11 March, Friday — Going beyond the surface

Friday of the 1st Week of Lent

Eze 18:21-28
Mt 5:20-26

“…he shall live because of the integrity he has practised”

This first reading from Ezekiel perhaps strikes a little fear in me. As a fallen creature of God, with all my imperfections, I often wonder if I am ‘good enough’ to make it to heaven. If anything, I am (at times, when I think about it) concerned that I am ultimately unable to make it at the end of my time here on earth.

In preparing for this reflection, I realised that the passage, together with James 2:14-26 (“Faith without works is dead”) could be the genesis of earning our way into heaven. We become focused (maybe even obsessed) with doing the right things; ticking our way on the checklists which we feel will bring us to heaven.

Reading Ezekiel again, I realised that the spirit of this passage is in how we CHOOSE to live our lives. The starting point here is the choice itself — are we modelling our lives against those who are evil? In fact, in such a short passage, the word ‘integrity’ appears no less than four times. It is not just about the actions we take; it is about the underlying mindset we have chosen to adopt!

One of my favourite movies is The Godfather. We see how a poor orphan grows up to be rich and powerful, becoming the head of a (fictitious) crime family in America. We also see his attempts to subsequently legitimise his activities, ultimately ending in failure. Regardless of his drive to change, the spirit of his organisation remains embedded in evil. It appears clean on the outside, but is actually tainted on the inside.

I am struck by how Jesus addresses this at the beginning of today’s Gospel as well — “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven”. Our faith needs to go deeper than mere appearances. Instead, we need to regularly audit ourselves; are we just trying to project an image of a faithful disciple, or do we need to make fundamental changes to become true disciples of Christ?

As Christians, we choose to live the Christian life as best as we can. Given our broken and fallen nature, however, we will sin. We are given opportunities to reconcile with our God. The grace for heaven has already been given the moment we choose to live our lives in Him.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Help us Lord, to know the difference between true discipleship and what is fake. We pray that we may make the daily decision to follow You and to always endeavour to take the right path.

Thanksgiving: We are grateful to You for being our True North. Thank you for teaching us to go beyond the superficial and for teaching us to live our lives faithfully and with integrity.

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