Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: The Single




            In the transformative stories of some nations, at times it takes a single person to bring them to a life of grace. I write this piece with Plato’s “Republic” in mind. Plato was of the opinion that the Republic – a land of righteousness and justice should be initiated by an individual’s desire for a life of righteousness and justice. The righteous and just land is just an extension of a righteous and just person, the philosopher opined. Isn’t the philosopher right that if a righteous and just person influence others to become his/her like, their dwelling will be a just and righteous land? At times it just takes a person to lead us in our process of transformation.

            As Christians, we can say we are who we are, solely because of the sacrifices of Christ Jesus our Lord. We always need a person to take the lead in the process of transformation of nations. Reflecting on this, the first example that comes to mind is the story of Abraham.

            We are told by the inspired writers that when the human race sinned against God and was dispersed over the face of the earth, it took the faith and courage of Abraham to be the means through which God was to build a nation for himself. The significant role that Abraham played has earned him a solid foundational place among all the major religions in the world (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Apart from Abraham, countless people have played similarly significant roles. Their stories in the bible are always inspirational. Among all these inspirational people who led their people from nothingness to a life of grace, our Lord and savior Jesus Christ stands out.

            A similar line of thought is presented to us by St Paul in today’s second reading. Addressing the Ephesians, the learned apostle wrote: “Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation…” St. Paul confidently states that the revelation of God that came to them for their benefit, reached them because of him. He is right because from the very beginning, he was chosen by Jesus to become the apostle for the Gentile nations.

            In the first reading, the reference to the “single” is not placed within the context of an individual person but rather a city. The Prophet Isaiah said this of Jerusalem: “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you, appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar…”

            For many decades, the United States of America has been a sign of such a blessing. Arguably the North American land was blessed beyond measure and they summarized their life of blessedness in their motto: “In God we trust.” Their bright light radiated to many nations and brought hope to thousands of travelers who went there to seek a better life. This is a land many Italians, Poles, Germans, English, Chinese, Japanese, and Africans call home.

            All these people have found a home there because of the blessedness of God and the labors and foresightedness of their forebears. Such was the dream many Ghanaians nursed when Dr. Nkrumah delivered his famous speech at the old Polo grounds in Accra after independence. He stated that the Ghanaian liberation was meaningless until it was linked up with total African freedom. He wanted Ghana to become the black star of Africa but decades after that speech Ghana and most African countries still beg for aid from the west.

            For me it is laziness for us to travel and stay permanently in other nations’ brightness. The way should be learning in order to return and transform your own land. I am touched by the attitude of the Magi when they had gone to visit the infant Jesus. They traveled to seek the wondrous child God had gifted to the human race; and yet when they had found him, they did not remain in Bethlehem but returned to their respective lands to affect what they saw. Legend has it that these were the people who were the first to herald the Christ-way oversees (outside Palestine). The story of the Magi is full of rich lessons but today I am encouraged of their return home to tell their stories and to affect the necessary changes.

            The African story will be totally different if some individuals return home to help us build. Some of them have been exposed richly in United States and Europe but instead of them to return and help us build, they have made foreign nations their homes. Many a times when one sees some of these people and encourages them to return and help us build; their response has been: “what can a single individual do?”

            In our world today, we seem to be lacking the Mohandas K. Gandhi. Gandhi single handedly led over 300 million Indians to independence and he did this through non-violence. Some Pan-Africans also still celebrate the dreams of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. These men worked hard in the past but some people in the modern era have shown signs that it is possible in our contemporary times. I always read the Singapore’s economic miracle story with delight. I always ponder how a single man Lee Kuan Yew engineered the Singapore’s economic miracle. I would like to encourage you to read his second volume memoirs titled: “From the third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000.”

            Many people possess the giftedness and blessedness to transform their lands/nations but many factors are working against their drive and chief among them are: selfishness, laziness, and lack of sacrifice for their people; to mention but a few.

            Jesus really became what the Magi traveled to adore and worship because he was not selfish and lazy and he was ready to sacrifice to bring light to the darkened lives of many. The ultimate sacrifice he paid for our redemption was being nailed to the wood of the cross.

            Who will lead us out of this darkness and mess? OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP PRAY FOR US.



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