last hope.  When all thought that his daughter was beyond help, the Lord came to raise her back to life.  All those without faith could only say she was dead.  “Why put the master to any further trouble?”   And they were “weeping and wailing unrestrainedly.”  Some were even cynical, like many unbelievers today who are not open to the power of God and miracles. They think that only science can save them.  Science is their god today.  It is unfortunate and also an indication of a lack of faith that many of us when we are sick or in trouble, will only ask for prayers for healing when doctors cannot heal us.  The first thing we should be doing is to pray for one another so that we can be healed.

Again, the same attitude is asked of us.  “Do not be afraid; only have faith.”  Those without faith will be turned out.  “So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay.”  Without faith, we will only be deprived of witnessing the power of God at work in our lives.  If we have faith in Jesus, then the gospel says, power would come out from him.  “Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘who touched my clothes?’”  Similarly, because of the faith of the synagogue officials, Jesus anticipated His own power to rise from the dead upon His death by raising the daughter back to life.  ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’”

How can we strengthen our faith in the midst of so many discouraging voices and challenges?  “With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then, should throw off everything that hinders us.”  In other words, we must rely on the heroes of faith before us.  The bible is full of examples and stories of those who have faith in God. We only need to contemplate on the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, the judges and the prophets especially Elijah, Isaiah, Amos and Jeremiah.  Regardless of the opposition, they remained firm in their faith in God.  In the New Testament, we also read of the faith of the apostles who preached the gospel in defiance against the earthly and religious authorities of the day.  They were then ignorant, wanting power and glory, but now sought humiliation, suffering and martyrdom.  Such were their faith that they performed miracles in the name of the Lord.  We too must also imitate their examples and in turn give hope to others.  Let us not miss out on any opportunity to give hope to people who are suffering or going through difficult times.  We must not make people give up hope in life because of our discouraging words.  Rather, if we are positive and affirming, they will persevere in their trials.   What people need to hear are words of hope.  Just a word of encouragement is all that they need. Give them a glimpse of that hope!

Most of all, the author reminds us to contemplate on the life, passion and death of our Lord.  He urges us not to “lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it.  Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage.”  Indeed, only Jesus can show us what it means to be faithful to God and have faith in Him till the end.  Even when betrayed and abandoned by His friends, and feeling the absence and silence of His Father on the cross, Jesus continued to place and surrender His life to Him, forgiving His enemies, praying for them; and commending His Spirit to His Father.  He did not give up His faith, and He did not submit to the evil plans of His enemies.  Compared to the suffering of Jesus “in the fight against sin” we “have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death.”  

So let us not be discouraged or be disheartened in the face of trials and sufferings.  We will triumph in the end, in this life or in the next.  Indeed, we should not fear too much about the future.  Rather “Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future.”  For the greater good our future and of the next generation, we must persevere and never give up hope.  God will give us the grace to overcome all our trials.  At times, He will show His power by healing us or removing our enemies.  At other times, He allows us to suffer even unto death because He wants to give us a greater glory with Him.  So let us praise the Lord at all times, in good or bad. “They shall praise you, Lord, those who seek you. My vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and shall have their fill.”  Those who seek the Lord will praise Him because we know that in faith, God has something better for us all the time.  Even in the case of Jesus, although He was not exempted from the cross and from death, yet His death made it possible for Him to “take his place at the right of God’s throne.”  It was His death that made the resurrection possible.  It was His death and resurrection that made possible the establishment of the Kingdom of God and His Church.   So too with Abraham and the heroes of faith in the bible!  They did not see the promised glory on earth but they receive their reward in heaven.  So let us walk by faith, not by sight.


Written by His Eminence, Cardinal William SC 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.

30 January 2023 Monday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time

January 30, 2023

FREEING OURSELVES FROM OUR BONDAGES

We are created in the image and likeness of God.   We are created in freedom and for freedom.  This explains why the desire for freedom is in the DNA of every human person.  Without freedom, we cannot be truly happy in life.  Even God respects our freedom so much so that He would not even stop us from choosing Hell instead of choosing Him if we so desire.  We know that conscience is also paramount in making decisions and the person’s conscience must be respected.   Of course, the judgment of conscience presumes that the person takes into account in his or her discernment process, the objective norms.

Consequently, to be under bondage in any way violates the dignity of the human person.  We can feel and identify with this man who was under the bondage of the Evil Spirit.  “The man lived in the tombs and no one could secure him anymore, even with a chain, because he had often been secured with fetters and chains but had snapped the chains and broken the fetters, and no one had the strength to control him.  All night and all day, among the tombs and in the mountains, he would howl and gash himself with stones.”  If one of us or our loved ones were possessed, we can imagine the trauma and the anxiety that we would have to go through.  Indeed, we do not have to go that far in speaking about demonic possession.   Some of us and our loved ones suffer from various types of obsessions and compulsive disorders.   Handling such sufferers is never easy and can be extremely trying for the care givers.   But the sufferers too are going through extreme loneliness of being misunderstood and often ridiculed and ostracized.

What are these obsessions?  The most common is pornography and lust.  Some people are not able to get over their obsession for lewd sex.  They cannot live without masturbating or watching pornography.  Others suffer from addiction to gambling, drinking and smoking.  Such addictions cause much harm not just to the person himself but to his or her loved ones who live in fear that something untoward would happen to the person.  Many are not able to control their temper and would often easily take it out on innocent victims.  At times, they can even be violent, hitting their loved ones.  Of course, some of the obsessions are internal and these deal with envy and greed.  They are voices inside us, making us lose our peace and happiness, yet we find ourselves powerless to silence these voices in our hearts.

In truth, the greatest bondage is fear!  All sins originate from fear.  The greatest irony of today’s gospel story is that the real person under bondage was not the man that Jesus delivered but the townsfolks who became fearful of the implications of accepting Jesus into their lives.  Instead of welcoming Jesus to stay, they were fearful of further economic losses.  “They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his full senses – the very man who had had the legion in him before – and they were afraid.  And those who had witnessed it reported what had happened to the demoniac and what had become of the pigs.  Then they began to implore Jesus to leave the neighbourhood.”

Indeed, when we examine our obsessions and bondages, we will realize that they are rooted in fear. All the sins we commit are due to our fear of pain and suffering.  Most of all, we fear death, which is our greatest enemy because we think that with death, everything is finished.  So long as we fear suffering and death, we cannot live a life of freedom.  This explains why the richest and most powerful people in the world are the most insecure people because they have everything to lose; their wealth, power and glory.  Whereas for the poor people, those who are suffering because of illnesses or oppression and injustices, they have nothing to lose.  They can only hope for the fullness of life hereafter.

But with Christ all fears are overcome.   St Paul says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 6:22f) In his letter to the Corinthians, we read of Christ’s total victory over the last enemy of humanity.  “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  (1 Cor 15:22-25)

So for those who fear, it is because of their ignorance, like the swineherds.  They thought that with Jesus around, they would lose their livelihood and their business would be affected.  It is true as well for those of us who cling to sins.  We think that if we are chaste in our relationships, we will lose our loved ones.  What we lose is inauthentic and selfish love, not true love!  Those of us who gamble are afraid that if we stop gambling, we will not have enough.  On the contrary, their health will get better, there will be peace of mind, less stress, less family squabbling and they will be able to work better.  Most of all, they will have more money because no one can be a winner in gambling except the gambling operators!   Again, some cannot give up drinking and smoking for fear that their lives will be more stressful without alcohol and cigarettes.  On the contrary, with less dependence on them, life will become freer and they will enjoy better health and be soberer to deal with life’s challenges.

Indeed, when we choose the illusory security offered by the world, we will be the ultimate loser as we could even lose our life, our health, our job and family, and even God!  In asking Jesus to leave, the villagers might have retained their herds, but they lost a great opportunity to find the fullness of life.  For the Jews, a pig symbolizes contamination by uncleanness.  So to choose the life of a pig is to live in that manner, under bondage, no direction and a life without happiness.  Which is a better option?  Do we want to choose the fullness of life?  For this, it means giving up something and everything that is detrimental to our well-being and peace of mind.  We cannot expect to find peace and joy if we allow ourselves to be under the bondage of the Evil One.

Today, the gospel invites us to take care and decide for Christ, like the man who was delivered from the Evil Spirit.  “As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed begged to be allowed to stay with him.  Jesus would not let him but said to him, ‘Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you .’  So the man went off and proceeded to spread throughout the Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him.  And everyone was amazed.”   He not only became a disciple of Jesus but an apostle to his own people.  If we are liberated, we too will have a change of perspective towards life, like those who suffered from a near death experience or remission from a terminal illness.

How do we overcome our fears?  Firstly, we must name it.  This was what Jesus sought to do when He asked, “What is your name?”  And the Evil Spirit answered, “My name is legion, for there are many of us.”   So acknowledging the fact that we are obsessed or under bondage is the primary step towards healing and freedom.  Unfortunately, the truth is that those of us who are addicted or under some kind of bondage would deny the fact.  Without the humility to call a spade a spade, there can be no cure or effective liberation. Rather, in all honesty, when we name the fear we have, the paralysis of shame is immediately overcome.  That is why when the name of the Evil Spirit was revealed, they knew that they could no longer stay in the house of the possessed man.   Getting people to acknowledge their sins, their wrong doings, their addictions and fear is the most challenging part because of pride.   We are all too proud to admit we need help or that we are sinners.  So if we want to be set free from our fear and bondages, name your sin specifically and it will have lost its power.

Secondly, we must rely on the strength that comes from Jesus alone.  The name of Jesus on the other hand puts fear into the hearts of the Evil Spirit.  “Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and fell at his feet and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want from me, Jesus, Son of the Most high God?  Swear by God you will not torture me!’  – For Jesus had been saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit.’”   We too cannot depend on our own strength but on Jesus who is our mighty hero to defend us.  He is the Lord of hosts, the army commander of our almighty God.   When we have faith in the name and authority of Jesus over sin and evil, we no longer have to live in fear.  He is our strength and our stronghold.

We are called to imitate the faith of our fathers.  With the psalmist, we pray, “Let your heart take courage, all who hope in the Lord.  How great is the goodness, Lord, that you keep for those who fear you, that you show to those who trust you in the sight of men.  You hide them in the shelter of your presence from the plotting of men; you keep them safe within your tent from disputing tongues.”  With the heroes of faith in the Old Testament, we must be strong in our faith and our battle against our enemies. “Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets – these were men who through faith conquered kingdoms, did what is right and earned the promises.  They could keep a lion’s mouth shut, put out blazing fires and emerge unscathed from battle.  They were weak people who were given strength, to be brave in war and drive back foreign invaders.”


Written by His Eminence, Cardinal William SC 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.

29 January 2023 Sunday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time

January 30, 2023

FORMING OUR CHILDREN IN WISDOM, VIRTUE, HOLINESS AND FREEDOM

What is education? Most people in the world confuse education with acquiring skills, knowledge and an academic degree to certify that one has the capacity to do something.  Education means going to a good school where we can be trained in writing, speaking, literary arts, mathematics, history, geography, science and technology.  Of course, to offer a more holistic formation of our students, we offer extra-curriculum activities such as sports and arts. Yet, society is short-sighted if we think that education is simply having our students perform well in their academic studies or even in sports and the arts.  What if a student excels in his studies and acquires skills and knowledge but has a bad character?  Does it mean that this student is educated?  Is it good enough to produce students who are smart and intelligent and who can work and be successful in what they do?  What if a smart and intelligent student uses his talents to cheat, to manipulate and to take advantage of others?

Indeed, education goes beyond acquiring skills and knowledge.  If education is reduced to gaining knowledge, in truth, there is no need for young people to go to school anymore.  We can form ourselves through the internet.  Even terrorists can make bombs by finding information from the internet.  With the internet, there is so much information that one can acquire all kinds of knowledge and skills about anything under the sun.  We can become great businessmen and researchers or developers of new products without even going to school. 

Education is forming a person integrally, developing his potentials to the fullest so that he could realize himself in the process of living out his talents as he gives himself in service to humanity.  Whilst acquiring skills and knowledge are important, yet seldom do parents realize that a good education must provide their children with the right set of values to guide them in life.  Education is about forming our children in skills and knowledge but equally important is to form them in values, morality and in character.   In other words, we form them in virtues and holiness.  This is what the scripture readings are teaching us today.  

Prophet Zephaniah said, “Seek integrity, seek humility: you may perhaps find shelter on the day of the anger of the Lord. They will do no wrong, will tell no lies; and the perjured tongue will no longer be found in their mouths. But they will be able to graze and rest with no one to disturb them.”  What we need today are not just brilliant entrepreneurs, businessmen, intelligent teachers and lawyers, creative professionals, eloquent politicians and religious leaders. We must ensure that they live lives of integrity so that they will be upright, honest and just in all that they do.  We have seen enough politicians and even religious leaders who seek power for themselves.  We have seen professionals who use their skills and knowledge to cheat people and to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor.  Without integrity, the more intelligent and brilliant the person is, especially when he or she holds leadership positions, he or she will destroy everyone, including the country.

Secondly, we need to form our future leaders in humility.  Arrogance and pride are the downfall of every man, especially leaders.  Again, the prophet Zephaniah said, “seek humility.”  St Paul in today’s second reading also reminded the Christians of their humble past.  He said, “Take yourselves, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families?”  Indeed, we must be conscious that what we are today is not just due to our hard work and efforts alone.  It is through the help of many good people who came our way to assist us, whether it be our parents, friends or teachers.  Humility is a necessary virtue to cultivate so that we will always remain grateful for what we received and are generous in return.

This is what the Lord in the gospel also underscored.  In the be-attitudes, He said, “How happy are the poor in spirit: theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage. Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted. Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied. Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them. Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Having the right values means to have the right attitudes towards life so that we can find happiness in a blessed life.  Among the beatitudes, the most important are those that keep us humble, gentle and merciful towards others.  We cannot be great leaders unless we feel with the suffering, the poor and those who suffer from injustices.  Being a leader is to lead our people to greener pasture, to set them free from their bondages and to help them to realize their potentials so that they can live a meaningful life.  Being a leader is to be a peacemaker, to unite our peoples and to defend truth, justice and compassion.

Ironically, the blessed, according to Jesus and St Paul, are not the rich or the powerful or the brilliant of this world.  St Paul wrote, “No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.”  Against what the world values most, Jesus, St Paul and the Prophet Zephaniah valued humility, integrity, compassion and justice. These are the values that will assure that when our students grow up, they will be able to give themselves to society, to the church and to their families, especially the poor and the marginalized.  This is what will make them happy in life and fulfilled, rather than to accumulate wealth and luxury for themselves.  Indeed, by serving the poor, we come to discover the joy of life and the joy of love and sharing which money cannot buy.  When we can help someone who is considered a failure or an outcast in society to become a great leader who contributes back to society, we feel that our work and labour have not been in vain.

But what is the secret to helping our students acquire such virtues that can see them through in life?  Knowing God is the key, knowing Christ is the secret.  Ethics can be taught but they are not easily acquired and become part of a person’s values. Of course, for some agnostics and humanists, departing from their conscience, the “ought to” in the hearts of man, as Emmanuel Kant suggests, might be possible.  But the heart of all virtues come from God alone.  St Paul wrote, “The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.”  Jesus shows us the way to live a life of integrity, honesty, in truth and compassion for others.  These values are summed up in the beatitudes which we read in the gospel.   Hence, the prophet exhorts us, “Seek the Lord all you, the humble of the earth, who obey his commands. In your midst I will leave a humble and lowly people, and those who are left in Israel will seek refuge in the name of the Lord.”  

But acquiring values is not through teaching ethics or even religion and morality alone.  We need witnesses and mentors to inspire.  Teachers, including parents, are important witnesses of the values that they teach to their students.  It is not enough to teach our young people values, we must live them in our very life.  Otherwise, what we teach remain just words.  There is no better way to teach than to exemplify these values of the gospel in our lives, in the way we relate to others, to our students and to our colleagues.  The beatitudes taught by our Lord was lived by Him.  They were not just nice words; that was how He lived His life, in poverty of spirit, in humility, in compassion and mercy to those who are weak; defending the poor and innocent from the injustice of their oppressors.  Truly, by our virtuous lives, we show that “it is the Lord who keeps faith for ever, who is just to those who are oppressed. It is he who gives bread to the hungry, the Lord, who sets prisoners free.  It is the Lord who loves the just but thwarts the path of the wicked.”  Catholic education is about living our life meaningfully by giving ourselves to God and our fellowmen.


Written by His Eminence, Cardinal William SC 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.

28 January 2023 Saturday, 3rd Week in Ordinary Time

January 28, 2023

BUILDING A DREAM FOR TOMORROW

To be a leader we must have a dream.  We are what we are today because of the dreams of our forefathers.  Without their dreams, Singapore would not be what it is today.  The future is born out of dreams.   Science and technology are born from dreams of what life could be.   No development or advancement is possible without starting out as a dream.  That is why we should be forever grateful for the sacrifices of our forefathers, community and religious leaders in daring to dream for Singapore.

In the first reading, Abraham also had a dream.  He had a vision of building a new humanity, a new community, and a nation of believers in God where there is unity, progress and happiness.  In truth, Abraham did not have to move out of his comfortable niche in the city of Ur to the Promised Land.  He was rich and well off with many flocks of cattle and sheep.  Most of all, he was already old and could have retired to enjoy life instead of moving to another land without any guarantees.  Indeed, if we were him, we would have stayed put and left the future to the next generation.

But the truth is that a great leader never builds a dream for himself, or even for his own family.  A true leader builds a dream for his people and for the people of tomorrow.   This is the hallmark of a true leader who is selfless and visionary.  A good leader seeks to build a better life and future for the next generation.  He might not get to enjoy the fruits of his labour, but it does not matter.  What matters is that the future generations would benefit from his sacrifices and labour.  In fact, Abraham never saw the fulfilment of the promise.  But still, the promise was partially fulfilled when Sarah at the ripe old age of 91 and Abraham in his 100 gave birth to Isaac.   He did it for the future generations to come.

But this is also true of Moses, our Lord and St Paul who only saw the beginning of the fulfilment of their dreams.  Moses also did not enter the Promised Land but only had sight of it when the Lord asked him to ascend to Mount Nebo.  (Dt 34:1-3Jesus also did not see the fulfilment of His dream except the birth of the nascent primitive Church, the beginning of a New Community of grace and love.  St Paul too was conscious that in building the Church for the Gentiles, it would take time but he was patient.  Like the rest of the apostles, he too would not have been able to see how the Church grew from strength to strength.  St Paul wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”  (1 Cor 3:6) So it does not matter whether we benefit in the end.  What is important is that we are giving hope and a future to humanity.

What is your dream for your community, for the Church and for Singapore?  In the final analysis, we all have this dream of building a community of love.  This too was the dream of Abraham and our Lord.  Jesus came to build a community of love, the family of God united in Him.  What we need most today is to strengthen our community, our family, our church community, a cohesive society and a united world.  In the heart of every person is a desire for a community where there is peace, love and unity. 

This is the greatest challenge today in the face of secularism and relativism.  Without God, without absolute values, it is difficult to align everyone together.  The ideology of relativism makes it impossible for anyone to agree to anything that is true, since no one is right.  This explains why relationships are very fragile today.  They are not built on truth or on lasting love.  When we cannot agree on fundamentals, we cannot build any real unity. When society cannot agree on a set of core values, then it would be impossible to build any community, much less a lasting community.  If Singapore is still relatively united and peaceful it is because our forefathers had it right in putting our common values in the Singapore Pledge.  Indeed, looking at the situation of the world today, we see how fragile peace and unity is.  When countries are not ruled by righteous, inclusive, honest leaders with integrity, the nation will suffer.  St Thomas says, “Happiness is secured through virtue; it is a good attained by man’s own will.”

A case in point is the question of marriage and family.  What we have today are very superficial relationships, even in marriage.  Many of our marriages do not last because the foundation for strong marriages such as total love, faithful love, fruitful and sacrificial love are not considered non-negotiable values.  Those of us who are in the know are aware of the struggles of the Church with the issue of marriage and family, particularly in trying to apply the practical and pastoral approaches of Amoris Laetitia.  There are two camps, one is the need to hold on to the absolute norms and the other is to show the compassion of God. The decision on how we approach marriage, divorce and sexuality would also have implications for how we see the Sacrament of the Eucharist as well.  Is it a reward for good behaviour, or an antidote for the weak?  If we say the latter, it also compromises the symbol of the Eucharist as a sign of perfect unity.

As Christians, how do we want to build our dream?   We need a strong foundation, that is Christ.  If our dreams are not built on Christ, our dreams will fail.  All dreams must come from God if they are to succeed.  Abraham built his dream based on the promise of God.  “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”  (Gn 15:13f) So as leaders, before we start visioning for society and our peoples, we need to pray and see God’s plan for us all.

This is the lesson of today’s gospel as well.  Unless our life is founded on Christ, when we meet the storms of life, we will not be able to withstand the onslaughts.  We will lose faith easily.  Indeed, many of us have big dreams but when faced with difficulties, like the apostles who were buffeted by the storm, they began to panic.  With Christ as the centre of our lives, we will be able to rise up to any challenge and any storm.  If not, when our dreams are challenged or things do not go the way we want, we will get confused and anxious.  This was the case for Abraham when he became anxious that Sarah could not conceive a son for him.  So in his impatience, he took Hagar, his maid to conceive for him a son whom they named Ismael.  As a consequence, it brought division to the family.  So long as we have faith, we can overcome all things.  “Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.”

Consequently, the question that is posed to us today is whether we know Christ in our lives. After Jesus calmed the storm, “They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and sea obey him.’”  Unless we affirm that Jesus is our Lord, we will not have faith in Him to guide us and protect us from harm and danger.  St Thomas said, “If, then, you are looking for the way by which you should go, take Christ, because He Himself is the way.”  Who Jesus is to us will determine how we will respond to Him and how much faith we have in Him.  Faith depends on trust and relationship.  If we know Jesus well, we will learn to trust Him.  If we confess that Jesus is the Son of God, then we can accept the Bible and the Magisterium as preserving the deposit of faith found in scripture and tradition.

Yet, we must not be short-sighted.  As the first reading reminds us, our homeland is ultimately in heaven.  We are in transition.  We must also recognize the law of gradualness.  We might not accept the gradualness of the law but we must realize that many are still not there yet.  This calls for compassion.  “They lived there in tents while he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God.”  The author said, People who use such terms about themselves make it quite plain that they are in search of their real homeland. They can hardly have meant the country they came from, since they had the opportunity to go back to it; but in fact they were longing for a better homeland, their heavenly homeland.”  So what we experience on earth is just a foretaste of what we will arrive at in heaven when love is complete and the community is lasting.  It is in the New City of Jerusalem when we all become one in Christ in the communion of Saints. 

In the final analysis, in spite of the turmoil caused by scandals and differing views in the Church, we must not feel discouraged.  The gospel assures us that Jesus is in charge of the Church.  The boat is a symbol of the Church and though Jesus might appear to be sleeping in the stern of the boat, in truth, He is fully aware of how the Church is buffeted by the storms and the winds of life.  Against all these threats, the Lord will keep the Church safe.  All we need is to have faith.  He has protected this Church for the last 2000 years and He will fulfil His promise to be with the Church until the end of time. Moreover, through all these struggles and challenges, the Church will come out purified and stronger and more relevant to the world.   Christ is the anchor and our hope.  As the author of Hebrews says, “God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given Isaac back from the dead.”  He too will raise the Church to greater heights in time to come.


Written by His Eminence, Cardinal William SC 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.

27 January 2023 Friday, 3rd Week in Ordinary Time

January 28, 2023

Many of us have big plans for our family, children, career, business and for the Church.  It is good to have great visions for our organization and those whom we care for. But many of us are not able to see through our vision.  We begin with much enthusiasm but we cannot sustain our passion and zeal.  Indeed, the tragedy of many people is that they start well but do not have the stamina to see their plans through.  What makes us give up our plans and our dreams so easily?

Firstly, it is due to sufferings that come, especially from opposition.  The author in the first reading speaks of the sufferings of the early Christians. “Remember all the sufferings that you had to meet after you received the light, in earlier days: sometimes by being yourselves publicly exposed to insults and violence, and sometimes as associates of others who were treated in the same way.”  In the early days of Christianity, being a Christian was not something socially advantageous.  They were misunderstood, ridiculed, persecuted and outlawed.  There were no material or social benefits from being a Christian.  On the contrary, if anything, it was to be deprived of their security, dignity and possessions, even their lives.

How many of us are ready to stand up for our faith and the values of the gospel?  The reality is that in the face of secularization, many of us are ready to compromise with the values of the world.  We might not be ready to admit it, but many of us are actually embarrassed to profess our faith publicly and to let the world know that we are believers of Christ.   We remain incognito Catholics in society except when in church.  This is because it is not the in-thing today to say that you are a believer because the world frowns at those who subscribe to a religion, especially Catholicism.  The fashion today is to declare ourselves as free thinkers, that is to say, we do not need anyone.  We can make up our own mind as to what is good or bad.   We save ourselves and we do not need any saviour.

The second reason for drawing back, ironically, is complacency.  In fact, this is a more insidious challenge to the Church than persecutions.  In times of persecution, trials and opposition, martyrs and saints are born.  But when things are fine with us, we tend to draw back because we are no longer alert to the enemies and challenges before us.  This is the real danger for Singaporeans.  We are so secure and comfortable because our government has been so efficient that we are not taking the warnings of the government to be alert to terrorism and the threats facing the economy.  When we are doing well, we tend to take things for granted.  So too our children because they have never experienced what our forefathers had gone through.  They will never appreciate fully what they are enjoying because of the blood, tears and sacrifices of our forefathers and pioneer leaders.

Unfortunately, this sin permeates in our archdiocese as well.  Because our church is externally very active, and attendance in all our services is packed every weekend, we are quite contented and complacent.  We are not worried that as many as 2/3 of our Catholics are not coming to church or that many have left us for one reason or another.  Precisely, if we do not renew and strengthen the faith of our Catholics, we will eventually lose all of them.   It is for this reason that the author wrote to the Christians because they were becoming complacent in their Christian life.  The author reminded them of the price that their forefathers and some of them had paid for their faith.  “For you not only shared in the sufferings of those who were in prison, but you happily accepted being stripped of your belongings.”

The third reason for drawing back is because of discouragement.  Many of us have put much time, energy and sacrifices into our vision and projects.  But because of the lack of response and support, we draw back as we do not see the fruits of our labour.  We are generally an impatient lot.  We cannot wait for the harvest to come.  In this age of technology and globalization, we want immediate gratification and results.  It is like posting something in the Instagram or Facebook, or sending an email, and we expect an immediate response.  Today, the world cannot wait.  Everything must be in an instant.

Specifically, the gospel warns us against such impatience and unrealistic expectations. In both the parables, Jesus reminds us of how the reign of God takes place.  Like the seed on the ground, “Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.”  Indeed, often when we think that our efforts are in vain, we fail to perceive the working of grace in our lives.  Some things are not so obvious and tangible.  It is like preaching a retreat.  Many times, I do not see the listeners demonstrating obvious signs that they are touched by the Lord.  It is only during the time of testimony that I come to hear how the Lord had been moving and stirring their hearts.  That is why we must be patient.  We must trust that the grace of God is working quietly but surely in the lives of those people that we seek to form and to help.  We might not see the results now but it will come. “And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.”   How true this analogy is when it comes to forming our children or mentoring someone to become a great leader.

How, then, should we continue and not draw back?  Firstly, we must keep the end in view.  This is what the author advised the early Christians.  He reminded the Christians “that you owned something that was better and lasting. Be as confident now, then, since the reward is so great.”  When we think of the future and what we could do for humanity and the Church, we would then keep our focus.  The parable presents to us the future of the Church, and of course of every individual.  In the parable of the mustard seed, the Lord envisions that we start small but the implications are unimaginable, like mustard seed “which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.”  The Lord dreamed of the Church one day becoming such a big organization that many would come to rest on her branches.  It was a vision of a world Church that includes everyone on this earth who would find rest, peace and joy.  We too must keep our hopes high not just for this world but for the next world.  What the Lord is offering us is beyond what the human mind could conceive.  Surely, the early Christians never knew that it was because of their witnessing, suffering and sacrifices that the Catholic Church is the largest Christian Church in the world and the longest as well.  We are the ones who reap the harvest of the seed planted by them.

Secondly, we must endure in faith.  Again, the author urges us, “You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised.  Only a little while now, a very little while, and the one that is coming will have come; he will not delay. The righteous man will live by faith, but if he draws back, my soul will take no pleasure in him. You and I are not the sort of people who draw back, and are lost by it; we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved.”  We must keep our eyes on the Lord, walking by faith, not by sight.  Both parables in the gospel speak of the imperceptible grace at work in our lives.  God ultimately is in charge and not us.  We can cooperate with His grace but God is the one who makes the seed grow.  That is why we must never draw back, whether in our efforts to grow the kingdom or in prayer.  We must pray as much as we work for the kingdom because in the final analysis, success is not determined by how much we do.  The growth of the kingdom is not brought about merely by the efforts of man but the grace of God.  Indeed, both parables underscore the inevitability of the kingdom.  God’s plan will not be scuttled by man.  He has complete control over His creation and ultimately His kingdom will come and His will be done.


Written by His Eminence, Cardinal William SC 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.

26 January 2023 Thursday, Ss Timothy and Titus

January 26, 2023

FAN INTO A FLAME THE GIFTS THAT GOD GAVE YOU

We have all received gifts from the Lord.  Like Timothy, we have been blessed with the gift of faith.   For some of us, we received it as a child; for others as they grew older, through their friends; and for others, it is through a long search for God.  But it is not just the gift of faith alone but the other gifts as well.  There is also the gift of vocation, whether it is to the priesthood or marriage or singlehood.  Besides one’s state of life, we also receive the gift of vocation in service.  Some of us are called to be teachers, doctors or social workers.  Regardless, all gifts come from the Lord.

The question that is posed to us is, whether we have treasured the gifts we have received and grown them accordingly.  It is said that new brooms sweep clean.  But what if we have become “old brooms”?  This is where the danger lies.  The reality is that we begin something with passion and enthusiasm but along the way, we become jaded and lose interest.  We start with big dreams and excitement but over the days, the flame fades away and slowly it is extinguished from our life.  This is true of marriage.  Just think of those courtship days when you were so deeply in love with each other, and always wanting to share your life, joys, woes and struggles with your spouse or your fiancée/fiancé.   But now you hardly share with each other and often take each other for granted.  No longer do you feel excited or happy to see each other or listen with your heart to each other.  Now you have become indifferent, cold and insensitive.  Marriage life is just a routine and your spouse has become intimate strangers at most.

This was the case with Timothy, the young Bishop of Ephesus.  As the bishop, he faced many challenges from within and without. It must have been tough for the young bishop.  St Paul would have heard of the difficulties he was going through in uniting the community.  These problems were hinted at in his farewell speech to the Ephesians when he wrote, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”  (Acts 20:29-31)

What is important to consider is, why does one lose one’s zeal and passion?  Firstly, this happens when we meet with opposition to our plans.  In marriage life, love is lost when our spouse is always negative and critical towards us.  They have nothing good to say about us.  Instead of affirming and encouraging us, they often take us for granted, picking on our faults and failures.  After some time, we do not feel like sharing and talking about our dreams and aspirations anymore because they are wet blankets.  They have nothing positive to say and speaking to them makes us more discouraged than ever.  Again, what is said of marriage and family is also true in our work place.  Instead of working and helping each other to build our dreams, colleagues are often jealous of each other, seeking to tear each other down.  When we meet with opposition all the time and people are always wrecking our plans, then we just give up.

Secondly, we can become jaded in relationships and in our work because we get used to things and people.  We take them for granted.  We do not consciously appreciate and value what we have, the work we do and the people around us.  This is because we have become demanding.  We are too absorbed with ourselves and our needs that we no longer look at the needs of others.  Once we become self-centred instead of other-cantered, we do not treat them as persons with respect and sensitivity but just as tools to accomplish our tasks.   Instead of using our work to serve others, we are basically serving ourselves.

Thirdly, if we lack zeal and passion, it could be because we are out of touch with the ground.  In the gospel, Jesus urged His apostles to reach out.  “Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, ‘The kingdom of God is very near to you’”.  Only when we live amongst the people, walking with them in their journey, can we begin to understand and feel with them.  The real problem is that often we fail to journey with people.  We tend to sit on our high chair in our office and make decisions without understanding the struggles of those under our care.  Parents are always dictating to their children what they must do without understanding the challenges they are facing.  Husbands and wives are not communicating with each other, their needs, their loneliness and anxieties.  Zeal will be renewed once again when we start hearing their stories, their joys, sorrows, struggles, aspirations of our people.

Finally, if the flame is dying it is because we have forgotten our dreams, our mottos and our visions.   That is why St Paul told Timothy, “Fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control.”  We need to be renewed in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Everyone needs to be constantly renewed in his or her vocation.   We should not be surprised that our staff does not even know the vision, mission and core values of our organization!   At times, the leaders themselves forget their calling and purpose or mission in life.  They are so involved in the daily affairs that they forget the big picture and the goal they are working towards.  So too for married couples, have they forgotten their dreams in building a loving relationship and family?

Thus, to recover that dream and our hopes, we need to constantly go back to our original goal and starting point.  This was what St Paul did when he recalled the faith imparted to him and Timothy.  He said, “Night and day I thank God, keeping my conscience clear and remembering my duty to him as my ancestors did, and always I remember you in my prayers; I remember your tears and long to see you again to complete my happiness. Then I am reminded of the sincere faith which you have; it came first to live in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I have no doubt that it is the same faith in you as well.”  By being grateful for the faith we have received, we will begin to cherish and relish it.  We must not forget our past or the wonderful times we had with our loved ones.  We celebrate anniversaries precisely to recall the past and what we hope we will be.   It is important that we connect with our past so that we can renew our love, hope and dreams, making them alive again.  Gratitude is always the beginning of the process of service.  When we are grateful to those who love us and sacrificed for us, we will want to do the same for them and for others.

Most of all, to renew our fervour and zeal for our vocation and dreams, we must pray.   We think the harvest depends on what we do.  But Jesus made it clear.  We cannot depend on ourselves.  He said, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”  He did not simply ask us to work but to pray.  All vocations must come from prayer.  Career comes from our desire or ambition to do something. But vocation springs from what is within us, something that comes from the depths of our heart.  Only when we begin to pray, would we then never lose focus and courage to persevere.  St Paul wrote, “So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.” When we pray, we will never lose hope or get discouraged because we know that the battle belongs to God, not to us.  Our task is simply to cooperate with Him to the best of our ability.  He will send us the necessary help to realize His dream for us and for humanity. “Grace, mercy and peace (comes) from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Written by His Eminence, Cardinal William SC 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 me, you will keep my commandments.