11 September, Saturday — Stand up for God, or bow to Man?

Saturday of Week 23 in Ordinary Time

1 Tim 1:15-17
Lk 6:43-49

A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.”

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to say nothing”. We are living in trying times. Endemic aside, there is plenty happening around us that stinks of moral decay, social disintegration, cultural unravelling and spiritual self-destruction. And at the head of all this rot – hypocritical, devious religious pastors, self-serving politicians, corrupt legislators, delusional (ex)national leaders “… all manner and form of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly, are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

So, what does sheep’s clothing look like exactly? It’s something borrowed and draped over to hide that which is shameful, hypocritical, deceitful and self-serving. That needs to be hidden. To give a semblance of legitimacy, morality and wholesomeness in order to lull the innocent, the gullible, the helpless into a trap, from which they would ultimately have to pay the price. One of the devil’s greatest weapons in his arsenal is deceit. And it is indeed a super-weapon with destructive powers that make the H-bomb look like a pea-shooter.

These wolves surround themselves by using the external trappings of morality and virtue. They borrow the vestiges of holiness, piety and sanctity, to belie their true intentions. Carrying and waving bibles (upside down moreover), posing in front of churches, ostentatious displays of generous donations to the church, high office in church committees (with ‘reserved’ car park lots and seats in pews), being prayed over by religious ‘leaders’. By doing so, they use the smoke-screen of false religiosity, morality, justice, values, even literally the Bible itself, to hide their true intentions – serving themselves at the expense of others.

But once the lie has been perpetrated, once the victim has been slaughtered, then comes the feasting. Self-aggrandizement, corruption, injustice, the grab for power, the abuse of authority, the manipulation of consciences, the unlawful use of violence, the bastardization and perversion of institutions created of law and justice. What is left after all this – the demise of the moral fabric of a society and the hurting of innocent people.

Some of you will not take this reflection favorably — “A Christian does not judge!”; “A Christian does not condemn others”. I agree. That said, I then ask these questions — Imperfect as we may be, should a Christian then not exercise prudence? Should we not discern the hearts of men? Should we not search for the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the actions of those around us as beacons to help lead us to the heart of God? Should we not try to live our earthly lives as courageously and faithfully as we can to the Gospel, even if imperfectly? So that one day, we can stand before God to face final judgement? Or should we just “play nice”, “don’t rock the boat”, “don’t offend the rich and the powerful”, “don’t get into the bad books of the boss”, “don’t spoil your rice bowl”, “don’t jeopardize your prosperity, power, prestige, privilege, position, pleasure”. What an endless list of ways in which we kneel before Mammon.

The choices before us today may not be as apparent and ‘black-and-white’ as between being forced to give up our faith or get eaten by a lion. But like those Christians, two thousand and twenty-one years ago, these exact same choices remain before us today. But they are much less obvious and much harder to discern. They are hidden under thick layers of sheep’s clothing. But make no mistake, the ravenous wolves are still there – ever ready to pounce and to kill the soul of the Christian. As Archbishop said in one of his Sunday homilies – “evangelize the world or the world will secularize you.”. And so too, Prophet Joshua who asks:

“If it does not, please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve!”

Kneel before God? Or prostrate before Man? Your choice.

Choose wisely.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us to have the wisdom to discern your will in all things and to have the courage to live out that will, especially when this world we live in is often so full of deception and confusion.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for your unfailing love and care for us, and for your guiding hand that steers us away from peril and towards your holy will.

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