Message for the 36th Biblical Week (November 22–28, 2020)
“Where are you?” (Gn 3,9)
This year, we celebrate Biblical Week in a special manner compared to previous years. From the beginning of the year, COVID-19 has brought many changes, including disruption to economic structures and the established order of mutual exchange around the world. Above all, it is regrettable that, in some regions, many people have been victimized by this virus. In this context, it is difficult to look to the future with hope as wealthy countries try to hoard vaccines to solve the crisis at the expense of other countries.
For the first time, we experienced bewilderment at the sight of our Church suspending public Masses and offering Masses in small groups in accordance with the government guidelines. In this novel context, pastors devised and implemented new methods to assist believers nurture their faith lives. There also has been much pondering, writing, and discussion in efforts to encourage reflection on whether or not there were any fundamental problems with the long-standing religious practices of the Church.
What is clear in this tumultuous situation is that we must begin to transform the world, driven by the logic of power and wealth, into a healthier world built upon coexistence. Fortunately, many people are expressing this hope. However, if the logic of the strong and political calculations, both domestic and foreign, become priorities, then our future and that of the world will be extremely dim. Such a process will only lead to mistrust between countries.
Let us look back on our situation and listen to guidance from the Bible. God created human beings in His own image after His likeness, and blew into our nostrils the breath of life. The fact that we resemble God and receive His breath and life means that we are created to be perfect in spite of our limitations. This perfection can, be fully realized in its Source, God.
However, human beings who were created in the image of God longed to be like God. In the temptation of the snake, “...your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods.” (Gn 3,5), Adam and Eve broke God’s word and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and then immediately found out that they were wrong. So they hid.
The Lord God looked for them and asked, “Where are you?” (Gn 3,9). Surely, God was not asking because He did not know where they were. He was not simply asking about their hiding place. It was a question about human existence, the thoughts, words, and actions of people who hide themselves. There was also another question. After Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, Cain, the murderer of his brother Abel, faced this question from God. “Where is your brother Abel?” (Gn 4,9). To answer this question, humanity must first ask this question of itself.
Jesus urges us to proclaim the Gospel, saying He would be with us until the end of the world. In light of these words, we must reflect on what we are doing today. Is the Church with its stable institutions and norms, built on the testimony and proclamation of numerous martyrs and missionaries, and not simply pursuing a comfortable and prosperous lifestyle? “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25,40). While attempting to follow these words, we can become conceited, thinking that we have not forgotten the poor. However, do we not often consider the poor only as beneficiaries of our help and not as protagonists in the Church? At the personal, collective, and national levels, how are we trying to overcome the situation caused by the present pandemic? As it turns out, many major natural disasters, including the COVID-19 outbreak, are closely related to the destruction of the environment, what actions are we taking to deal with these challenges?
The current pandemic crisis and the reality of ecological destruction are calling us to take part in urgent communal actions. Selfish plans and actions will only have a transitory effect and will eventually aggravate the situation. The ecosystem has already been damaged and will be irreversibly harmed if efforts to restore it are delayed any longer. No country can stand on its own when international exchange is blocked. For a long time, there have been action campaigns to protect the environment and reduce the consumption of water, electricity, and disposable products. We already have many materials prepared for practice. Therefore, on the level of family, parish, and workplace, let us make concrete plans and put them into practice.
God, who encourages us to seek the right path, asks: “Where are you?” The same God promises to lead us in the right way when we search for it, saying, “In the wilderness I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers” (Is 43,19). We pray that individuals and business people may actively participate in this right path leading to the protection of the natural world.
For believers, prayer is a very special act. When Jesus is with us, our plans and actions become grace filled beyond expectations. “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Mt 21,22). When Jesus healed the boy possessed by an evil spirit, He said to the astonished disciples, “This kind can only come out through prayer” (Mk 9,29). In this way, Jesus demonstrates to us what actually happens in and to us through our prayer lives.
When we make prayer a part of our spiritual lives, we unconsciously make a mistake by separating prayer from practice. Prayer is certainly different from daily activities, but it is a very special and mysterious action that can accomplish things in the Lord that cannot be achieved through our plans and personal efforts. Let us live lives of prayer, welcoming our poor neighbors as brothers and sisters, sharing what we have with others, and overcoming crises together.
November 22, 2021
+ Augustinus Kim Jong-soo
Auxiliary Bishop of Daejeon
CBCK Biblical Committee