Many people today are living meaningless and empty lives. They have no direction and no purpose in life. Those who live according to the world often find this life full of misery and unhappiness. Even those who are successful and live seemingly good loving lives also find life quite meaningless because, somehow, their spirits are not quenched. Others are so overwhelmed by suffering, failure, loneliness and brokenness that life does not seem worth living. Indeed, people without faith are seeking for something more in their lives, something that the world cannot fulfill.
Such people are looking for a savior. These people, including ill-instructed Catholics, are so desperate in their search for happiness that they would engage in all kinds of religious activities, even in the occult, hoping to find meaning, purpose and happiness. Many are so confused, they would even embrace New Age beliefs and practices; anything that gives them a solution, regardless of whether these are from Christian sources or otherwise.
How then can we be saved? St Paul declares, “If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.” St Peter also reiterated the same truth, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12) Again St Paul affirms, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”(1 Tim 2:5) So to find salvation, we must confess that Jesus is Lord. But why do we believe that He is Lord? Because God raised Him from the dead!
However, it is not enough to confess with our lips or even believe in our head that Jesus is Lord. What truly saves us is that we believe in our hearts. Only then can we be made righteous, that is, find security, peace and joy. St Paul explains further, “By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.” When we believe from the depths of our being that Jesus is Lord, with the resurrection as the basis for this faith, we are affirming the Lordship of Christ over all creation. For this reason, St Paul says, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”(Phil 2:9-11)
Consequently, we can now surrender our entire life to the Lord since He is our source of Life and Love. We can turn to Him without fear that we will be overwhelmed by sin or death. “When scripture says: those who believe in me will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Yet, the fact remains that many do not know Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord. Hence, St Paul remarked, “But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him.” Therefore, it is our duty as believers in Christ to announce to them that Christ is our Lord and Saviour. Like Andrew and the Apostles, we are sent forth to share the Good News about Jesus Christ with everyone. Otherwise, “they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says: The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound.”
It is within this context that the gospel challenges us to be the Good News messengers so that they too will be able to find life and be saved. This call to be His apostles of the Good News is addressed to all regardless, as seen in the varied choice of the Twelve. No one can disclaim this call to be His apostle. One does not have to be theologically trained to be His proclaimer. This call is addressed to all of us wherever we are and whoever we are. We can be homemakers, workers in factories, executives in our offices, mending the nets or in the Church. It does not matter what we do. We can share what Christ has done for us in our lives and what He means to us. This is what the Good News is all about, that God loves us and has forgiven us in Christ Jesus.
And what is also important is that this call is urgent. It must be done immediately since it is the Lord who calls. When the evangelist described how the apostles responded without delay to the call, “And they left their nets at once and followed him” and “At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him”, he wants to underscore the all-important truth that because Jesus is Lord and therefore God, we must render unconditional and total obedience without questioning and procrastinating. Jesus, being the Lord of our lives and the name above all names, calls for total commitment since God is the absolute in our life. As the responsorial psalm says, “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life. The law of the Lord is perfect -refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye.” We also recall the words of St Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”(Jn 6:68)
But why are there many who are still not responding or not responding fully by submitting themselves to the Lordship of Christ even though they profess themselves as Christians? This was the same question posed by St Paul; “Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News. As Isaiah says: Lord, how many believed what we proclaimed? So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ. Let me put this question “is it possible that they did not hear? Indeed they did; in the words of the psalm, their voice has gone out through all the earth, and the message to the ends of the world.”
Why is that so? More often than not, it could be because we are poor messengers of the Good News, rather than that they refuse to accept Christ. If many people do not believe in Christ today, it is because they have not truly heard about Him or seen Him. To hear does not mean simply an external hearing, rather it is a hearing that brings about personal conviction. Consequently, today, people are waiting for a preacher who does not simply proclaim the Good News but becomes the Good News himself. They are looking for witnesses, not teachers. This is what St Paul is urging us all. We must be both proclaimers of the Good News by our conviction and by our lives.
To proclaim the Good News in such a way that it can be heard presupposes that first and foremost, as believers, we must believe from our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead. In other words, we must have a personal and living relationship with Jesus. Unless, we have this personal relationship with Jesus who is as real to us as our friends are, then we cannot say that we have preached the word of Christ, since such proclamation is hollow. Only an intimate personal relationship with the Lord will empower us to speak from the depth of our experience and conviction, otherwise they would be mere words. It is not enough to proclaim Christ as if He were a datum of knowledge that we have studied or from some books that we have read. He is the Living Lord, risen and alive in our midst, not someone who has gone down in history.
However, even if we believe Jesus from our heart, this is not sufficient. A real proclamation of Christ with conviction must be verified in our lives. This is what St Paul meant when he says that if our lips confess that Jesus is Lord, we would be saved. To confess that Jesus is Lord is not simply a mere verbal confession but it is to live our lives in such a way that we confess with our whole being that Christ is the Lord of our lives, Lord of our ways, Lord of our wills and Lord of everything. Unless we subordinate our lives and live in such a way that our lives are faithful to the gospel and teachings of Christ, we cannot be said to have confessed that Jesus is Lord. Jesus must be seen to be truly Lord and not only a verbal confession.
Only when we have done this, can the Good News be heard. Indeed, the real challenge in evangelizationtoday is not that people have not heard the Good News, for the Good News has in effect reached to the ends of the world. Rather, it is because the Good News is not credible today since it is not lived. People do not see the change and transformation in us. Because they doubt us, they also doubt the Christ we confess and proclaim.
Today, let us pray that we will be able to be like St Andrew and the rest of the apostles. If the early Christians and the early apostles were truly proclaimers of the Good News, it was because they did so by their lives and not so much by their preaching. In fact, I am sure that not all of them were great preachers in the ordinary sense that they were great rhetoric orators. But they were certainly true proclaimers of the Good News by showing their deep faith and trust in Jesus in leaving their occupations, their careers, their security and even their loved ones, for the sake of the Gospel. Not all of us are called to leave our homes and be missionaries, but all are certainly called to live our lives in such a way that render true testimony to what and who we believe in.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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