28 December, Monday — The goodness we seek

Dec 28 – Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

The Holy Innocents are the children slaughtered by Herod the Great when he tried to kill the infant Christ.

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The children died for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourned for the death of martyrs. The Christ child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to Himself.

To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

– From a sermon by bishop St. Quodvultdeus about the Holy Innocents

1 Jn 1:5-2:2
Mt 2:13-18

God is light; there is no darkness in Him at all.

There was a rather revealing article recently about the high rate of suicides among Singaporean youth, particularly among those aged between 20 and 29. And in the same week, we had received news of a death among our student cohort. Going through some of her Facebook posts (I had been sent the link for background knowledge in case of any public queries), I felt sad how a young, promising career had been cut short because of a failed relationship.

I had experienced similar situations before in my teens and early 20s, always seeking the approval of friends, significant others I was dating, just generally always trying hard to please others. That theme carried through to my fledgling advertising career up to my early 30s, when I decided that I had to focus on improving my craft simply for myself, and not to please my bosses or even clients. It took a few knocks for me to realise that how ‘good’ I was shouldn’t be tied to anyone other than myself — my own self belief and inner confidence that I was ‘good enough’ to hold my head high amongst my peers (including ‘foreign talent’).

Getting to that point is never easy though. And with the unforgiving social media environments these days, where comments fly to and fro behind the faceless facades of anonymity, it takes people with relatively thick skins and who have that certain steel within them to weather the knocks. And when we have reached a certain level of credibility, or built up a reasonable reputation within an industry, how many of us can actually drop everything to become ‘perfect’ in the eyes of Jesus?

So I can relate to the man in today’s gospel reading, who is asked to sacrifice all he has built to follow Jesus. Not that I was ever ‘a man of great wealth’, but back in the day, I had built up a decent reputation to even start my own business; until one day, I was taken out of my comfort zone and left it all. And while I didn’t follow Jesus immediately, I believe that He set me on the road back to him through a rather trying period where I was afforded countless opportunities to succumb to the materialism of an industry that only was concerned about how you projected yourself — what you wore, where you ate, what you owned.

Brothers and sisters, we can never ever be ‘good enough’ in the eyes of those who do not love us nor have our well-being in their hearts. And we will end up losing ourselves if we persist in trying ever harder to please these people — because nothing can ever satisfy them. Rather, we must learn to follow our hearts and that of Jesus’, because it is He who loves us like no other. It is He who wants us to be perfect in His eyes. How? Simply by focussing on what He wants us to do and to stop chasing material wealth or recognition that comes at the expense of others.

Let us stop worrying about what’s ‘good’ in the eyes of those around us and just focus on the good that Jesus wants us to do in our daily lives.

(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask for your guidance and your providence in our lives — that we may always focus on You and your rewards rather than what others promise us.

Thanksgiving:  Thank you, Lord, for showering us with all things good and for being so generous with your love.


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