CHRIST COMES TO GIVE US PEACE AND A CERTAIN HOPE
The world we live in today has become so volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Business and academic literature term it “VUCA”. (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). The changes are happening so fast, so pervasively to the extent that our lives are constantly being turned upside down. Our minds, our values are no longer being formed by way of the family, the Church, in school, but by influencers over the social media.
Is the world progressing or retrogressing? In terms of science and technology, it is making tremendous progress. Unfortunately, intellectual, scientific and technological progress have also brought about moral decadence. The soul is empty. Life has become meaningless. Man no longer knows how to love authentically, faithfully and truly. A face-to-face greeting for a special occasion is replaced by a click on WhatsApp. No relationship is stable or can last. Not family, and certainly not even marriage. The world is ruled by self-centeredness, selfishness, materialism, Epicureanism and individualism.
So, what does it mean to be a Christian living in a VUCA world? How can we cope with the challenges facing us as individuals and as Church? What can the message of Christmas offer to the world with respect to the challenges facing us? What can the Infant Jesus, the King of Peace offer to the world?
Against volatility and uncertainty, the Church “maintains that beneath all changes there are many realities which do not change and which have their ultimate foundation in Christ, Who is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” (Gaudium et spes, 10; cf Heb 13:8) Situations can change but the principles of the gospel remain constant and relevant for all time. As Christians in the midst of a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, the gospel as taught by our Lord remains the rule of thumb in making discernment on how we should respond to the changing times and situation.
Against complexity and ambiguity, the entire meaning of life is clearly summed up by love and truth. Indeed, truth and love do not change. Truth and love is summed up in Christ by St John who wrote, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14)
Christmas reminds us that Jesus is our Messiah, the Word of God made Flesh. He is the Son of God and the light of the world. He is the unconditional love of God in person. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) He is also “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (Jn 14:6) We must stay firm in our faith in Christ as the Son of God who has shown us the love and mercy of our Father.
We must examine all the prevailing trends, ideology and technological advances and how these have made us lose sight of our spiritual growth, weaken our love for our family life, for marriage, and for our fellowmen. Let us put aside the noise, distractions the hobnobbing and all the commercialism of Christmas. Let us focus on the real reason for our anticipation and joy during this time of the year. Who is this child whose birth we are celebrating? Unless we are becoming a more gracious, caring, compassionate and forgiving society, then those options presented to us by the world must be seen to be false and short-sighted.
In Christ’s birth, we are certain of our calling and destiny in life. Christ reveals our identity as sons and daughters of God. But for us, “who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (Jn 1:12) With Christ in us, we will find peace and joy because He gives us hope of a certain future. By His life and death, Jesus shows us the way to live our lives in selflessness and humble service unto death. By His resurrection, Jesus shows us that our true destiny is not annihilation but eternal life with God. By living the life of the Spirit, Jesus gives us the joy and peace of the Kingdom. Hence, we are no more living a hopeless or aimless life. We are called to grow with Jesus into the full stature of Christ. (cf Eph 4:13) This is how Christmas can bring us joy, hope, certainty and peace in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.
So, let us strengthen our faith in Jesus, the Infant King as the Light of the World, so that we will never give up hope in the fullness of life that is ours at the end of time. In Christ we walk in truth and love, by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), imitating Him by emptying ourselves in selfless love and service. Christmas invites us to be a gift to others by emptying ourselves for the love and service of humanity, especially the poor and marginalized, even when we are unappreciated. Let us make of ourselves a gift to the world by living in faith and love; be witnesses of truth and authentic love even when the world rejects us. It is this faith and love, with a certain hope that can give us peace and joy in a world that seems confused, unpredictable and aimless, moving towards degeneration, decadence and destruction.
Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega. He is the one unchanging rock that we as disciples must cling to in this VUCA world. We must cling to the Lord like the disciples in the storm. So let Jesus be born into our hearts this Christmas, strengthen our faith, give us hope in these turbulent times, that we may overcome hatred with love.
Archbishop William Goh