SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Col 1:1-8; Ps 52:10-11; Lk 4:38-44 ]
Most of us live extremely busy lives because we wear so many hats and multi-task. We have our full time career and work that keep us very occupied. We have to look after our children, elderly parents, in-laws and siblings. We are worried about our children’s studies and education. We know we need to maintain good communication with our spouse, not just on house matters but on the emotional level. If we have loved ones or parents who are sick, immobile, suffering from dementia or Parkinson’s disease, more attention and time would be needed. At the same time, we are called to be responsible to the community, the Church and society at large. We feel the need to render our time and resources to serve the community. In short, everyone is asking for a bit of our time.
In the gospel, we also read about the hectic life of Jesus. We read that He would preach in the synagogues regularly. “And he continued his preaching in the synagogues of Judaea.” Immediately after a tiring service at the synagogue, He was called to heal Peter’s mother in law. He did not take a break because of the severity of the fever. Jesus could not wait longer. So off He went to Simon’s house. Then in the evening, we read that “all those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to him, and laying hands on each he cured them. Devils too came out of many people, howling, ‘You are the Son of God.’” Such was the life of Jesus. Early the next morning He rose up to pray but even before He finished praying, the people went to look for Him. They never even allowed Him to have some peace!
The problem with us is that we do not know or cannot say “No”. We are running all over, frenzied with activities. As a consequence, we get burnt-out. We become edgy, angry, resentful, tired and short-tempered. In the process of helping others, we are not careful with our words and actions because of stress, and we end up hurting people consciously or unconsciously. Our spouse is hurt by our remarks; our children are resentful of us for throwing our temper at them or for not spending quality time with them. Parishioners too have been hurt by priests and religious when they get told off rudely.
What is the real problem? We have lost our bearing and focus. We are merely doing things and fulfilling responsibilities. We have forgotten the hope before us. What is meant to be a service of love has become a chore and an obligation or responsibility. We have forgotten our mission. There is no relationship. Jesus was clear of His mission and hence when He was asked to stay behind, He told them in no uncertain terms, “I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, because that is what I was sent to do.” He did not come to build His own kingdom or to find security, comfort or popularity.
He came to heal and to proclaim the Good News to all about God’s love and eternal life with Him. He was aware that the Good News is for everyone and not just a sector of people. He did not fall into the temptation of being made king by the people.
As for us, we often forget what we are called to do. We forget that we work hard to contribute to the nation and to society. We forget that our task is not simply to ensure that our children do well in life and in their studies but that they are formed in love and in truth. We make use of them as trophies rather than caring for their integral formation. We forget that looking after our elderly parents is the way we grow in love and share God’s love with them. Similarly, for a priest too, in his active involvement in the apostolate, he loses his focus from serving the people of God and end up serving himself. He becomes ambitious in wanting to prove himself so as to win the adulation of the people. Instead of glorifying God, he unconsciously seeks his own glory, wanting people to praise him and honour him. He becomes annoyed when people do not share his views and plans. Instead of reaching out to the masses and the many parishioners that are not connected with the Church, he is contented simply with those people who gather around him.
At the bottom of all these is the lack of prayer and quiet time with the Lord. That is why we read that “when daylight came he left the house and made his way to a lonely place.” Once we stop praying and discerning, we will lose focus. When we are not in touch with ourselves and our motives in what we do, we start to do things more for ourselves, our security, our comfort, and our happiness than really serving others selflessly. Of course, it is so difficult to admit that our motives are not pure. Many of us are too blind to see that we are seeking earthly glory, material needs and our security even when we claim that we are serving others. Jesus was always conscious of this subtle temptation to seek glory and security. Thus He rebuked the devils “and would not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ.” He did not want the people to come to Him for the wrong reasons. He was not trying to build His kingdom but to announce the Good News of His Father’s kingdom of love.
Today, we have the exemplary lives of St Paul and the early Christians in the first reading. St Paul praised the Christians saying, “we heard about your faith in Christ and the love that you show towards all the saints because of the hope which is stored up for you in heaven.” The Christians were filled with faith, hope and charity. It was because of their faith in Christ that they were clear of the hope before them, which is to share in the life of Christ and be in union with the Father. It is this hope of the fullness of life in Christ that kept them going even in times of persecution. This hope is not merely a wishful thinking but a certain hope in what is to come at the end of life. Faith and hope gives birth to charity. Their Faith was not just orthodoxy but orthopraxis. Their faith was expressed in their love. So strong was their faith that they spread the Good News all over the world. “It is only recently that you heard of this, when it was announced in the message of the truth. The Good News which has reached you is spreading all over the world and producing the same results as it has among you ever since the day when you heard about God’s grace and understood what this really is.” They did not keep the Good News for themselves.
Hence, it behooves us to cling to Jesus so that we can find focus in all our activities. We must find a center in all that we do. Christ must be the center of all our programs and activities. Otherwise, we become the center and all that we do is for ourself, our security, comfort and glory. The psalmist says, “I am like a growing olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the goodness of God for ever and ever. I will thank you for evermore; for this is your doing. I will proclaim that your name is good, in the presence of your friends.” Yes, we must root ourselves in Jesus and draw water and wisdom and love from Him if we are to proclaim His goodness and love. If we do not come to Jesus daily, we will lose our focus and direction and we will not find the strength to continue loving and serving selflessly.
There is no excuse for us not to pray,regardless how busy we are and what positions we hold in life. If Jesus the Son of God saw the need to pray to His Father daily, we who are only sons of men need to pray even more. Jesus drew strength from His Father’s love and He was always in loving conversation with the Father. We too must not just be saying prayers but be in communion with Him. If we say that we are busy, Jesus is even busier. Who is not busy? So it is a matter of time management and priority. If we see prayer as a priority, we will make the necessary time. But if we do not think it is that important and it is among the least in our priorities, then we will never find time to pray. Like Jesus, we must get up early before others are awake so that we can pray undisturbed in tranquility and in peace. We need to find our own desert, prayer space, so that we can be recharged each morning and find the strength for the rest of the day. It is better to sleep early, give up our favorite late night programs and supper sessions so that we can rise up early for our time with the Lord, basking in His love and enlightened by His wisdom, for He is our light and our truth. Otherwise, the rest of the day would be a mess and we will create more problems for others and ourselves.
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.