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(Part 181)


January 28, 2020

Today’s readings:
2 Samuel 6:12-19
Psalm 24:7-10
Mark 3:31-35

We are Missionary Families of Christ. We are families on mission. Our charism and call is evangelization founded on family renewal. Both family and mission are of prime importance. But at times the two make competing demands on our time, energy and resources. How do we strike the right balance, and make optimum use of our time, talent and treasure?

The specific ways forward will be different for different people. A lot would depend on the stage of our marriage and family life. Are we newly married, do we have very young children, is our time taken up by livelihood by which we provide for our family, are we already retired, are our children grown up, and so on. So what we look at are basic principles by which we can discern the way forward.

What are these principles?

First, we seek to please God and not man, including our family. Our family members might not want us to spend so much time with God’s work and rather focus more on the family.Our family members might disapprove of how we conduct ourselves in giving our all to God. But we just look to what is pleasing to God and act accordingly.Such was the case with David. In bringing the ark of the Lord into the City of David, he danced before the Lord with abandon and great joy (2 Sm 6:14-15). His wife Michal did not like it, as she thought his action was beneath his dignity as king, and even ended up despising him in her heart (2 Sm 6:16). She had her own idea as to what was right, but it was not what was right with God.

Second, we must work to have our family live in Christ, as we are to be a family of Christ. A primary aspect of our care for our own family is their relationship with God. Our blood relatives are an “accident” in that we did not choose them but we all were simply born into a family. But God chose each of our family members to be part of our family. What is of utmost importance then is not our relationship by human blood but our relationship through the blood of Jesus shed for us all. We are brothers and sisters of Christ. And so we must work such that our own blood relatives get to know and live Christ. Then we really will become the family God intends for us to be. “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mk 3:35b).

Third, since we are part of the larger family of God, and since God’s concern is not just for us but for all His children, then we prioritize God’s family over our own family. We of course should never neglect our own family, which God has entrusted particularly to us, but we must also not use the needs or desires of our own family to keep us from serving our brethren in Christ. Such was the case with Jesus himself. While he was ministering to people, his mother and relatives arrived and asked to speak with him. Instead of excusing himself and going to meet them, which the crowd would perfectly understand, Jesus said to them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (Mk 3:33). He answered his own question and pointed to the people around him. “Here are my mother and my brothers.” (Mk 3:35a). We serve not just our own family but the whole family of God.

Fourth, we engage our family in the work of mission, as we are to be a missionary family. This mission is to make Christ known, not just to our own family, but to the world. But in doing so, we will become engaged in spiritual war. So we are called to be holy warriors. In this we realize that God is not just Father(and that is about family), but God is also a holy warrior. “Who is this king of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in war.” (Ps 24:8). We are strengthened as a family to enable us to do God’s work. Our home is fortified in order to become a base for mission.

We are Missionary Families of Christ. We look both to our own family and to our larger family or community, so that we can look to serve the larger Church and the world. We are always “of Christ,” doing the will of God, giving priority to His work, seeking to please Him, serving Him, and making Him known and exalted by all. In doing so, we will be doing what is best for our own family.

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(Part 180)


January 9, 2020

Today’s readings:
1 John 4:19-5:4
Psalm 72:1-2,14-15,17
Luke 4:14-22

In the Church today there is the tension between spiritual renewal and social justice. There should be no dichotomy between the two, as both are part and parcel of Christian life and work. But unfortunately there is. There are those who work at spiritual renewal but hardly have any concern about the poor. On the other hand, there are those who are so-called social justice warriors but who give in to the culture of death in pursuing their goals.

Just look at the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, to which our Church has subscribed to. The ultimate goal is a world without poverty. In pursuing this goal, there are the thrusts, among others, of zero hunger, gender equality, clean energy, and climate action. These would seem to be good, but on closer scrutiny, these bring in the culture of death. To achieve the goal, there is the promotion of such evils as LGBT and abortion. Blaming much of poverty and climate change on overpopulation, it looks to drastically limiting the population of the world. That necessitates the whole gamut of the culture of death.

What is authentic Christian teaching?

One, we look not only to God but also to our neighbor. We are to love them both. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; …. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 Jn 4:20a,21). We are all children of God. So we must be concerned about our brothers, especially the least of our brethren.

Two, we look to justice in the world. Justice is giving to everyone what is his due. To the poor is due a equitable share of the world’s goods. But the goods of the world are under the control of the rich and powerful. So Solomon prays that the king “may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment” (Ps 72:2b).

Thus social justice, basically work with the poor, is at the heart of the Christian faith. Jesus himself took on the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” (Lk 4:18a). God has a preferential option for the poor. So should we as Church.

Now what is glad tidings? It is the gospel. It is the proclamation of salvation in Jesus. It is announcing the coming of the Kingdom of God in our midst. Now if the Kingdom of God is firmly established in the world, then there will be social justice. The poor would not be deprived but would properly be cared for.

But with much of social work today, here is the problem: there is work with the poor, but Jesus and the Kingdom of God have been left out. There is a drive for social justice but not for spiritual renewal. The focus is on man and not on God. There is feeding of the body but not of the soul. With acceptance of the culture of death in social development programs, work with the poor has become work against Christian morality and faith.

Now Jesus was sent “to proclaim liberty to captives …. and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Lk 4:18b,19). He was called to proclaim and of course to do the actual work of “recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Lk 4:18c). The two go together. The proclamation and the actual work. The good news is not just material or physical well-being, but spiritual well-being. The poor are fed not just with physical food but spiritual food.

Later, when messengers of John the Baptist asked Jesus if he was the Messiah, he said to them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Lk 7:22). If we follow the logical flow of contrasts that happen (blind see, lame walk, etc.), then Jesus should have said “the poor become rich.” But no. The poor have the gospel preached to them. This is the gospel of the Kingdom.

So social justice without spiritual renewal is not what God intends. Rather, there is spiritual renewal, and social justice will naturally flow out of that.

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