How Best to Live Our Life

by Susanna Mak

On this thirteenth Sunday in ordinary time, we have the front-row seat to several lively illustrations of how best to live our life. There is a story about a woman who welcomes a weary traveller in her own home and because of her openness and generosity, the guest honours this childless woman who has no hope of having a child at the time with a promise of a son in the following year. Speaking of hope, St. Paul tells us not to be fearful of death since, through baptism, our life and death are intertwined with that of Christ Jesus. If “we have died with Christ, … we shall also live with him” and that we must “think of ourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus” (Rm 6:8, 11). Finally, the Son of God Himself tells us that if we allow Him to be the centre of our life, we “will surely not lose [our] reward” (Mt 10:42). At the heart of each of these stories lies the absolute faithfulness, love and “goodness of the Lord” (Ps 89:2).

In the story of Elisha visiting Shunem, though the heroine has no name, she turns out to be a window through which readers can get a glimpse of the face of God and demonstrates how one ought to live his/her life. This central figure in the story, only known as “a woman of influence”, has consistently shown gracious hospitality to Elisha (2Kgs 4:8). She tells her husband that since Elisha, “a holy man of God”, visits them often, they should “arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him with a bed, table, and lamp, so that when he comes [...] he can stay there” (2Kgs 4:9-10). Not surprisingly, it takes a woman to alert the household of a practical need. This woman, indeed, has the heart of a mother who sees the needs of others before everyone else. Elisha happily accepts the hospitality and stays with the family for the evening. If the moral of this story is simply about hospitality, then it should have ended here. However, the story doesn’t end here; there is a surprising twist towards the end. After Elisha finds out from his servant, Gehazi, that this gracious woman does need “something be done for her” afterall; she is childless and there is no hope for the couple to have any children at this stage of their lives (2Kgs 4:14). Elisha then proceeds to honour this woman with the promise of a child, “This time next year you will be cradling a baby son” (2Kgs 4:16). Indeed, this story reminds us that if we open our hearts and minds to God, He will reward us with endless possibilities that are beyond our imagination. What the woman has received in return far exceeds what she has given. As Jesus teaches, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward” (Mt 10:41). Not only has this nameless character bears witness to the compassion and generosity of God, but also reveals to us how we must live our life. What a gracious and humble role model for all of us!

St. Paul offers an equally, if not more, uplifting and hopeful message. Is there “something to be done” for us? What is our greatest and most important need? Perhaps the fear of our ultimate enemy, death. The good news is that through baptism into Christ Jesus, death has already lost its stronghold on us. “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). What is this “newness of life”? For sure, we will live without fear but with joy and confidence in God who will never abandon us but walk with us every step of the way. In our darkness, Christ opens up a way with His light, and patiently, He journeys with us through our hills and valleys.

Why, then, do we still struggle at times? The choice seems to be obvious: choose Christ; choose goodness; choose love. Jesus understands our struggles and said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; … and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37-38). I don’t think Jesus is asking us to abandon all our loved ones and everything on earth, rather, He invites us to place Him at the centre of our life: to take up the cross and follow Him - to live like Him, to love like Him, to glorify His Father like Him. When we choose to follow Christ, we become agents of change in this world. Armed with Christ’s Spirit, we can be in the world but not of the world. St. Paul reminds us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rm 12:2).

God is ever faithful and steadfast in His love for us, therefore, we must respond to this great love in equal measure: keep our hearts and minds open to the infinite possibilities that God continues to reveal to us; take up the cross and follow Christ; don’t look back; place Christ at the centre of our life; and most of all, journey on with a heart full of joy and gratitude!

The promise of the Lord I will sing forever,
Through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, "My kindness is established forever;"
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
(Ps 89:2-3)