Bible Reflection (21 April 2024)

4th Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 4:8-12
1 John 3:1-2
John 10:11-18

Reorientating our self-worth, getting to know ourselves and getting to know God.

Many of us are leaders – at our work places, in our churches, at our social clubs, etc. As leaders, were there times when another person came along and did a such a good job that others said the person is outperforming us? This happens often across all organisation types. How do we feel when we are outperformed by someone? Do we feel happy that there is a capable person we can partner with? Or do we feel threatened by the person’s ability? In the First Reading this week, we read of such a situation.

Following Peter’s healing of a man who was lame from birth, Peter and John were arrested and questioned by the elders, scribes and high priests. Amazingly, instead of marvelling at the miracle before them, they became insecure. They were worried that Peter and John might gain popularity at their expense. So the high priests questioned Peter’s and John’s legitimacy. They asked Peter and John, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7) In this week’s First Reading, we read Peter’s bold response. Peter reprimanded his interrogators while proclaiming Jesus as the saviour. He said, “let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.” (verse 10) Peter then depicted the healing of the lame man as a sign of salvation, saying, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (verse 12)

Like the high priests, we too often feel insecure. Why do we feel insecure? It is because, in a secular world, we often assess our self-worth by the job we hold, the possession we have, or the accolades we receive. As a result, when someone comes along and outshines us, we feel our self-worth diminished. Hence we feel insecure. Feeling threatened, we might even resort to unscrupulous measures so as to maintain our position and prestige. So, we sin. If this is me, how do I improve? How do I stop sinning in this way? We need to change the way we view our self-worth. We need to measure our self-worth not by our earthly achievements, but by the fact that we are children of God. Indeed, the fact that we are God’s children is a given, irrefutable fact. St John wrote in the Second Reading, “we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” (verse 2) Indeed, being children of God, there are great potentials in all of us.

But, how do we unleashed these great potentials in us? Firstly, we need to recognise ourselves for who we are, that is, children of God. Secondly, we also need to know God. Jesus said in the Gospel this week, “just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.” (verse 15) Jesus knows His identity as the Son of God; just as He also knows the Father. And it is upon these dual awareness that Jesus is able to accomplish great things, including sacrificing Himself for the sake of humanity. His self-worth is not diminished by the torture and humiliation He was subjected to. In fact, because of His closeness to the Father, His self-worth was enhanced through the trial.

But, what about those of us who are still attached to earthly accolades; still struggling to know ourselves and to know God? Be assured, God is merciful, as He promised us in the Gospel, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (verse 16) But we do not become included as one flock magically. We need to do our part. Imagine we made a new friend, how do we get to know each other better? We converse and interact with each other of course! It is the same with God. How do we know ourselves and know God better? We need to interact with Him. We do so by reading His word through the Bible; conversing with Him through prayers; and spending quality time with him through meditation. Many of us might say that we have no time to do these things. However, just as developing our human relationships requires investment of time and efforts, so too does our relationship with God. There is no shortcut, no magic pudding. But we can start modestly. For example, we can start by doing something as simple as spending 10 minutes reflecting on God’s word before our Sunday worship each week. Gradually, we can increase the duration and frequency of our time with God; introducing additional elements such as regular prayers and medication – until interacting with God becomes a regular routine in our daily life. This is when we start to enter into the fold of God, as Jesus promised us in the Gospel this week.

My dear friends, Easter season is a time of renewal and growth. This Easter season, let us take the initial steps to reorientate our self-worth, get to know ourselves and get to know God. Amen.