SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 3:1-6. 9-12; Ps 102:1-4,6-7; Mt 11:25-27 ]
The responsorial psalm speaks about God”s mercy, love and compassion. The biblical people experienced God as justice and compassion. “The Lord is compassion and love. It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion. The Lord does deeds of justice, gives judgement for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses and his deeds to Israel’s sons.” Indeed, this God whom we worship is not a distant God who is indifferent to the injustices and sufferings of humanity.
This is the same God that Israel encountered when God revealed Himself to Moses. The Lord said, “And now the cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them.” Such is the goodness of our God who sees us in our suffering. He is not indifferent. When we are suffering, we only need to believe that God hears us in our pain, anxiety and fear. He feels with us and desires to help us. He is the same God throughout the ages. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” God is faithful to His covenant He had made with the people of Israel.
In a special way, God reveals His mercy especially in Christ. Jesus makes it clear. “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Jesus is the fullness of God’s mercy and love. Jesus told Philip when he asked the Lord to show them the Father, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (Jn 14:8-10) After the raising of the son of the widow of Naim, “Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us!’ and ‘God has looked favorably on his people!’”
Christ is shown to be God’s mercy only because the Father revealed His love for His Son. Twice throughout His life, He received the affirmation and love of His Father – at His baptism and at the Transfiguration. The heavens opened and a voice said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” All through the ministry and life of Jesus, the Father affirmed the Son in His love. Only in His love could Jesus be empowered to share His Father’s mercy and love for everyone.
Jesus could show us the Face of the Father only because He knew the Father intimately. He was always in intimacy with Him. Every morning, He would make time to converse with His Father. Everything He did, He did it in union with the Father. He identified Himself with the Father’s love and mercy for humanity. He came simply because He identified himself with His Father’s heart. He willed what the Father wills for humanity. So too Moses. Because he encountered God the Father radically and heard His voice, he, like the Lord, was taken up in his mission to show the Father’s love for His people.
There is no way to see the Father’s face other than through our Lord. Moses covered his face before the Lord. “At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.” We cannot see the Lord’s majesty directly. It is too much for us. We can see His face through the humanity of Christ. So all that Jesus did and taught are means to show us God’s face. That is why St John Paul II in his apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, encouraged us to come to know the face of God by contemplating on His life, passion, death and resurrection. To be ignorant of the scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ. He cautioned us that unless we see Christ’s face, we cannot be given the same passion for the mission.
There are some Catholics who seek to bypass the humanity of Christ to reach God by speaking of the cosmic Christ of St Paul. They are mistaken. St Paul’s understanding is that the cosmic Christ is found at the end of the full meditation on the mystery of Christ. The reason for Christ’s incarnation is in order that we can see the heart of the Father and understand the depth of His love by contemplating on the person and life of Christ. Otherwise, Christianity is not much different from the rest of the great monotheistic religions. The distinctiveness of the Christian’s claim is that in Christ we see the fullness of God. He is therefore, the way, the truth and the life. “No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (Jn 14:6bf)
We who have seen the face of God in Jesus are called to do the same. Like Moses and the Lord, we too are sent. The Lord told Moses, “I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt.” Jesus is the New Moses sent by God to reveal His face to us. We who have contemplated on the face of Christ can now reveal God’s goodness and mercy to others. Unless we have seen His face, we would not be able to reveal His face to others. So too, unless a Christian has seen the face of God in Christ’s life, passion, death and resurrection, would not be able to speak about God’s mercy and forgiveness to others.
The work of revealing the love and mercy of God cannot be undertaken as a personal enterprise. We never do this work alone. We need to work with the Lord. When Moses asked, “‘Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ ‘I shall be with you,’ was the answer ‘and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you … After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer to God on this mountain.’” It is this assurance that we are not alone that will sustain us. When we remember that we are sent, then we will always remember that we are the ambassadors of Christ and that whatever we do or say, we are called to act in the name of the Lord. At the same time, consciousness of being sent means that we rely not on ourselves but on the power of God.
We need to be childlike in coming to the Lord to experience His Fatherly love. Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.” It is not through intellectual knowledge but a personal knowledge of Christ that enables us to know the heart of the Father. Unless, we experience His love like a child, we would not be able to speak confidently of the Father’s mercy.
To encounter the Fatherly love of God, we must learn to pray in a childlike way using the lectio divina and Ignatian contemplation. We must pray in a simple way by immersing and absorbing the Word of God until a certain phrase or word receives our attention. As we meditate on the Word of God, chew on it, and engage in a dialogue with the Lord. The end result is that we begin to hear God speaking personally to our hearts. The other way of entering into the heart of God is through the method taught by St Ignatius, which is to pray the scriptures using fantasy, that is, putting ourselves in the characters of the Bible as we enter into their feelings, thoughts and mind of each character. In this way, we make the gospel scenes come alive.
Finally, we must pray in the way of the psalmist. “My soul, give thanks to the Lord all my being, bless his holy name. My soul, give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings.” The psalmist’s way of praying is very authentic and sincere. He does not hide his fears, anxieties and even anger against the apparent injustice and silence of God. He would utter how he feels, but he would end up confessing his faith in the Lord, and surrendering his life to Him. We too must pray in this manner if we are to encounter the Father’s love and mercy. In this way, we would then be able to reveal and share with others our own experience of His Fatherly love.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
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.