Address of Archbishop William Goh at CEC2021 – Part 2: Encountering God
Following a successful Catholic Education Conference 2021, we are proud to present a five-part series based on Archbishop William Goh’s address at the conference. In part 2, we consider how our Catholic schools facilitate a relationship with God.
The theme of our conference is “celebrating, encountering and creating our God experience.” This theme has to be seen in line with the overall theme, which is “to ignite and shine”, and most of all, in relationship to our founders’ mission.
It’s good for us to ask ourselves – if we were to really benefit from this celebration, in recalling what our founders have done for the last 200 years – we need to ask ourselves, what is the key to their success? Why is it that Catholic education, Catholic schools have played a very important part not just in the lives of our Catholics, but also the nation?
For our founders, real education is more than imparting skills and knowledge: it is to provide a solid holistic education, and this includes social, intellectual, physical and spiritual aspects.
Without a holistic formation and education, we would not be able to fully be human and be fully alive.
A Personal Relationship with Jesus
Now, when we speak about a Catholic education, it is more than just imparting a God experience, otherwise we would just be considered a religious school.
From the Catholic perspective, a God experience is ultimately a Christ experience, and that’s the reason why the heart of celebrating, creating, is for the sake of encounter.
It is this personal encounter with Jesus which is what we want to meditate on, simply because Jesus for us as Christians, is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is our mediator, our way to encounter God deeply in a very personal way, because in Jesus we see Who God is, the mercy of God and His unconditional love.
Just to explain the doctrinal message of why God is present in Jesus: if you remember the Gospel of John chapter 14, Thomas said to the Lord, “How can we know the way?” and Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, you will know My Father also.”
Now, when Jesus said, “I am the way”, He was not saying He is a conduit or a means to an end. To come to Jesus is to come to the fullness of truth and life, and that is why Jesus is a sacrament of God.
What do we mean by sacrament? A sacrament is a sign that makes real what it signifies. So, to encounter Jesus is to encounter God, and that is why in the Catholic schools, our task is to mediate a Christ experience – but what is a Christ experience? A Christ experience must be real, it must be personal, it must be incarnational, in tangible relationships, so that it can be life-transforming.
I cannot underscore enough that encountering Christ is critical and fundamental, because our faith is rooted in Jesus and our commitment to Him as our Saviour and Lord.
Faith is not just intellectual – Christianity is not simply a set of doctrines or some ethos, some morality. Christianity is fundamentally a relationship with Jesus, falling in love with Him, so that this relationship with Jesus will help us to see life in perspective and to live our lives with purpose and meaning.
Passion and Purpose
A real passion for Christ can only come about when we have real encounters with the Lord. If you read the scriptures, those who were witnesses to Christ’s resurrection walked with the Lord. Martyrs, our foreign missionaries – have you ever asked them why they give up so much of their lives, so to speak, for nothing? They left their homeland, their families, their culture, to go to alien lands.
Certainly, for missionaries to give up their life and to suffer for humanity, it is because they have encountered Jesus’ love.
In the first letter of John, chapter 1, verses 1 to 4, Saint John said, “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”
Indeed, my dear brothers and sisters, helping people to encounter Jesus is to help people to encounter God. To encounter God is what gives us meaning and purpose in life – that is why following the question of Thomas, Philip asked the Lord Jesus, “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”
The Father stands for ultimate meaning, truth, love and life.
- Teachers – how do you inspire your students to encounter God in daily life?
- Students – are there ways in which you can help your friends grow closer to God?
- Parents – how are you an example of faith to your children? Do you prioritise family prayer and time with God?