“Love of the Life of God”
March 19, 2017
The Third Sunday In Lent
Exodus 17: 1 – 7/ Psalm 95/
Romans 5: 1 – 11/ John 4: 5-14
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Last week, the gospel talked about being born again, being born from above, and how that God uses the agency of water and the Spirit. Today, the gospel also talks about living water coming from God, which is His gift, and His desire for us to also understand what that water is. Jesus told the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is offering it to you, you would have asked it for yourself.” Sometimes, our problem is that we don’t understand the gift of God, and so, we go after many of the things that don’t endure. The gift of God is living water springing to eternal life.
In the letter St. Paul to the Romans, it says, “God demonstrates His love for us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It was read at the right time God did this. When is the right time for us to love and to forgive a person who wronged us? Is it after they changed or when they are still wronging you? At the right time, God, while we were yet sinners, forgave us. He gave His Son for us. He is telling us that this is the right time. We don’t wait to give our love because it is unconditional. It doesn’t depend on whether there will be a response from the other person. No, giving of love involves risks. God “bet” on us His Son’s life. It was a very, very high price. Maybe, He was thinking, “I will give My Son’s life for these sinful people, but will they change?”
It has been 2000 years, and have we changed for the good? We are not yet perfect, but love is patient and God is patient. He is long-suffering. One character of patience is long suffering which is directed toward people. In Tagalog, it is, “Mahaba ang pisi.” We might think that He is God so He can be longsuffering. The students at LFMA are taught: I have God’s power and ability. What God does, we can do all things in Christ.
There are things that we are not intended to do, but only God can do. We are not called to speak planets into existence. We are not called to create animals and to clone people, but we are called to have His character in us. This is why we are partakers of the divine nature. We are called to be perfect, to be holy, just as our Father in heaven is perfect. We are to be like Jesus in all of life’s journey from earth to glory. We are to be like Jesus, the Man, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form. One day, we will get to that fullness and we will be like Him and we will see Him face to face.
I came across this prayer toward being like Jesus in character, “Always pray to have eyes that see the best in people; a heart that forgives the worst; a mind that forgets the bad; and a soul that never loses faith in God.” Can we see the best in people? Can we forgive the worst in people and forget the bad?
God saw Saul of Tarsus as an apostle. Saul was a murderer and God saw that he will be useful in His kingdom. God forgave his past. He forgave his worst and saw the best in him. What if it was your father or your son who was one of Saul of Tarsus’ victim that he put to death? Would you see the best in this person or would you see the worst in him? Will you be able to forgive him? Will you be able to bet your life on him to change and be the evangelist that he became? I wouldn’t because that is hard to do, but God’s grace gives us the power and the ability.
There is this legend where Jesus and His disciples were walking one day and they stumbled upon a dead dog that was already decomposing and was stinking. The disciple gave their comments, “Oh, it stinks. How ugly! Look at that sight.” Jesus said, “Look at its teeth. How perfect they are.” Did Jesus had a cold and could not smell? Of course, He could smell and see the ugliness, but He saw what was good. This is what living water is all about. Living water is not about securing our eternal future, but so that we could live eternal life. There is a difference between existing and just living; holding ground and gaining ground.
There was this controversy about how Lloyd Mayweather fought Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather was accused just making sure that he won. They are boxers. People paid expensive tickets to watch a boxing match, not a track and field event. Mayweather should have thought about what it is all about. It is not just about winning and gaining something and earning money, but giving the people what they came to see. It was about putting a show and demonstrating one’s athleticism and boxing prowess. It is how one played the game.
We are Christians not so that we can ensure our heavenly future, but so we can demonstrate God’s gift. It is about living our lives. This is what the gift is for. This is why we are given this gift. This is why we want the living water – to benefit others as well.
If we are only concerned about the win, the eternal security, this indicates that we have missed the point. The point is living, not just existing. God wants us to seek that, to long for that, and to understand, so that as the deer longs for the water brooks, so our soul longs for God. Our soul longs for God because there is this void in us that sometimes is not filled because we are not being like God. We were designed to be in His image and likeness, and if we go against that, that is a void and our soul longs to be like God for that living water. Realize the thirst of our soul for that life and want and ask and desire it. This is the real win and the real fulfillment.
Love the life of God. If we knew the gift of God, we would be asking for it. Ephesians 3:14, 18-19, “I bow my knees before the Father … that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” This is so that after the fall, we will be restored again, and be in the image of God, in the fullness of God, which dwells in the bodily form of Jesus. Jesus said to the women, “The water I will give you will become a well springing up to eternal life. It will be a seed that will reach its fullness, like the mustard seed, which will become the biggest tree in the garden, not just to display its size and grandeur, but so that birds can nest on its branches and weary people can rest under its shade.” The whole point is not us just getting the praise of people and attaining what we want to attain, but it is a process that God leads us in and guides us in.
Our liturgical theme is: building up itself in love. It is a process that we build up to a certain objective. We build up in love. This process includes something that is not popular – tribulation. Tribulation is temporary, which is only a part of the journey. It involves ups and downs, sorrows and good times and bad times, but it also involves tribulation. The conflict between the ideal and the right now! It is the conflict, the disparity between God’s promise being fulfilled and we getting to that and going through the wilderness. If long-suffering is patience that is directed towards people, perseverance is the patience that is directed toward situations and circumstances. What we need to address is tribulation.
St. Paul said that we exalt not just in the gift of God of eternal life, of His justification by grace through our faith, but we also exalt in tribulation. We exalt in tribulation knowing that it brings perseverance, and perseverance brings about proven character; proven character brings about hope, and hope does not disappoint. God doesn’t want us to be disappointed. The righteousness of those who believe in Him will never be disappointed. It is a process and it involves tribulation.
Tribulation is that which the Israelites found themselves in. They were being led by the Spirit of God - the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. They came to this place called Rephidim where there was no water. They journeyed by stages from the wilderness of sin according to the command of the Lord. It was God who led them to this point.
God already has prepared water for them. God knew what He was going to do. We would ask, “Why did God not bring them to the spring?” Why did God bring them to a waterless place, and not tell them about a rock which is a drinking fountain? God wanted to test their perseverance, which is a part of the journey. Remember this: it was God who took them to a waterless place. God’s purpose was that He wanted to teach them a lesson that would build them up. Then, He gave them water from the rock.
In Mark 6:48, Jesus walked on water and His intention was not to scare the disciples. He was intending to pass by the disciples. His purpose was not for them to see Him as a ghost, but for them to have faith in Him. It was for Peter, who had not enough faith to be able to walk on water.
In John 6:5-16, Jesus was asking Philip when they were going to feed the multitude, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?”6 This He (Jesus) was saying to test him (Philip), for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. Jesus already had a plan, but He was testing Philip. We find ourselves in circumstances that tests us, however, God already knows what He is intending to do. When you find yourself in a waterless place or in need or in tribulation, God already has a plan and a provision. What is His intention for taking us to this point? It is not so that we would suffer, but so that through suffering, we will pass His test and learn to trust in Him more.
Our Church has a need. We have money that is about a third of what we would need to build our Church. God already knows what He is intending to do. God is the Alpha and the Omega, and if He starts something, He will see through the completion of it. He tests us to build up our faith. God has water prepared for water. This water starts with a small amount, but it is to spring up to a well not instantly, but as a process of building.
We need to learn from the error of the Israelites. What did they do when they found themselves in tribulation? They grumbled; they complained and they quarreled with Moses. The Psalms said that they erred in their hearts, and they hardened their hearts and they asked, “Is the Lord really with us?” They journeyed by stages according to the command of the Lord. The Lord was with them from the beginning until the end because this was His promise.
The Lord will be with us to the end of the age. This is our God. Quarreling was condemned. Grumbling was condemned. Complaining was condemned. Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.” It is not to complain and you shall receive. It is not to fight and you shall receive. It is not blame each other and you shall receive. Ask and have faith in God. Understand that God is teaching us and building us up little by little.
In the 1984 version of Karate Kid, Daniel asked Miyagi to train him. Miyagi agreed and his condition to Daniel was: trust me and don’t question me. Daniel was asked to wash the cars with his hand making a circular motion. The next day, Daniel was asked to wax the cars with the same circular motion, exhaling and inhaling. In Daniel’s mind, it would increasingly have this question, “What is the connection of what I am doing to karate?” After several days of doing these things, Daniel was asked to paint the fence, seeing to it that his wrists are flexible. Daniel couldn’t stand it anymore, so he fought with his teacher. He felt like Miyagi was not concerned about his training, and that Miyagi was not with him in his desire to learn karate, but just wanting his cars to be clean and his house painted. Miyagi reminded Daniel, “I told you not to question me. Just trust me!” Daniel did not know that the actions he was asked to do was to be used as his defense for fighting. All along Daniel was being taught; all along, he did not know that he was learning something, but he lost the trust and the faith.
This is what we need to remember: we are not to err like the people of Israel. The Lord says, “If today, you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, but harken to His voice.” God is teaching us. He knows and we are being taken by stages according to the command of the Lord. Many times, our concern is to get a black belt, a PHD, a diploma, but will this solve the problem? God took the Israelites to the Promised Land, but He did not clear the nations before them instantly. He did it little by little because they needed to be taken through stages so that they are built up. God said that if He instantly clears things out before them, wild beasts will consume them and they will die.
In God’s wisdom, He knows what it takes. We need to be taken through stages; otherwise, we will lose His life. Otherwise, we will not enter His rest. This is our God and He wants us to understand Him.
God takes us to stages according to the command of the Lord. It is not always instant, but be faithful every day in what you are doing. Before you know it, the manifestation is there. God is faithful. Understand His gift to us of eternal life. Sometimes, we can be impatient and we say in our wrong hyper-faith, “I can do all things through Christ.” This is not always the case. God sometimes takes us through the things we need to learn. What we need to do is not to fight, not to quarrel, not to complain, and not to blame but trust! Never doubt that God is with us. This is our God. This is our story, and He wants us to have that living water becoming a well springing up to eternal life.
This grace that He has given us is so that we would reign in life. This is our story and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.