“Resurrection Life Builds Communion”
Sunday, May 21, 2017
The Sixth Sunday Of Easter
Acts 17: 22 – 31/ Psalm 66: 1-8/1 Peter 3: 18 – 22/ John 14: 15 - 21
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
We are continuing in this Season of Easter hopefully to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and the power of His resurrection so that we can fully live our lives. This is the very purpose that Jesus came to this earth so that we might have life and have it abundantly. God’s will for us is abundance of life. We obtain this through Jesus, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
In today’s gospel, Jesus opens it by saying, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Love is defined in many ways. The world defines it differently from the way it is defined in the kingdom of God. Commonly, when somebody says, “I am in love,” they are expressing an emotion. Love is not a feeling; love is a decision. It is a verb, an action word. It is also a noun, but the noun form is dependent on what the meaning of the verb is.
1Corinthians 13 defines it for us, as Christians. It is an unconditional decision. Not that we have loved God, but He loved us first. He is not waiting for us to be good people first, to be obedient people first, or not to guarantee Him for us to reciprocate His love. He loved us first. Does this mean that He condones our disobedience or our rebellion? No, this means that He gave us love because this is what love is. It is the start of wanting to be obedient to Him, and wanting to reciprocate His love by keeping His commandments.
The genuineness of this love is proven in faithfulness. It is not the sugary words or the gift of gab that a guy would say to a girl. The proof of love is in faithfulness over time. Maybe, our understanding of love at first sight is crooked, which is about emotions. The reality is that love at first sight is to make a decision even before one is promised reciprocation. Love is one way. The recipient of this one way love, genuinely receiving it, will want to reciprocate by giving one way love. If one demands a two-way love in the beginning, the love may be questionable. God did not wait for us to give Him a guaranteed reciprocation. He did not ask us to sign a contract that He will love us and that we love Him. God loved us without waiting for a guarantee.
Love is confirmed after decades of commitment in marriage – after fifty years and after fifty pounds. Love is a decision. A wife of a bishop in CEC is suffering from dementia, and it is very tempting for him to say, “This woman is no longer the woman I married on our wedding day, and I have a right to divorce her.” Love says, “In sickness, in health; for richer, for poorer; I have made a decision that I will love whatever happens.”
In the Patriarch’s Council, they talked about preparing the next generation. The bottom line word given was: don’t look for able men, but look for faithful men. This is like what St. Paul said to Timothy. Entrust to faithful men these things who will be able, and this is proven in commitment and faithfulness.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” We may think, “I thought that Jesus came to save us because we could not keep the Law.” Yes, He did that, but He came that we might live through Him – the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Through Jesus is how we can keep the commandments.
The commandments are for our good. The commandments are for our lives. When God said, “Eat this fruit, not that fruit,” it is because this fruit is for your life, and that fruit is for your death. The commandment is not for subservience or for servitude. It is not for God to say that we are His slaves, He is the Master, and we follow Him. The Law is for our good. It is to enhance our lives.
Men give their wives gifts; they take care of their children. Men do not hurt their wives or their children not because there is a law against violence on women and children. They don’t even know the law, but they do follow it because there is love. We need to keep the commandments for the enhancement of our lives. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and that they might have it to the full.” The full life is being in a good relationship with God, obeying Him, and being intimate with Him.
Jesus sends the Helper – Help-er. He helps us to do our responsibilities. The Holy Spirit does not come to bail us out or to condone our idleness, our lawlessness. He is our Comforter. Com – with; fort – strength; fortitude. As the Comforter, this is what the Holy Spirit gives us – comfort, not pity and encouragement during our weak times. In times of weakness, He empowers us, not to excuse us, nor does He do the work for us.
Jesus restores the standards of the law of God. He doesn’t leave us without empowerment. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. If you are aged 40 years and above, and you need to read a book with small print at that, but because of poor eyesight, the Holy Spirit is your reading glasses so that you may be able to read what you need to read. The promise is that the Helper will be with us forever unconditionally. We may grieve the Holy Spirit, but He has made a commitment that He will be with us forever.
The theme for today is, “Resurrection Life Builds Communion.” St. Paul, in Acts 17, says that the unbelievers in the world are those who seek God in ignorance. God put in the heart of every man a desire to seek Him. In the world, there are those who seek in ignorance, not according to knowledge and the full guidance of the Holy Spirit, but yet, they are still the children of God. God gives life and breath to all and He makes the sun shine to all.
Acts 17 says, “He created every nation of mankind that they would seek God.” God’s purpose for creating man is so that they would seek Him. John 1 says that there is a true light that enlightens every man. Not everyone receives Him or knows Him – yet. We, who do receive Him, would need - out of love and concern for our brothers – to encourage others, to help them see and know according to the right knowledge.
Acts 17 continues to say that God now declares us that all people should repent, that is, turn to Him through Christ. Christ died for sins once for ALL. 1Peter 3:18 says, “The just for the unjust.” All of us are unjust and disobedient. All sinned; all are unworthy. All are saved by grace alone. We did not earn anything. We are not special, and the world is “not chosen.” Jesus preached peace to those who are far-off, and to those who are near, including the disobedient people during Noah’s time according to St. Peter. He preached peace to them and told them, “God is reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them.”
In Romans 11, St. Paul says that God has shut up all in disobedience so that He can show mercy to all. God’s will is not for anyone to perish, so that we can have an attitude that is healthy. The healthy attitude is: do not think of yourself more highly than others, or more important than your fellowmen because Christ died for all of us.
This is the attitude that is suggested in certain teachings like the rapture where the chosen few will be caught up in the air and will say goodbye to the anti-Christ, those who would be left behind. Where is the love? God loved them, too. Christ died for them, too. St. Paul says, “Stand they will because God, their Master, is able to make them stand.” Maybe, it is just a matter of time. Maybe, it happens after their earthly life.
When we have learned to accept one another and to love one another, then, we build communion. We say, “Behold and how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” Why would we hate when we are supposed to be one in solidarity and in communion with all mankind, with all who are God’s? Why would we hate? Why would we destroy? Why would we pull down? Why would we think that we are better than others and that we would be better off with some people no longer existing? Some crusaders thinking or some religion’s belief is that the world will be a better place if the people they don’t like are not in existence. God is patient, not willing for any to perish. He is long-suffering and works with them. This was the thinking of Saul of Tarsus, that the Christians should be annihilated on the earth thinking that they are destroying the kingdom of God.
The children of God think this way, “Shout joyfully to God ALL the earth! ALL the earth worship Him. Every knee bow; every tongue confess. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” This is All of God’s creation. This should be our hope; this should be our heart. We are supposed to be in solidarity and in communion with all men and all creation, and we join the heavenly host in their unending hymn of praise, “Holy, holy, holy.” Does this mean that we will have a continuous Sanctus session? No, in everything that we do is to the tune of, “Holy, holy.” Everything is offered as worship. When we sow, when we reap, when we work, when we eat, when we drink, when we brush our teeth, when we walk, when we rest and sleep – everything we hallow and everything we do for the glory of God.
In Eden, there was no dividing line between the created order of the physical and the spiritual. Angels and men were in communion. Angels did their errands to the glory of God. Adam planted and cultivated the earth to the glory of God. Everything was offered as worship.
From the music of “From the Bells of Notre Dame”, it says, “Morning in Paris the city awakes to the bells of Notre Dame. The fisherman fished; the bakerman bakes to the bells of Notre Dames…. and some say the soul of the city is the toll of the bells of Notre Dame.” In everything, the Church, the kingdom of God dictates the tempo of. This is why the Cathedral is in the center of a city because it dictates the tempo of all of the city. Whatever we do, we do to the tune of the kingdom of God, which is the unending hymn praise of, “Holy, holy, holy.”
If we hit our brother, is this in the tune of, “Holy, holy, holy?” Everything we do, just like in Eden, collectively, as His creation, we do all for the glory of God because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.