Archbishop's Message

Shepherd's Voice April 2022 - LET US NOT GROW WEARY OF DOING GOOD


When our Lord told his disciples that they have to be the salt and light of the world he added: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is heaven” (Mt. 5: 16).
Pope Francis, in his Lenten Message 2022, has invited us to focus on the following passage from the letter of St. Paul to the Galatians: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:9-10).
Good works are the result of our justification by God in Jesus Christ; they testify to our sanctification by the Holy Spirit and they merit for us further graces from God which account for our growth in holiness of life and ultimately the rich reward of eternal life. Through our good works, we indeed ‘merit’ eternal life as the C hurch reminds us during the days of Lent and otherwise, but the merit itself is God’s grace – in fact, nothing is merited by us; everything we are and possess is the pure gift of God’s goodness and mercy. This also is the message of Lent – God’s greatness, mercy and love and our nothingness before God.
There is no doubt at all that our Christian faith is proved by ‘good works’ as St. James teaches us (cf. James 2:14-26). He says faith without works is useless and dead. It is not without reason that the Church insists on ‘almsgiving’ as part of our Lenten discipline, in addition to fasting and abstinence. Faith alone will not save us but faith combined with works will save us, i.e., to care for the hungry, t he thirsty, the naked, the destitute, the orphans, the widows, the stranger, the prisoners and those who are underprivileged, disadvantaged and marginalized (cf. Mt.25: 31-46).
Our Lord has stated very clearly that we are recognized by our ‘fruits’. He says, “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good f ruit” (Mt. 7:17); “Either make a tree good and its fruit good or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the t ree is known by its fruit... The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person o ut of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Mt. 12: 33). Again, our Lord declares that it is what comes from the heart that defiles a person – “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Mt. 15: 19). The same truth St. Paul expands when he talks of the works of the flesh – “sexual immo rality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensi ons, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21). It is so very important to keep our hearts pure and childlike in order to “see God” (Mt. 5:8) and for others to see God in us.
We have to constantly ask ourselves, ‘what fruits do I bear in my life – good or bad or mixed?’ But the Lord does not brook vacillation between ‘yes, yes’ and ‘no, no’ at the same time. This is the way of the ‘flesh’ . He would want us to be like him, always a ‘Yes’ to God’s will and plan- “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Cor. 1: 20). Let us remember these words of Our Lord: “Let what you say be simply ‘Ye s’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Mt. 5:37). Therefore, our life has to be always a ‘ye s’ to good and ‘no’ to evil – never a ‘mix’ of good and evil.
The touchstone of our life’s goodness is the ‘fruits of the Holy Spirit’ which St. Paul mentions in the same letter to the Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22). We will bear these fruits only if we abide in him and draw life from him (cf. Jn. 15:1-11). In all his letters St. Paul places a mirror before us to examine our lives in the light of the Gospel and check whether we truly live the new life of the Spirit and have put on the ‘new self’ or we are still attached to the ‘old self’ that leads to death (cf. Col. 3).
The season of Lent is a golden opportunity given to us to renew our lives and embark on the part of doing good always. Our Holy Father Pope Francis in his message calls it Kairos i.e., the time of grace, the fulness of the present moment , the ALL that is now. Each moment has its own uniqueness its own fulness, its own quality. It is different from c hronos which is what we call chronological time – the steady flow of minutes, hours, days, and years as they move along relentlessly, with steady unflagging pace, no matter what is going on, in a manner which is equalitarian, fl at and unvarying. Describing Kairos, Basil Pennington, OSB, says “If we can enter into the school of Centering Pr ayer and are faithful to our lessons, we will, quicker than we expect, graduate into a life of Kairos, a life tha t is filled with luminous Presence, great peace, a constancy in joy: a veritable beginning of life eternal here on earth. May the Divine Master lead us all swiftly through these lessons, forming in us the mind and heart of Christ ” [M. Basil Pennington, OCSO, Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form (Bandra: St. Pauls, 1998 ) p. 145].
Quoting St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Pope Francis affirms that Lent is that opportune time, the Kairos, for sowing goodness in view of a future harvest, although our entire existence is an opportune time of which L ent is only an image. He reminds us that all too often in our lives, greed, pride and the desire to posses s, accumulate and consume have the upper hand, as we see from the story of the foolish man in the Gospel p arable, who thought his life was safe and secure because of the abundant grain and goods he had stored in his barns (cf. Lk. 12:16-21); but that very night his soul was called to account, leaving behind a questio n that none can escape – “and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” The Lord himself gives th e moral of his parable: “So is the one (fool) who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God”. In the context of this parable what is the meaning of Lent for us? Lent invites us to conversion, to a chan ge in mindset, so that life’s truth and beauty may be found not so much in possessing as in giving, not so much in accumulating as in sowing and sharing goodness – this is the wisdom of the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sowing seeds of goodness, kindness, compassion, peace and love will never be a wasteful exercise, though there will be struggles and difficulties like that of the farmer who experienced many setbacks till the good ground yield ed “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Mt. 13:8). According to how we have sowed, we will also r eap a harvest. What kind of harvest? We will see hatred turning into love, forgiveness taking away resentmen t and anger, sadness turning into joy, enemies becoming friends, selfishness giving way to selflessness, gre ed being replaced by divine generosity, walls of separation crumbling, a sick and putrefying environment atta ining once again the infusion of new life leading to robust health of body, mind and spirit and darkness of s in and evil being driven away by the glorious splendour of the Lord’s resurrection. However, what we experien ce here on earth is only the foretaste of the ultimate fulfilment of this ‘harvest’ in the joy of God’s Kingd om when God will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
St Paul tells us, “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountif ully … for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:6 -7). To be cheerful givers is our calling.
This is the miracle of listening to God’s word and being docile to his working in our lives - we bear fruit which brings us joy and summons us to become God’s co-workers (cf. 1 Cor. 3:9) in this world. We live our lives not in a s hortsighted way as if this world alone is the end, but with a vision that sets our sights on eternal life, on t he ‘treasure in heaven’ (cf. Lk. 12:33; 18:22). It is this vision of eternity made possible by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that gives meaning to our self-denial, our taking up the cross to follow Jesus, our lo ving and forgiving as he did, our seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (cf. Mt. 6:33), our w anting to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt. 5:48). Those who are intimately united to Chri st in love “by dying a death like his” (Rom. 6:5) will also be united to his resurrection for eternal life (cf . Jn. 5:29). “Then the upright will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt. 13:43).
Only when we fix our gaze on the Risen Christ (cf. Heb. 12:2) will we be able to respond to St. Paul’s appeal: “Let us nev er grow weary of doing good” (Gal. 6:9), because this is the promise of God right from the Old Testament: “He gi ves power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40:29-31).
Pope Francis sums up his message with four apt exhortations of ‘not growing weary’:
i. Let us not grow tired of praying. Jesus taught us to “pray always without becoming weary” (Lk. 18:1). We need to pray because we need God. Thinking that we need nothing other than ourselves is a dangerous illusion – the pandemic has taught us this.
ii. Let us not grow tired of uprooting evil from our lives. May the corporal fasting to which Lent calls us fortify our spirit for the battle against sin.
iii. Let us not grow tired of doing good in active charity towards our neigbours. During this Lent, may we practice a lmsgiving by giving joyfully (cf. 2 Cor. 9:7).
iv. Goodness, together with love, justice and solidarity, are not achieved once and for all; they have to be realized eac h day. Let us ask God to give us the patient perseverance of the farmer (cf. James 5:7), and to persevere in d oing good, one step at a time.

Yours sincerely in the Lord,
+ Anil J. T. Couto
  Archbishop of Delhi