15 June, Thursday – The Veil of Ignorance

15 June 2017

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2 Corinthians 3:15-4:1,3-6

Even today, whenever Moses is read, the veil is over their minds. It will not be removed until they turn to the Lord. Now this Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect; this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit.

Since we have by an act of mercy been entrusted with this work of administration, there is no weakening on our part. If our gospel does not penetrate the veil, then the veil is on those who are not on the way to salvation; the unbelievers whose minds the god of this world has blinded, to stop them seeing the light shed by the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For it is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness’, who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ.

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Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’

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go first and be reconciled with your brother

I have often witnessed disagreements among fellow Catholics, especially as it pertains to the ‘right’ form of liturgy or the ‘right’ teachings of the church. In many cases, these disagreements can turn quite ugly. While there is no doubt that on both (or sometimes multiple) sides there are good intentions (after all, who doesn’t want to be sure that he/she is practicing his/her faith correctly?), such disagreements can distract us from the reality that faith needs to be lived.

Indeed, in focusing on the forms or practices of worship, we often neglect what we need most: an encounter with the Lord. Such disagreements are therefore like the ‘veils’ that St Paul warned us against. Yes, it is only right for us to gain a good understanding of scripture and uphold liturgical tradition. However, and as is the case with most things in life, moderation is key. An overly-zealous focus on these aspects of our faith-life can come at the detriment of the spiritual, and interior, aspects of our faith.

For instance, quibbling over the type of liturgical music used at mass distracts us from the very key and purpose of mass: the presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. As St Paul says, “whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over the hearts of the children of Israel, but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. We therefore need to keep our gaze directed onto the Lord Himself, above the fray of petty squabbles that serve to divide, rather than unite.

Yet, at the same time, we are to treat those who do not agree with us with love and patience, for Jesus also said in today’s Gospel that we are to reconcile with a brother (or sister) whom we may have a disagreement with, before offering any sacrifice to the Lord. To help us do this, there is another veil that may help us immensely. The Cambridge philosopher John Rawls taught that true fairness and equality can emerge if we put on a ‘veil of ignorance’. The veil of ignorance is a thought experiment that requires one to imagine that she is about to be born into the world without knowing where she may end up, but has a choice as to which what kind of world she will end up in.

Given such as choice, it is only logical to hope for a world that is fair and equal to all, so that regardless of what conditions one were to be born in, there would still be a chance to survive, and even thrive. To apply this to our daily lives, we would need to put on a veil of ignorance and ignore the differences that may exist around us, and focus instead on the things that can unite us.

(Today’s Oxygen by Jacob Woo)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for Your guidance and wisdom, that we may always seek to unite rather than divide.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for His church, which continues to nourish and sustain her members.

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