TODAY, we celebrate 48 years of nation-building. We cannot but feel a sense of achievement and pride at how far we have come in such a short span of time. We have every right to feel patriotic.
However, patriotism should not be measured just in terms of emotion or sentimentalism. There are many Singaporeans who have achieved much in life, but are still searching for happiness and fulfilment.
The fact is that an individual is more than just body. He is made up of intellect and soul. Hence, nation-building for Singapore should not just be focused on infrastructure and economic progress; but also the holistic development of her citizens.
We thus have a duty to build a society that thrives on the Gospel values of love, truth and justice. These are ultimately universal values. We must therefore collaborate with both government and fellow citizens alike, in preserving our moral and spiritual values.
Hence for us Christians, nation-building is Kingdom-Building – it is to help our fellowmen come under God’s reign of truth, life and love.
Our efforts at Kingdom-Building should not only be introspective and confined to Singapore. We also have a responsibility as a nation to the world-at-large – especially those who are oppressed and deprived.
As Singaporeans, we must make our nation shine before men, for unless a country welcomes and treats others with respect and love, its citizens cannot be deemed to be patriotic.
Only when we refrain from placing “national interests” at the expense of fellowmen, can it then be said that Singapore has truly developed into a gracious society. Our nation will then be known for its generosity, unity and justice. For nationalism and globalisation are mutually related. We cannot speak of global harmony and cooperation in the political, social, economic, cultural and religious arena unless these characteristics are ingrained and become part of our social fabric. Hence, charity truly begins at home.
The key therefore to a gracious society and global/national harmony is encapsulated in the family unit. As Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Familiaris Consortio – the family is the first and vital cell of society. It is from the family that citizens come to birth and it is within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development of society itself.
Hence the family unit has to be safeguarded by upholding the institution of marriage and supported through various communities and groups that are present in the Church or at the national level.
Christian families who contribute to nation-building through building God’s kingdom also contribute to the Church’s mission – The Christian family also builds up the Kingdom of God in history through the everyday realities that concern and distinguish its state of life.
It is thus in the love between husband and wife and between the members of the family – a love lived out in all its extraordinary richness of values and demands: totality, oneness, fidelity and fruitfulness that the Christian family’s participation in the prophetic, priestly and kingly mission of Jesus Christ and of His Church finds expression and realization.
Therefore, love and life constitute the nucleus of the saving mission of the Christian family in the Church and for the Church.
Formators and educators also have an indispensable role in shaping the future of our country and the world through their influence on the next generation of leaders and citizens. We are called to form our children in character based on the teachings of the Gospel.
St Paul called on us to mould them so that they would be “clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience”.
Our Catholic schools in particular, should go beyond the emphasis on academic achievement. From the Congregation of Catholic Education: The complexity of the modern world makes it all the more necessary to increase awareness of the ecclesial identity of the Catholic school. It is from its Catholic identity that the school derives its original characteristics and its “structure” as a genuine instrument of the Church, a place of real and specific pastoral ministry.
The Catholic school participates in the evangelising mission of the Church and is the privileged environment in which Christian education is carried out. In this way “Catholic schools are at once places of evangelisation, of complete formation, of inculturation, of apprenticeship in a lively dialogue between young people of different religions and social backgrounds”.
So, today, as we celebrate the birthday of our nation, let us pray for all those who are in positions of influence and authority – parents, educators and especially our political leaders, that the Lord will grace them with wisdom and courage, not just to seek economic progress but to uphold and pass on moral and spiritual values that will ensure the preservation of our society.
The future of Singapore is not only determined by the government. As citizens, each of us has a stake in our country. Singapore is our home. We too need to make it a better place for ourselves and our loved ones. We can do so as living witnesses of our faith in society – by being law-abiding citizens who contribute to the economic and moral fibre of our nation.
As members of the royal priesthood, our task is to help build a nation where the message of Christ in all its richness and its universal appeal finds a home within us. And what is this message if not the universal message of the Kingdom of God!
Indeed, as Jesus reminds us, the key to everything else in our country is to set our hearts on His kingdom and all other things will be given to us as well.
Truly, when we promote values that are universal, such as forgiveness, compassion and tolerance, then our society will grow to be more just and harmonious. We will thus be able to share from our abundance with other nations of the world. Majulah Singapura!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SINGAPORE!
Archbishop William Goh