“Built Up in Righteousness”
Sunday, February 5, 2017: The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 58: 1 – 9/ Psalm 112/1 Corinthians 2: 12 – 16/ Matthew 5: 13 – 20
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
The other day I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, and when this kind of situation happens, I know that God will speak to me. I had a heart to heart talk figuratively and literally with God because I kept my mouth shut. I got an online connection with God, and what I did was I downloaded 95% of the time and uploaded only 5%.
God has a lot more to speak to us and to impart to us than we to Him. God is good and He imparts to us good. We are full of worries and that is what we upload to Him. God will speak. A lot of us are hung-up on the fact on what preachers say that God will speak because they think they exalt themselves to say, “I am the chosen.” The emphasis is not God speaking through the preacher, but God is speaking to us. We have to focus from the wrong place to the right place.
Listen! Hear this, “You have received the spirit which is from God, so that you may know the things freely given to you by God.” This is the reason we received the spirit of God. We are mere men, but also spiritual men who have received the spirit of God.
A video debating on “Who God is” shares this, “God is not affected by time, space or matter. If He is affected by these, He is not God. Time, space and matter are continual because all of them have to come in the same instance. If there was matter with no space, where will you put it? If there were space and matter, but no time, when will you put it? They happen simultaneously. The Bible says, ‘In the beginning, (there is time) God created the heavens, (there is space) and the earth (there is matter).’ In time, space and matter, you have the trinity of trinities. Time is past, present and future. Space has length, width and height. Matter has solid, liquid and gas. There is a trinity created instantaneously and God who created them has to be outside of them. If He is limited by time, He is not God. The God who created this computer is not in the computer, running around and changing the numbers on the screen. God, Who created this universe, is outside of the universe, and He is above it, beyond it, in it, to it, and is not affected by it. If the concept that a spiritual force cannot have an effect on the material body, it then should explain things like love, hatred, anger, envy, jealousy and rationality.”
Those people with scholarly minds and degrees attached to their name cannot understand God without His spirit. We have received the spirit of God so that we can freely appreciate and know Him. This is why His spirit was given to us. This is why we must understand that God is not limited. Even Nicodemus, a religious leader, did not understand the basic things of God.
We don't say arrogantly that we have the spirit of God. We are not saying that we are not mere men and we are holier than others. The purpose is so that we can freely appreciate and walk in the fullness of what God has given to us. It is not to pat ourselves on the back to say, “I am special, God loves me, I am a child of God and you are not.” Let not the grace of God sit idly in us. Cultivate it. Make it fuller and fuller until we enjoy the abundant life, the fullness of life that God has given us.
There is a story of a monk in a seminary who prayed all day. He was mumbling words and chanting every single day. When the head monk saw him, he sat beside him for several days; and while sitting beside the monk, the head monk was rubbing a stone against a brick. The first monk curiously asked, “What are you doing?” The chief monk said, “I am making a mirror out of this brick.” The first monk said, “That is impossible.” The chief monk said, “It is just as impossible that you want to be holy by sitting all day and mumbling words to God. It may be part of it, but that is not holiness.”
Holiness is more than this. By God’s doing, we are in Christ Jesus and we gain wisdom and righteousness. We are saints by His calling. It is not because we earned it or because we sit all day and pray. Psalm 24 says, “Who may ascend to the hill of the Lord? Who may dwell in His holy place?” Come to think of it, no one may ascend to the hill of the Lord. This is why we thank God in the Eucharist for counting us worthy to stand in His presence and serve Him. The Psalm says, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” This is true that we make our hands clean and have a pure heart, but we have to make ourselves clean so that may see more clearly the things freely given to us by God. Not that we fully have understood it, but we yield to the working of the Spirit, purifying our hearts, cleansing our hands, and growing in Him so that we may have the attitude to press on. Clean hands and a pure heart are for the fullness of life. It is for a clearer vision, a “beatific” vision of God.
John the Beloved had a vision of the glory of God. He was with two other apostles, Peter and James, and they were privileged to be on the Mount of Transfiguration to see the glory of God in Jesus. My question is this, “Was this a special instance where Jesus had the glory of God and at other times didn’t have it?” However, in that instant, this opened the eyes of the apostles and they saw the glory of the Lord. The glory of God was always with Jesus - when He was in the manger; on the cross; on the boat; when He was walking on water. In our lives, we have allowed sin and the other things to cloud it and blur our vision. It is our worries, anxieties that we pursue and that we put between us and God things that block our view of Jesus and the glory of God in Him and His righteousness.
The Psalmist says in Psalm 40 that God’s glory is there, but sin and iniquity have overtaken him so that he is not able to see God’s compassion, God’s loving-kindness and His truth. We need to grow in holiness and righteousness after Jesus’ example – as He is holy, then, we are holy. We need to learn to look into His holiness and gaze into His loveliness. Let the other things become shadows. Let no obstruction block our view. We are to learn to do that if our righteousness is to surpass that of the Pharisees and the scribes. Their holiness was like the monk in the story – all show, not knowing the spirit behind what they were doing. Our holiness and righteousness must supersede these.
The meaning of being holy is set apart for God’s exclusive use. It’s not being special, not being more important, but set apart. In the wood used for the Altar, its parts were used for different ways – for furniture – but the part used for the Altar is set apart. It is to be used for God’s use. If it is used for other things, then, it violates its holiness. It is exclusively for the Eucharist only. If we use it as a table to gamble, we violate its holiness. It may be ordinary wood, but it has been set apart for exclusive use.
In defining what set apart is, it is like a mother who sets aside food for a son who couldn’t join the rest of the family for dinner. Something was set aside not because it was more palatable, but because it was for an exclusive use.
Lest you think I am talking about wood and food, I am really talking about us – that we are holy; set apart. Saints are holy for God’s exclusive use. Our Altar was prayed over, consecrated and blessed with holy water. This was what happened during our Baptism because we are saints by calling. We are holy; set apart. If we present our bodies to other things, we violate our calling. If we present our hands to take things that are not good, we are violating our calling of holiness. If we use our mouth to slander rather than bless, we are violating our calling of holiness. It is not that we are special, but it is the grace bestowed upon us by God, and we are to fulfill this calling. It is not about us being “holier than thou,” but it is His grace bestowed upon us.
Our lives, our bodies are a living sacrifice exclusively for God. This is why we are commanded to let our light shine to display the image of God. We are bearers of His life, His love and His goodness. We are set apart so that we could be the witness. Don’t put it under a basket; don’t put it underground; do not block the light. Let your light shine. If you do that, you are becoming a hypocrite.
Because we are bearers of the image of God, called to be holy and partakers of the divine nature which loves enemies and blesses persecutors,
Hypocrisy is NOT
“smiling at and loving people you’re not on good terms with.”
“not smiling at and loving people you’re not in good terms with.”
We have the divine nature of God, so it is to love our enemy. Hypocrisy is "not smiling” because we are going against the divine nature in us. We have the divine nature in us which gives us strength and courage that enables us to love those who don't love us. If we love only those whom we love, we are not different from the Gentiles. God makes the sun shine on the good and the wicked alike. This is the nature that we have to go with, and if we go against it, we are hypocrites.
Walk in this nature. Love our enemies. Pray for those who persecute us. We would say, “Bishop, that would be awkward.” Try nerve wracking, humiliating, excruciating things that are awkward. Our ancient fathers endured it.
Matthew 5:44 says, “So that you may be sons of God.” This is to show ourselves as sons of God. Show your life. Display yourself. Isaiah 58 talks about fasting. It is not about starving ourselves. Fasting is an exercise to pause so that we could see more clearly. It is not that we don't see at other times, but so that we can be more effective.
In a situation where your place has been vandalized, the first thing that you should do is breathe, which is the basic source of life. Breathe so that your focus is strengthened and clear. Fasting is not to starve yourself and sacrifice to appear more holy, but it is so that things can become shadows in the light of God. You could see Jesus’s glory. It is not that His light is not in you, but it is so that you could see His righteousness and what He would do in certain situations, and you can do it yourself and act just like Jesus according to the divine nature of God.
Fasting makes you see clearly as to loosen the bonds of wickedness, undo the bands of the yoke, free the oppressed, share bread, house the homeless, clothed the naked, not hide from your own flesh who need your help, stop the pointing of finger and the speaking wickedness. Instead of sharing our bread, we cloud ourselves saying, “I don’t have enough. My ability it too small.” We fast so that we would see clearly.
See how Jesus did these things, and then, our righteousness will shine. Then, we will be called restorers; then, we will be repairers. Then, we will be called children of God, sons of God, manifesting His nature. People will see our light. It is not just about fasting, but why we do it, the spirit behind it.
We are to let our light shine and manifest God to people. Be salt. Be of good use. Impact lives. Do not lose your saltiness. We are the salt of the earth. The expression, “Worth one’s salt” means worth is paid. God has given us an expensive grace. We are already prepaid, and all that we need to do is be worth our salt because God has given us His ability, His grace, the love, and He has showered us everything pertaining to life and godliness.
Be worth your salt not because you will look holy in the sight of men, but so that men may see your good works and glorify our God the Father who is in heaven. Our reason for existence is to glorify God, not so that we will feel good, not so that people will praise us, but so that God is glorified.
Jesus, Who is the Second Adam, the Perfect Man, our standard, came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. The summary of the Law is not commandment, but to love God with all our heart and with all our soul, all our heart and mind and to love our neighbor. We are to fulfill the Law. We are to be holy as God is holy, and we are to let our light shine, and grow in His ways, built up in righteousness and holiness all the days of our life for this is the way it is in the kingdom of God.