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In his message for Catechetical Sunday on 21 Jan 2018, Father Michael Sia of Marudi Sarawak writes:
We hope in many ways — depending on who we are, and how our circumstances turn out, the ways we hope are determined by what we place our hope in. And we all need hope in order to go forward in life.
However, sometimes we place our hope in the wrong things. As Christians, we do not hope in things, but only in the person of Jesus Christ. Placing our hope in Christ does not mean waiting around for Christ to fulfill his promises, but rather, how much Christ hopes from us — a dynamic, living relationship to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, who challenges us to become missionaries of his love, overcoming selfishness or lukewarmness, and as the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says, “He who promised is faithful; and let us … stir up one another to love and good works…,” which, in effect, as Jesus said, means we should do all to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).
As we consider what Christ hopes from us, it is clear from the Word of God that lukewarmness or complacency (mediocrity) is distasteful and therefore one who is lukewarm cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 3:16). Regular Sunday Mass goers can easily fall into thinking that as long as they stay away from big sins, they are still all right: “Don’t be so hard on yourself, not everything is a commandment, some things are just advised for special situations.” Sadly, this kind of thinking thrives among the majority of us, and this is exactly what Jesus condemns!
St Anthony M Zaccaria expresses it well: “For if you let lukewarmness ensnare you, your life in the spirit will be overcome by the flesh, and, to use the proper word, you will become Pharisees rather than Christians and spiritual persons.
“Now, here is how the lukewarm—the Pharisee—behaves. Having left his old ways, he does not commit big sins any longer but takes pleasure in little ones and does not feel remorse for them. For instance, he stops blaspheming and insulting his neighbor, but he attaches no importance to getting somewhat upset and to insisting on his own opinion rather than giving in to his opponent. Speaking evil of others is no longer a bad habit of his, but indulging quite often in vain and useless chatting during the day is not much of a sin to him. He got rid of overeating and drinking excessively as drunkards do, but he enjoys snacking here and there, between meals, without necessity. The vicious habits of the flesh are a thing of the past for him, but he takes delight in conversations and entertainments that are not so clean. He loves to spend hours in prayer, but during the rest of the day his spirit wanders aimlessly. He no longer seeks honours, but if they are given him, he gloats over them….”
Unless our focus is on Christ and others, self-preoccupation brings the danger of laying heavy burdens on the shoulders of others, without us lifting a finger to get involved or help them (Matthew 23:4). Both, those teaching the faith, and those who receive instruction, can be guilty of excusing themselves from getting their hands dirty in the process of spreading the faith. Pope Francis is well known for challenging pastors to ‘smell like the sheep’ and for laity to ‘get their feet dirty’ walking the streets of the world while evangelising; there is no room for spiritual stagnation if we are filled by the Lord’s hope for us.
Christ is our hope, but whatever we hope for from Christ has already been fully accomplished and given to us in Christ. We should take every opportunity, in society and church community, to receive and respond to the abundance of Christ’s graces found in the Church’s Sacraments and doctrines, daily being converted, from glory to glory, realising that despite sin, grace abounds even more (Rom. 5:20). As the Blessed Virgin Mary deeply entrusted all her hopes to the Lord in her “Yes” (Luke 1:38) to the message of Archangel Gabriel, wholly committed to the life of her Son and Lord, let us do likewise daily, to be more like Christ, in word and deed.