New Year’s Mass: Gospel – Lk 2:16-21

"
Confident Trust in God"

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 1st January 2012

If the Eurozone breaks up, it would be a great setback not only for a unified Europe, which is a stabilising force in world affairs, but for a global economy too.

If war breaks out in the Middle East, global shipping will be affected, the price of oil will shoot up, and we might be heading for a Depression; terrorism remains a threat; there is creeping uncertainty in the world.

Experts agree that droughts, flooding and environmental calamities are becoming more frequent, not just next year, but in the coming decades.

Pope Benedict in his 2012 message of “World Peace,” explains further that Many young people view their lives with apprehension and raise many questions about their future. They anxiously ask: How can we fit into a world marked by so many grave injustices and so much suffering?  How should we react to the selfishness and violence that sometimes seem to prevail? How can we give full meaning to life?”

While young people desire to look to the future with solid hope, they are experiencing apprehension about many things: they want to receive an education which prepares them more fully to deal with the real world.  This is because they see how difficult it is to form a stable family and to find stable employment; they wonder whether they can really contribute to political, cultural and economic life or help build a society with a more human and fraternal face.

The doubts and the fears of young people are not unfounded.  Our Holy Father says, “We are living in a world where families, and life itself, are constantly threatened and not infrequently fragmented. Working conditions are often incompatible with family responsibilities: worries about the future, the frenetic pace of life, the need to move frequently to ensure an adequate livelihood, to say nothing of mere survival – all these make it hard to ensure that children receive one of the most precious of treasures (they need): the presence of their parents - the essential need for parents to spend (quality) time with their children.

Pope Benedict XVI calls 2011 as “a year marked by rising sense of frustration,” and thus, he emphasises that it is important to begin a New Year, 2012 with an attitude of “confident trust.”

There is a true story (which I will adapt), of Yohanes, a fifteen year old Indonesian who shares, “One of the things I enjoy most is to go on morning walks with my mother.  We have both been deeply hurt after my father took a young Achehnese woman for a second wife.  To make a long story short, one day, we experienced a most terrifying earthquake that lasted for forty minutes, but which to me seemed like four hours.

Shortly after, many people were heading to the beach to catch fish.   They said that the level of the sea has fallen and the sea seems to have dried up a long way out.  And, a lot of fish are just flapping about the seabed.  I was tempted to go but, somehow decided to stay back to help mom clean up the mess created by the earthquake in our home.  Moreover, mom was still feeling lonely and hurting from my dad’s departure.  “Thanks, my son!” Mom said when she saw that I was staying home with her, than to go out with my friends.  That made me feel proud and I was happy to know that I brought joy to her.

When we finished cleaning, we suddenly heard people shouting at the top of their voices, “Run . . .!  Water . . .! Flood . . .!”  Mom, immediately rushed to her motorcycle, and as I grabbed my younger brother, Anes, we rode off towards the hill as fast as we could.  There was total chaos and confusion everywhere; everyone was rushing in all directions. . . In a distance, we could see and hear the thunderous sound of the approaching gigantic waves of about 40 ft high.  Before we knew it, with a tremendous force it smashed into us; I was completely swallowed up by this massive wall of black, muddy and oily water.  We were hurled in all directions; mom, my brother and I were separated; we were battling for our lives, yet totally at the mercy of the waves. I prayed and called out to the Lord, “Lord, Jesus, save me, my brother and my mom.”

To make a long story short, when the tsunami passed, I found myself collapsed on a beach; totally exhausted . . . then a man came to help me up . . . to my surprise, it was my dad . . . while I was battling with the waves, I remember asking God to forgive my sins and my hatred for my father for breaking my mom’s heart . . . As I now find myself alive, I also felt that my hatred towards my dad began to disappear . . . as dad hugged me tightly with tears in his eyes. . . We frantically searched for mom and my brother.  Eventually, I learnt that although my younger brother survived, mom had died in the tsunami.  I cried all night . . . but, I was also consoled that before the tsunami, I had heard mom say to me, “Thank you, my son!  These last words would forever remind in my heart.  So, I prayed, “Mom, my dear mom, now your pain and sadness is over and your broken heart is finally healed.  I know you won’t weep any more.  In heaven you will have the true, true love of Jesus . . . the love that never fails; the love that never ends . . . how happy you must be in heaven . . .”

           

Year after year, in our youth camps, we hear of the very sad stories of our youth experiencing so much pain and anxieties in their lives; we hear of how parents are not connecting with them; vice versa.  Year after year, we hear of friends, families and relatives breaking up in their relationships.  Year after year, at our New Year’s Mass, we are resolved to renew our lives and reaffirm our faith in God, but when Christmas comes around, many have still not done much to relate to one another from the genuine compassion of our hearts even as God, on His part has kept to His promises faithfully.

       

Cardinal Henry Newman explains that true communication speaks from our heart to the heart of others around us which is much more than just clever talking.  'Eloquence and wit, shrewdness and dexterity, these plead a cause well and propagate it quickly, but it dies with them. It has no root in the hearts of men, and lives not out a generation.' Truth speaks from the centre of the person, from their heart:  'By a heart awake from the dead, and by affections set on heaven, and from these we can... truly and without figure witness that Christ liveth.' In the age of the Internet, Newman tells us that however we communicate, what we say should come from the heart, the fruits of a moral life lived in communion with Christ.

In fact, Christ speaks to us from his own Heart. He is 'the Word, the Light, the Life, the Truth, the Wisdom, the Divine Glory.' So, in the end, it's the Heart of God himself which speaks to us – in prayer, in the Mass, through the Scriptures.  But, also through other faithful Christians and in the teachings of the Church. As Newman says, 'when the Church speaks God speaks.' The Church has no other heart than the Heart of Christ himself.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if our Holy Father Pope Benedict’s message of “World Peace” for this 2012 is to become a reality, then his advice of our need to build attitudes of “confident trusts” in relationship has to be taken seriously.  This as Cardinal Newman asserts can only take place if we develop a heart to heart communication with one another in our relationships.  Yohanes, in our story, is a good example of how his broken hearted mother was helped and healed by his compassionate response to her needs.

     

Even as he lost his mother tragically in the tsunami, because he was able to love genuinely and compassionately, he continues to experience the healing graces of those precious moments with his mother.  And, because Johanes was able to be reconciled with God, he too was able to go beyond the hatred he harboured in his heart for his father, who deserted them for a second wife.  These are concrete examples for us of how we can be what Pope Benedict calls the attitude of “confident trust” that restores hope and brings peace to our family and the gloomy world of pain and shadow.  I would like to end with this poem entitled, the “Present Moment”:

When you open your eyes,
You open your mind;
When you open your mind,
You open your heart,
When you open your heart,
You live with dignity;
When you live with dignity,
You share divine life;
When you share divine life,
You can build a community of love;
When you build a community of love,
You enter eternity;
When you enter eternity,
Nothing can harm you;
When nothing can harm you,
You will live forever,
Even now in this present moment.
(The Tao Te Ching and the Christian Way).

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

 

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