This year we celebrate our 51st National Day. In the last 50 years, we, together with our leaders, have been focusing on building a progressive society with proper infrastructure and transparent governance. As a consequence, Singapore has grown economically, technologically and politically as a nation. There is equality, justice and harmony in our country. Indeed, we can be proud of our achievements.
We have many things to thank God for our nation. The nation is what it is today because we have been blessed with strong leadership in our country, whether it is in the political, religious or economic arena.
Good, competent, talented leaders with integrity and strong moral values are necessary for the growth of a nation and the continued sustenance of the development of its people. We must thank God for a good, efficient and responsible government that has the courage to make difficult decisions and do the right things for the good of the country.
We thank God for an efficient civil service that ensures the smooth operation of the country. We thank God for responsible, level-headed and civic-minded religious leaders who ensure the harmony among all religions. We thank God for our economic and corporate leaders in creating jobs and growing our economy.
Yet, we cannot truly call ourselves a successful, wise and great nation if we are not also known as a people of compassion and mercy. In our success, we must never forget the poorer and disadvantaged peoples of our country and the world, especially those countries in Asia. In this year of mercy, we, as a Nation, are challenged to move out of ourselves to focus on others who need our help and assistance.
There are firstly the poor and needy in our backyard. We must never think that poverty and suffering have been eliminated from our society. Many still suffer from the lack of basic needs and the affordability of medical care. They suffer in pain without assistance. There are many elderly who have been abandoned by their children or are all alone with no one to assist them. Often they suffer in silence, in loneliness and misery. They are often forgotten by society. Some elderly do not even have a place to call home. There are still many who cannot afford proper meals every day.
Besides the poor and the sick, we must remember those who are disadvantaged in society because of disability due to stroke, accident or birth defects; those intellectually challenged, those suffering from mental illness and loss of memory. When we think of the sufferings that they have to bear, not just the hunger, the physical pain and discomfort but the emotional and psychological pain, our hearts go out to them.
When we put ourselves in their situation and identify with them in their suffering, surely we cannot remain indifferent to their plight but lend a helping hand or share our resources with them, for many of us have more than what we need. Thanks to Caritas and the 24 charitable affiliates under the umbrella of Caritas, particularly Catholic Welfare Services and many others, the Church has shown herself to be the Church of mercy and compassion.
But we also need to extend mercy and charity beyond our peoples to those poorer nations around us. There are so many of them who are barely surviving on the essentials. Those of us who have gone on mercy trips to Asia and Africa will understand the stark lives of the impoverished peoples in the world, without a decent home to live in; poor hygiene, no clean water and electricity.
Many cannot afford education and often are without even basic medical care. They languish away and sometimes are left to die slowly and painfully. Indeed, when we look at the young people in these countries, they seem to have no future unless rich nations are willing to help them move out of their poverty cycle through education and medical aid, besides financial help to build schools, hospitals and other infrastructure alongside the development of their economy.
Elderly, divorced, singles
In this year of mercy, mercy must also be extended in a particular way to the family, beginning with our elderly. For all the sacrifices that they have made for us and for the nation, we must ensure that they are well looked after. Young people must not only think of their own career, their social life and entertainment and their needs. They need to be sensitive to the loneliness of their elderly and sick parents at home. We need to show them more affection, care and spend time with them. Wasting time with them is the best gift we can give to our elderly because this is what love is all about.
Mercy and help must also be extended to those who are married, those who are divorced and those who are single. We are sympathetic to the demands of marriage life and those who are single parents. They need more programmes and community support in their marriage and family life because of the constraints in time, having to work and manage the family and children.
Instead of being judgmental, we should have great sympathy for those divorced or going through difficult times in married life. They need our prayers, compassion and understanding. When we isolate and marginalise them, we show ourselves to be lacking mercy.
We must also not forget the singles who have to shoulder the responsibility of looking after their elderly. They are often taken for granted and neglected by society. But they too need our support because they experience loneliness and the frustrations of a single life.
To the young, they too need our emotional and affective support. They must be loved for who and what they are and not what they can do. Parents need to make quality time for their children and be sincerely interested in their lives and not just their academic performance. We must avoid the temptation to replace love with things and money.
Finally, to those of same-sex orientation, we must also reach out to them. In the eyes of God, they too are His children and are loved no less. They too enjoy the dignity of the status of children of God. Hence, we must welcome them and show our love for them.
Whilst we cannot condone or agree with same-sex unions as this is against natural and divine law, we continue to embrace them as members of our community with great sensitivity. We need to encourage and help them to embrace the gospel more and more each day; and be forgiving when they fail in chastity and fidelity.
Above all, let our gift of mercy be demonstrated by giving everyone the gift of Divine Mercy Himself, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ. We should not shy away from sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him and to those Catholics who are lapsed or have lost their faith.
Charity without truth cannot save a person entirely. The truth of the Good News of God’s love must be proclaimed without compromise. So, let us offer the gift of Jesus Christ to the world so that in coming to know the Merciful Father through Christ, they too will give glory to Him.
Our desire is that all will come to full knowledge of God the Father of Mercy so that they will receive mercy not just in this life but fullness of life hereafter. Only God, ultimately, can quench the thirst and quell the pain of humanity.
The failure to proclaim Christ as the mercy of God through the sharing of the Word of God, the Eucharist and the Sacraments, especially of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, would be to shortchange our people. But if we bring Christ to others by the lives that we live, then our nation can truly be called great and wise, because we are not just a progressive or prosperous nation but a nation of gracious, generous and merciful people – united in love, service and compassion.
Happy Birthday, Singapore!
Devotedly in Christ,
The Most Rev William Goh
Archbishop of Singapore