“Purified in Purpose”
Sunday, February 4, 2018
The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 40: 21 – 31
Psalm 147: 1-4; 15-18
1 Corinthians 9: 16 – 23
Mark 1: 32 - 39
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
We are here to know God and to make Him known! This is our purpose. Jesus Himself knew His purpose. He said, “Let us go somewhere else to towns nearby so that I may preach there also, for that is what I came for.” He wasn’t called just to be a preacher and stand in front of people to teach and to say something. He did not just proclaim God’s forgiveness through words but He did it by healing people.
The Jews saw sickness as a manifestation of sin. It can be that sickness, affliction or suffering can be because of sin, of unforgiveness, and things that we keep inside of us. In the culture of the Hawaiians, they have this term called ho'oponopono, which was a system that when a person is sick, they call a doctor. The first thing that the doctor would do is to gather the family and he would ask, “Who among you here sinned against somebody else? Who among you harbors something against a person?” If it exists, the family will have a reconciliation meeting because they understood that this is one of the roots of sickness.
Sickness is sometimes a manifestation of sin, but not always. It can also be our neglect of taking care of our body. Being sick is wrong when we become judgmental or we become overly certain to the point of judgmentalism. We say to a person that you are sick because he did something that he did not confess.
In John 9, Jesus, along with His disciples, was walking and they saw a man blind from birth. His disciples automatically thought that the man’s being blind was because someone sinned in his family. In the Old Testament, the teaching was sickness will be handed down to the third generation, which is true because of the principle of sowing and reaping, but this happens not all the time. It becomes wrong when we become accusers of the brethren and say, “You deserve it because you are a bad person.” However, this is not in the case of Job or of Jesus Christ. They were afflicted and they suffered even if they were righteous.
St. Peter said that a person can suffer or is persecuted because he sinned, but there are those who are afflicted and are suffering but are not doing something wrong. Thus, it is wrong to say that a person is sick because he did something wrong. It is the judgmentalism that makes it wrong. Jesus saw the blindness of the man in the gospel, not as a result of sin which could have been, but as an opportunity that the works of God may be revealed in Him in this situation. The blindness is there in front of us, the sickness is there in front of us, the suffering is there in front of us, and the need is there in front of us because God is calling us to show His works in the situation. It is said that the need is the call.
Mother Teresa said that when somebody dies of hunger, it is not because God allowed it. It is because we did not do anything about it, when we have been equipped to address the situation and show forth the works of God. In John 3:17, Jesus came not to condemn or to identify whose sin it is, but to save. God’s will is to make the wrong right not to identify who is at fault. Jesus’ attitude was not finding fault but restoring.
Jesus came to save, and to save means to heal, to forgive, to set free, to the destroy works of evil one. This is God’s unfathomable grace. This grace and truth is realized in Jesus Christ. The truth is the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says that God, in Christ, reconciled the world to Himself and He is not counting men’s sins against them. God forgives them. Being saved means a beneficiary of Jesus’ ministry, which is to set the captives free, to comfort those who mourn, to heal the sick, to raise the dead. If we benefit from this ministry, then, we are saved.
The Jews saw sickness as manifestation of sin, so it follows that if one was healed, his sins have been removed. At one time, Jesus said to a lame man, “Your sins are forgiven.” The Jews were murmuring and Jesus overheard it. They said, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus said, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? If I heal him, his sickness is gone, then, its root, which is sin, is gone.” What Jesus did was to say to the lame man, “Rise up and walk because you are healed and you are free from your sin.” Healing manifests God’s initiative of forgiveness and reconciling man to Himself. This is the ministry of Jesus and this is His purpose.
My question is: what is our purpose? We are supposed to be purified in purpose. Is our purpose to accumulate money? This is what the Gentiles seek. Jesus said, “Do not ask where you should live or what you should wear, which are the things that the Gentiles seek.” Jesus then said, “Seek first the kingdom of God,” because this is their purpose.
Be like Jesus. I have always been asking you? Why are you here? What did you come here for? To know God and to make Him known! May we not lose sight of our purpose.
I have a brother who works in a bank, and he told me that if I work in the bank, I will have much money. I told him that if I would be successful working in the bank, I would be miserable because it is not my place. A fish that is put on soil can’t live. It will be miserable because its place is in the water. Not that the soil is not good, but it is not where the fish will live. If you are not in the will of God and you are not fulfilling your purpose in life, you will be miserable. I know of a young man who is successful in his business. At the moment, he is not attending our Church. He told, “Bishop, I am looking at a very bright future for my business, but I could say that I was more fulfilled when I did not have much money because I was in the Church. Now, I feel like I am a step back from my relationship with God. I could remember then that when one of my children is sick, I seek the Lord first. Now, my first recourse is to go to the doctor or to buy medicine because I have money.” I am not saying that money is evil but the answer is not in this; the fulfillment is not in money. The fulfillment is in being in the center of the will of God, fulfilling our purpose, and it begins in knowing our purpose.
St. Paul said, “Woe is me if I don’t preach the gospel.” His place is to preach and if he doesn’t fulfill his purpose, then, he will be miserable. If we don’t fulfill our purpose, there is no fulfillment. If we do, then, we will have an abundant life. St. Paul also said, “I discipline my body and make it my slave because I don't want to be outside God’s purpose for me. To the Jew, I become a Jew. To the Gentile, I become a Gentile. To the weak, I become weak. I do all things for the gospel sake. I empathize with them so that I could fulfill my calling as a preacher, as a proclaimer of God’s good news.”
In 2 Corinthians 8, St. Paul said, “If it will not build up my brother, if it will make my brother stumble, I will not eat anymore because my purpose is not to tear down, but to build up. If I do not do that, I will not be fulfilled, and woe is me.” In John 17, Jesus said, “I sanctify Myself for their sake.” His purpose is for others. Our purpose is not for us, but for the next generation. I work-out and exercise not for my sake, but so that I could be with my children for a longer time. The building of our Church is not for our generation or that we could say that we have a Church building. Of course, we will benefit from it, but moreso, it is to fulfill our purpose. We pray in our Corporate Petition, “Grant unto us facilities in which Your people, being restored in Your image and ever growing in love for You, might become a habitation of Your presence and ministers of Your life.” The Church is just an instrument, not so that we can boast about it, but so that we can use it for our higher purpose which is to be ministers of His life, to be His habitation, and to be His witnesses.
The Church is always the instrument. The Church is always the venue for us fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives. We need to sanctify ourselves; we need to purify ourselves because we have a purpose. The Church school teachers could have a much higher paying job outside, but they are here not for themselves, but for life formation, to form lives for the glory of God.
Our issues or our concerns are not bigger than our purpose or our higher calling. God said, “Didn’t I, the Lord of heaven and earth, call you Myself?” What is our excuse? That our brother offended us? They are not bigger than the purpose God has for us. What is our purpose? Are we purifying ourselves to fulfill this purpose? What satisfies our soul? Why did we come here for? Jesus said, “I came here to proclaim the good news of God – His life, His truth!” Fulfill your purpose; live a full life; live an abundant life, because this is God’s will, this is God’s desire, this is God’s heart; and in the first place, this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.