SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Cor 3:15-4:1.3-6;MT 5:20-26 ]
In the first reading, St Paul speaks of our calling to radiate like Moses the glory of God in our lives. “It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness,’ who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ.” All of us who have been privileged to come to encounter Christ have received the light. It is an obligation to make Christ known to the world. This is something that has been entrusted to us because we are recipients of God’s mercy in Christ. St Paul wrote, “Since we have by an act of mercy been entrusted with this work of administration, there is no weakening on our part.” St Paul was conscious of what the Lord had done for him by calling him, a great sinner, to be an apostle of reconciliation. Hence, he gave his whole life and applied all his energy and resources to announcing to all that Christ is their savior.
At the same time, St Paul was conscious that his vocation was not to proclaim himself but the Lord. “For it is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” It is the Lord that we are called to manifest in our lives. We are servants of our Lord. Like St John the Baptist, he was conscious of his role as the forerunner of the Messiah; that he was only the voice, not the Word, the friend of the bridegroom, not the bridegroom. Unfortunately, instead of directing people to the Lord, some of us in our ministry and in our lives either mislead them into sin and falsehood or attract them to ourselves. We need to be always aware of these two temptations in witnessing to the Lord.
In the same vein, this is also what the Lord is asking of us when He said, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” A deeper spiritual life entails that we perfect our virtues. We must go beyond mere external observance to the spirit of the law. Holiness is not an external observance of some rituals or laws but it is a matter of the heart. In fact, even what we do does not count unless it comes from a pure and gracious heart. As Jesus tells us, it is not sufficient simply not to kill, but even anger, which is the root of all killings, must be destroyed. In no uncertain terms, Christ said, “anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother ‘Fool’ he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him ‘Renegade’ he will answer for it in hell fire.” Failing to see the spirit of the laws is to have the veil cover our eyes. Quite often, the veil of anger, revenge and hatred prevents us from seeing the goodness of God in others.
Hence, Jesus exhorts us to perfect our virtues. Failing to do so will cost us our credibility and effectiveness as mediators and messengers of Christ. We must strive to grow in holiness before we can be truly His evangelizers. This explains why St John Paul II in his apostolic letter, “Novo Millennio Ineunte” wrote, “First of all, I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness. Was this not the ultimate meaning of the Jubilee indulgence, as a special grace offered by Christ so that the life of every baptized person could be purified and deeply renewed? It is my hope that, among those who have taken part in the Jubilee, many will have benefited from this grace, in full awareness of its demands.” (NMI 30)
So what must we do to ensure that we are not obstacles to people who are seeking the Lord? We need to turn to the Lord so that we are clear of our motives and our love for Him. St Paul wrote, “Even today, whenever Moses is read, the veil is over the minds of the Israelites. It will not be removed until they turn to the Lord. Now this Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect, this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit.” Only when we are filled with the Spirit of Christ can we then radiate the presence of Christ in our lives. Unless the love of God lives in us, we will not be able to radiate the goodness and peace of God in us. Truly, we know someone is a man of God not so much by what he says but by his demeanor, his way of speaking and his dealing with others. When we observe the humility, sincerity and genuineness of St Teresa of Calcutta, all can recognize her as one.
This calls for a greater contemplation on the face of our Lord. Yes, if we contemplate on the face of the Lord, then we will find the light of God shining in our lives. We will live the life of true freedom from blindness and sin. By meditating on the gospel, we will come to know the truth about ourselves. Again, St John Paul II invites us to set our gaze firmly on the face of the Lord. He wrote, “And is it not the Church’s task to reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make his face shine also before the generations of the new millennium? Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face.” To contemplate on the face of Christ would require us to search the scriptures and meditate on the life, passion, death and resurrection of our Lord. “The contemplation of Christ’s face cannot fail to be inspired by all that we are told about him in Sacred Scripture, which from beginning to end is permeated by his mystery, prefigured in a veiled way in the Old Testament and revealed fully in the New, so that Saint Jerome can vigorously affirm: ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” (NMI 17)
Finally, there is a warning as well for those of us who fail to deepen our virtues. The Lord said, “Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.” This is truly good advice from the Lord. If we do not take our sins seriously, even the “small sins” will become big eventually and we have no way to deal with them. The trouble with many of us is that we feel that because we do not commit serious and scandalous sins, we therefore are “holy”. But we do not realize that a person will eventually become numb to his weaknesses and imperfections.
So it is important that we deal with a problem before it becomes hardened. When that happens, we will become like those who are blinded by their pride and ego. This is what St Paul also said about those who reject the light. “If our gospel does not penetrate the veil, then the veil is on those who are not on the way to salvation; the unbelievers whose minds the god of this world has blinded, to stop them seeing the light shed by the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” So whilst we still can recognize our superficiality in our spiritual life and virtues, we must take action immediately to rectify it. We must confess our sins, acknowledge our hypocrisy and turn to the Lord for forgiveness. Just like the two men who had a quarrel and were on the way to court for a settlement, we must preempt such a situation by resolving our quarrels or differences before the Day of Judgment. So too let us turn to the Lord in contemplation so that we truly discover our real self and, exposed to the light, we can grow in true humility, in love and in truth.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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.