GRAPPLING WITH THE MYSTERY OF GOD’S PLAN

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SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ISAIAH 49:1–6; PS 71:1-6,15,17; JOHN 13:21-38]

This life is full of mysteries. There are many things that are inexplicable in life. Nothing is certain. We get angry with God because we are carrying some sicknesses and suffering the consequences of the sins of others. We wonder why we are so unfortunate in life to be born into the family when our parents do not really care for us. We regret that our life is what it is today. We also do not understand how our life has unfolded. Sometimes, we wish our life was different. But then decisions have been made and we cannot turn back the clock. In a word, we do not understand the plan of God for us.

So, what do we do? We try to change the plan of God. We do not accept the plan that God has for us. In the first reading, the prophet made it clear, “The Lord called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name. He made my mouth a sharp sword, and hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow, and concealed me in his quiver.” Indeed, can we accept the plan of God for us in our lives? What if we were chosen to be the Prophet Jeremiah? Would we be ready to prophesy for the Lord even unto death, facing detractions, slander and opposition? Would we risk being popular and accepted by the people at the expense of being true to our calling in life? Even Jeremiah complained, “Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.” (Jer 20:7; cf Jer 20:14-18)

This was true in the case of Judas. Scholars have suggested different motives for Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. One of them was the greed for money. But others have posited that he could have been disappointed with Jesus because he expected Jesus to fulfil his expectation of Him being a political messiah who would overthrow the Romans. But Jesus was not acting as he thought He should. Hence, he wanted to force Jesus to act by having His enemies confront Him. Or perhaps, he had given up hope in Jesus as the Messiah. In a word, he did not understand the mission of Jesus and the plan of God. He wanted things his way and when he could not make Jesus do what he thought should be the case, he dumped Him.

On the other hand, Jesus remained on course although He was also troubled at the prospect of His passion and death, and most of all, “troubled in spirit” because one of His Twelve was going to betray Him. He knew that Judas was up to no good and that he would betray Him. He did not stop him from doing what he had intended to do. Instead, He sought to give him a last chance at winning him over by an act of love. So, instead of retaliating, the Lord “dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.” It was an appeal to Judas to come to his senses. How many of us can continue to love our enemies, knowing that they are hurting us, betraying us, saying all kinds of untruths behind our back, and cheating us? Would we still be able to offer a hand of friendship and kindness to them? Or do we just write them off completely from our lives. Jesus did not. He was faithful, as the gospel said, to His Father and to us until the end. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (Jn 13:1)

What about us? Will we stay faithful to the plan of God for us? Will we carry the crosses of life courageously and faithfully to the end? Indeed, like the disciples, we might not understand fully the plan of God for us. We do not understand why we have to carry so much responsibilities, deal with so many problems, challenges and demands, as if the whole world is on our shoulders.

In such situations, will we muster enough faith not to walk by sight but to trust in Him? This is what we are called to do. When we feel that nothing seems to be going on right in our lives, then we must surrender our lives into His hands as Jesus did on the cross, crying with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:46) This is what the Lord told the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, “You are my servant (Israel) in whom I shall be glorified.” Jesus too came to this realization that if His death was needed to glorify God, then He would say “Yes” to His holy will. “Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon.”

Indeed, in the mysterious plan of God, the death of Jesus would bring about His glory and Jesus in turn would be glorified by Him. Humanly speaking, such thoughts defy human logic. When we are suffering, we feel rather defeated. Even Jesus felt that way, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is certainly not easy to believe that the way of God for us is the way to happiness in life. We resist and we seek to change His plan. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was tempted to do so but gave in to His Father’s will. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” (Lk 22:42) Even the devil thought that having influenced Judas to betray the Lord to His enemies, His death would be the end of His mission. Little did he know that the death of Jesus would be the death of all deaths and by His death, the sting of death will be removed, resulting in victory over death and sin.

Hence, in our trials and sufferings, when we feel like giving up, know that God is on our side. The truth is as the Suffering Servant remarked, “While I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain, I have exhausted myself for nothing’; and all the while my cause was with the Lord, my reward with my God. I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord, my God was my strength.” Indeed, our tragedy and sufferings in the eyes of the world might seem to be God’s punishment but that is His wisdom of saving us. “For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.” (Wisdom 3:4-6) This is the testimony of the psalmist when he declared, “My lips will tell of your help. In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue me, free me: pay heed to me and save me. Be a rock where I can take refuge, a mighty stronghold to save me; for you are my rock, my stronghold. Free me from the hand of the wicked.” God will show forth His power and reveal His plan to us in due time.

Today, we are called to make a decision for Christ. Will we be like Judas and Peter? Or will we take the path of the Suffering Servant and our Lord? In the face of trials, even Peter and the disciples betrayed the Lord. Jesus knew how weak they were, more than they knew themselves. “Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’” We too often speak like Peter. I will follow you! But in the face of trials and sufferings, like Peter and the rest, we will flee from our Lord. Peter was the first to condemn our Lord because when he was asked whether he knew the Lord, he made it clear that Jesus was of no significance to him and therefore did not deserve to be known.

The denial of Peter and the apostles must have hurt our Lord deeply. So is our denial of Him when we live lives contradictory to the gospel values. In so doing, we deny our Lord. Let us once again surrender ourselves to the wisdom of God’s mysterious plan for us by cooperating with Him as the Suffering Servant and our Lord did. We too have been chosen since we were in the womb of our mothers for a higher purpose in life, which is “ to gather Israel to him” and be “the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Together with Jesus, let us embrace the plan of God for us, even when we do not understand. Walk by faith!


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.

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