Today, we celebrate “Bible Sunday”. It is thus obvious that we all need to reflect on the meaning of the “Bible”; God’s revealed Word, to what Jesus in today’s Gospel tells us when He says, “Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is Baptised, will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. . .”
The “Bible”, the Sacred Scriptures, the Revealed Word of God is about the Good News of Salvation. And in this Good News through Jesus as Saviour, God the Father is offering an eternal life of happiness where we will live with people we love, with everyone that we do not know, with people we do not love, and most of all with God in His God’s Glorious presence for all eternity.
This means that the Good News of Salvation is where after death we be reunited with great joy with our loved ones for all eternity; our enemies will become our intimate friends, strangers of this world will become our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the poorest of the poor and the despised of this world will stand side by side with everyone in equal dignity in God’s presence, and all sin will be wiped away.
If this is a glimpse of heaven, if this is how God wants us to live for all eternity because He is the “Fullness and Plenitude of Love”, then this “believing” of the Good News of Salvation must also mean that we have to live the “Good News” that God is offering us already, while we are alive on earth. The letter of St James tells us that “faith without works is dead.” Thus, to have a dead faith, is not to have faith at all.
We cannot say that we want to live in God’s fullness of love and glory for all eternity in heaven and not want to live a life of love while on earth. Thus, we can see that the “Good News of Salvation” is not a Truth that is out there that does not affect our daily living. The Good News of Salvation is within us, in everything, and for everyone.
What then is hell? Hell is the suffering we experience where God is absent and where the Good News of Salvation is rejected. When we say, “living or working with such and such a person is really ‘hell’ we are saying that this person is basically so self-centred and living an unChrist-like life that he is causing me so much pain and suffering in my life. Such a person needs a conversion of heart through God’s compassionate love, but he cannot be held up as a model believer of the “Good News of Salvation.” His perception of life is probably as follows. This poem entitled, “How to be Miserable” captures very well how this person relates to people. It says:
How to Be Miserable
Think about yourself.
Talk about yourself.
Use “I” as often as possible.
Mirror yourself continually in the opinion of others.
Listen greedily to what people say about you.
Expect to be appreciated.
Be jealous and envious.
Be sensitive to slights.
Never forgive a criticism.
Trust nobody, but yourself.
Insist on consideration and respect.
Demand agreement with your own views on everything.
Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favours shown them.
Never forget a service you have rendered.
Shirk your duties if you can.
Do as little as possible for others.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, if we have traits or attitudes that make our life miserable, we should then reflect on how to change our perspective of life so that our daily living will become more Gospel like or more “heaven” like, and this anonymous poem that I have adapted, captures it very well when it says:
Everyone has inside himself
a piece of good news.
The good news is that you really don’t know
how great you can be,
how much you can love,
how much goodness you are capable of.
Have you seen and sense the Spirit of God within you?
In your daily living you are writing a gospel,
a chapter each day,
by the deeds that you do,
and the words that you say.
How do you think this gospel of your life would look like
when you have finished it
at your last breath?
Would it be:
In the home it is kindness;
In society, it is courtesy;
In business, it is honesty;
In work, it is fairness;
Towards the weak, it is compassion;
Towards the unfortunate, it is empathy;
Towards the wicked, it is forgiveness;
Towards the strong, it is trust;
And towards God, it is reverence,
obedience and service.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, while the essence of the Good News of Salvation is about a life of eternal happiness after death, we cannot deny that if our love for God is genuine, we must already live that love selflessly as Christ Himself has shown us.
But, we all know that living the Gospel of the Good News is never easy; God knows this and Jesus knows thisas He was persecuted and Crucified for it. Thus, when Jesus in today’s Gospel urges us to proclaim the “Good News” of Salvation to all peoples in the world, He also assures us that He will give us the divine strength to witness it in our daily living.
Thus, the Gospel does not mean it to be literal that in-so-far as we have the faith we can “pick up snakes, drink deadly poison and be unharmed or cast out devils and the like. Instead, it is about the Church and the believer having the graces to live the Gospel life that those who do not have, will not be able to live.
Before I conclude, let us remind ourselves that to help us deepen the Word of God and for it to take root in our hearts, our parish has many different Bible programmes to help us study and reflect on its meaning. So, I strongly urge you to join at least one of them.
It is important too that we spend time each day to pray and contemplate on the Word of God, so that the Truth of the Gospel will permeate our hearts, fill our homes and become our source of Light for our daily living, our source of Wisdom when we face pains and challenges, and our source True Hope for our future. It is in living the Good News of Salvation daily that our profession of our faith that offers eternal life becomes credible.
Finally, let me add that, if for all eternity, we are meant to live in heaven with our loved ones, and if heaven is also where our enemies will become our intimate friends, strangers of this world will become our brothers and sisters in Christ, and the poorest of the poor and the despised of this world will stand side by side, with us and with everyone in equal dignity in God’s presence and His Love for all eternity. . . then, the basic challenge that each of us face daily, if we want eternal life,is to live the Christ-like life of the Gospel daily, here and now, and fully while on earth.
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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