12th Sunday of Year A
Let the love of God enters your heart, it is our greatest weapon against relativism.
Do you find it hard to be a Christian today? We live in a secular and relativistic world. Relativism says that nothing is right or wrong. Whether an act or behaviour is right or wrong depends on the person’s point of view. Everything is relative. Hence, to our relativistic world, even morals are negotiable. Under such a value system, there can be no peace, whether is it between individuals, groups or nations. For how can there be peace, when one person has the right to violate another person so long as the first person feels there is nothing wrong in doing so? How can there be peace, when the second person has the right to retaliate and hurt the first person back, so long as he thinks there is nothing wrong with retaliating? Christianity preaches a totally opposing value system to relativism. We believe in the absolute nature of morality. Regardless what a person may feel, there is a right and a wrong to morality.
To be a good Christian is to always proclaim the truth. We are called to be so inspired by the truth, that we cannot stop proclaiming the truth. This is exactly the sentiment of the prophet Jeremiah. In the passage immediately before this week’s First Reading, Jeremiah proclaimed, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jer 20:9) St Paul urges us to always proclaim the truth, “whether the time is favourable or unfavourable” (1 Tim 4:2). When the world preaches that it is ok to abort babies, euthanise the sick, live promiscuously, consume pornography, perform homosexual acts or ignore your marriage vows, it is our Christian duty to denounce these sinful acts. We do so not because we hate the people who violates God’s teachings. No, we do so because we love them. We realise that just as we ourselves often fall short of the glory of God, as sons and daughters of God, we need to help and support each other to live a moral life. For it is only through living a life of good morals that we may attain true happiness for ourselves and our love ones. Living up to our Christian duty in this way is not easy.
This was exactly the situation Jeremiah found himself in the First Reading. For proclaiming the truth to the people of Judah, Jeremiah was persecuted priest Pashhur (Jer 20:1-2). Even Jeremiah’s close friends deserted him (verse 10). It is no different today. Jeremiah’s predicament is also the fate that often confronts the faithful Christian today. For speaking the truth, the faithful Christian is often denounced by his relativist friends and families, including other Christians. But take courage! In the words of Jeremiah, “But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonour will never be forgotten.” (verse 11)
In the Second Century BC, as Greek conquerors ruled the Holy Land, many Jews were forced to abandon God and worship Greek gods instead. Under pressure, many did. Yet some remained loyal to God, in spite of the great social pressure and risk to their personal safety. This eventually led to a revolt called the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC). Many of the faithful died in that revolt. As our Lord Himself said in the Gospel this week, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (verse 28) Our situation is no different today. Christians today too have been pressured to accept the values of the Relativism. Those who do not are persecuted and ridiculed, just as Jeremiah and the Maccabean family were in their times. And just as in the Maccabean time, many Christians today succumbed to relativism. While they may come to church and recite the Christian Creed each week, their hearts have been unevangelised.
As relativism infiltrate and permeate our faith community, it is more important than ever for faithful Christians to proclaim the truth and reevangelise the world, and yes, we even need to evangelise within our own Christian communities. We are called to convert hearts, turn them away from sins. The pre-requisite to righteous living is to have love in our hearts – love of God, love of neighbour, and love of self (Mk 12:30-31). It is not just about adherence to some ancient law called the Ten Commandments. As St Paul explain in the Second Reading, “sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law” (verse 13). Before God gave us the Ten Commandments, sin was already in the world. The cause of sin is therefore not our inability to follow the law. No, sin comes from the lack of love in our hearts. The truth is, God did not write the law for the righteous; He wrote the law for the unrighteous. As St Paul explained to his disciple Timothy, “the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave-traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim 1:9-11). My brothers and sisters, the key to fight off sins is not in pitting our fallen nature against an external constraint that is the law. No, the key to righteous living is to nurture love in our hearts, so that the love of God becomes an internal constraint in our heart, guarding us against sin. In this way, while we may say we are “obeying” the Commandments, in truth, we do not need the Commandments to constraint us. We have something far more superior – we have the love of God in our hearts.
Agape, my brothers and sisters.