Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday in the 24th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Hasan, Martyr, and Their Companions, Martyrs
With Tear-Filled Eyes

Readings: 1 Timothy 3:14-16; Psalms 111:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Luke 7:31-35

Especially in the face of globalization, one of the many things that we Christians can, and indeed need to, learn from the secular world, is how to mould popular opinion. If our mission is to evangelize the world, to go and make disciples of all the nations… (Matthew 28:20), then it’s necessary to make use of all available means to get our message across, to win people over to the cause of Christ. We need to become media-savvy. We need to learn how to generate good publicity (some say all publicity is good publicity), how to use it for the spread of the gospel. And in order to do this, we need to learn from the world of the mass media, of public relations, of marketing and perhaps even advertising. Yes, as church, we need to humble ourselves and to open wide our eyes to learn…

But there is also another side to the issue, isn’t there?

The quest to manipulate popular opinion should not blind us to the fact that it can often be more of a hindrance than a help. Isn’t this what we are being reminded of in both the readings and the feast that we celebrate today? Whereas public opinion might look down upon Timothy because of his tender age, in the first reading, Paul exhorts him not to give in. He is instead to act in spite of, and even against, popular opinion by remaining true to the call and the gifts and the ministry that he has received. We find the same thing happening in the gospel. In the eyes of popular opinion, the woman is a lowly sinner. She is unworthy even to hold a conversation with, let alone physical contact. And yet, her gratitude to Jesus is so great, her love so intense, that she is driven to do the unthinkable. Even in the face of contempt and ridicule, she not only gatecrashes an exclusive party, but also becomes intimate with the guest-of-honor.

And, of course, the saints we remember today offer us an example of the ultimate disregard for popular opinion. Whatever their individual ages, they collectively represent the Korean church in its infancy. But, in keeping with Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, they did not let their youth hinder them from remaining true to their faith. Collectively, too, they represent a church derided by popular opinion. Even so, they continued to cling bravely onto Christ even to the point of death.

Popular opinion is an ambivalent reality. And, as church, we need to relate to it as such. In the gospel today, we’re told that the woman who was a sinner was weeping as she stood behind Jesus. Her eyes were open, but they were also filled with tears. Perhaps she provides for us an image of what a balanced relationship to popular opinion might look like today. Even as we keep our eyes open to the things we can learn from the secular world, perhaps we need also to let them be filled with tears, tears that spring from a passionate love for Christ, tears that help us to disregard the things that might hinder us from doing what faith demands…

How open, how filled with tears, are our eyes today?


  1. Thanks for the beautiful reflection, Fr Chris. Blogs like yours show that the church is indeed using the media to reach out to others. And how media savvy you are! The accompanying music you put in is so beautiful and fitting for the blog.

  2. The reflections on Scripture today are the reasons why I keep reading Fr Chris' blog site: awesome, provoking, cutting close to the bone. As baptised Christians, we should not - indeed cannot - isolate ourselves from the world we live in. In Jesus' own words: " be in the world but not of the world".

    Popular opinion is a double-edged sword - and the media and corporate communications know it! Despite this 'ambivalent reality', Church is called to "exploit" it for the sake of the Gospel. Today, blogsites, YouTube, MySpace, etcetera, etcetera reach many more people than the print or broadcast media can. Popular opinion is formed for good or otherwise, whether we like it or not. Last week, MediaCorp 5 featured a documentary on why teenagers video themselves on their mobile phones when having sex. Many retorted: "What's the big deal?"

    The late great Pope John Paul II was described as being a latter-day pope who knew the influence of the media, and harnessed it for good. We have some way to go in Singapore. Pope JPII, pray for us.