VERSION 1: FULL VERSION
“The Goal of Helping the Helpless”
June 5, 2016: The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 17: 17 – 24/ Psalm 30/ Galatians 1: 11 – 24/ Luke 7: 11 – 17
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
God is good all the time! I want to make a point that this is not like a response or a Canticle, but to understand that God is immutable. This simply means God is unchanging. Hebrews says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God does not change. He did not grow from being a God who is irritable in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, He changes His mind and says, “I will be nice from now on.”
God is love and has always been love. He always has been the Lord and the Giver of life. He has always been blessing, ever blessing. He did not withhold the blessing in the Old Testament and poured it out in the New Testament. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
As God is the Giver of life, death is not His will as we hopefully saw in the gospel today. Not only is death not His will, but He hated it so much that He even gave His life so that He could restore the life He gave to us back to us – we, who were sinners and enemies. This is, has always been, and will ever be our God, our Father. When we say, “God is good,” and we respond, “All the time,” this means that He is good all the time. Forever He will be good.
The readings today and last week and other places in Scripture revealed God as the Giver of life. His will for us is life. Last week, the gospel talked about the slave of the centurion. A slave is a dispensable property. If the slave is sick, it would not be illegal for the master to leave him out in the cold to die. He was property and worthless. The master could do whatever he wanted with him. He was a slave of a centurion, a Gentile. Jesus called the Gentiles one time as dogs – not part of the family. Jesus said, “I was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is not good for Me to give the bread of the children to the dogs.”
The slave whom Jesus gave back life to was a dispensable property of a dog, of somebody who was not even family. This shows us the heart of God. While we were yet sinners, while we were enemies, while He did not have to anything for us, Jesus gave His own life. To ransom a slave, God sacrificed His Son. God gives life; the Source of all good.
VERSION 2: PART 1 OF 2 PARTS
VERSION 2: PART 2 OF 2 PARTS
Today, we see His compassion on a widow with an only son and the son died. This tells us that God knows our circumstances. Jesus knew the woman was a widow. Jesus knew that it was an only son and if the son dies, she and the family would be cut off from the earth and will have no more prosperity. God knows what we are going through right now. He is not a God who is out of touch with our reality. In fact, He entered into our reality and experienced what we experience. The very hairs of our head are numbered. This is how involved God is in our lives.
In Luke 7, we hear of two disciples of John who were sent to Jesus to ask, “Are You the expected One or are we supposed to wait for somebody else?” Jesus said, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard. The blind receive sight; the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them." What do you think? Is this God’s visitation or what? That is God! That is His will! Is He the expected One or not? Jesus did not even answer the question because it was evident. Life was being restored, which means God is present. This means God is with us; Emmanuel. He has visited us.
Isaiah 61:2-3 says, “People sitting in darkness to them a great light came. Darkness covers earth, deep gloom enshrouds the people.” This is when God comes into our lives and gives us light. In the beginning, the earth was formless and void. The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters and there was darkness all over. That is when and where God came in. That is when He visited with His life – where there is darkness – because His plan for us is welfare, not calamity or death, but to give us a future and a life. This is why Jesus came. He did not come to kill and to destroy. It may be simple but I don’t think we fully understand this. God does not destroy. Some theologians think that He does. God does not kill. In fact, He came to do the opposite, which is to restore life. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and not only life but life in abundance.” It was eternal life.
God turned Saul the destroyer to Paul the builder. Psalm 30:3 says, “You have kept me alive that I would not go down to the pit.” God is a life-giver. Verse 9 says, “What profit is there if I go down to pit? Will dust praise You?” God helps the helpless. The dead can’t help themselves. Hence, our theme today, our goal is to help the helpless because God’s life is in us. We are not to be overwhelmed and distracted by darkness and hopelessness. The reason we have God’s life in us is because we exactly called where hopelessness is, where darkness is.
Imagine the humanitarian group called Habitat for Humanity going to Leyte just right after Yolanda. They go in and say, “This is a mess. Houses are all destroyed. Why are we here?” Why were they there? It is because they are the Habitat for Humanity. The reason they are there is because they build houses where there are no houses. If you hear people like them complaining that there are no houses, what would you think? They don’t know their mission! Why else did they go there if they are going to complain? Their name implies that they are builders of ruins so they don’t have to remind people who have just been devastated that there is devastation around them. They don’t have to tell the people that they are hopeless. What they should tell the people is that there is hope, life, and they have come to bring that to them.
Sometimes, we are overwhelmed. Sometimes, what we say is what they say in the movies, “Ayaw ko ng masikip. Ayaw ko ng mabaho. Ayaw ko ng magulo.” Well, the reason we are in a situation is because we are an air-freshner; we have a broom; we have carpenter tools. We have been equipped to fix because if we are the children of God, we are fixers, builders, and encouragers, not destroyers and discouragers and being discouraged ourselves. This is our goal!
I read in an Indian shop’s business which had a lot of sayings in its wall, “A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who finds such a husband.” Another was: “The customer is not a source of irritation for you; he is not disturbing your day. He is not bothering you. He is the reason that you exists as a business.” The reason we are Christians is because we deal with hopelessness, with darkness, with despair and with hatred. We have the answer because we have been given the answer and the life is in us. If we give up because we say that the darkness is overwhelming, try turning on the weakest flashlight in darkness and see what happens. It will not refuse to turn on, but it will naturally emit light because it understands what its nature is.
I was at a wake and a Roman Catholic priest was doing Mass and he gave a homily. He said, “Actually, death is good. In fact, death is the greatest God can give to you because when you die, you go to heaven and that is good.” I did not agree with him because the greatest gift of God is life, not death. Jesus Christ gave His life to the world for the life of the world. Our goal is not to die, but to live the life God gave to us.
In the Creeds we say, “We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Even if we die, we look forward to rising again. Death is not the final destination. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of world to come. We believe in the resurrection of the body. After we die, we will have what we call “glorified bodies.” This is the physical ones. Our ancient fathers believed this. We even pray, “Remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again; bring them and all the departed into the light of Your presence.”
This is why we pray: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” “Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.” “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end.” God fixes. The world is broken; God is going to fix it. Society is broken; He is going to fix it. One day, all things will be restored because Philippians 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”
What does the Bible say His creation was? The adjective used was “very good.” At creation, God began a good work, and He will be faithful to complete it. In fact, He promised it. Do you think this world is broken? Do you think this earth is broken? There will come a time when there will come a new earth, a new heaven, and a new Jerusalem because God is in the business of fixing and restoring.
Death is not the greatest gift. Life is the greatest gift of God and He restored life by paying a high price – His very life. Some theologians say, “God is Sovereign, He can and does kill.” No, He can’t and He doesn’t kill. It is against His nature. No one is good. Only God is good. All good proceeds from Him. In Him is no darkness at all. In Him is no death at all.
Athanasius said, “When Jesus descended to hell, death died upon confrontation with Him, the Lord of life.” The reason Jesus went down to hell was to kill death. He trampled death by his death. At the same time He died, He was still Lord of life and when confronted by the Lord of life, death was extinguished and death was no more. God does not kill. Death is simply the absence of life. As darkness is simply the absence of light and evil is simply the absence of good, so death is simply the absence of life and God is life. There is absolutely no darkness and there is absolutely no death in Him.
Why do people die? This is because they cut themselves off from God. They detach themselves from Him. This is death. Death cannot come from God. The only thing that comes from God is good and life. We get good and get life when we have fellowship with Him, which Adam had until he cut himself off from God and then, death entered into the world.
Someone said that the reason there is evil in the world is because good people allow evil to enter it. It is just the absence of good. It is a non-entity. It is a departure and separation from good. God can't be the source of death. Death simply is the rejection of His life.
We, as a Church, are pro-life. We preach the gospel of life. Everything we do is or should be pro-life. It is not a political position, but it is a vocation. It is not an opinion but a commitment, a way of life for us. We do whatever it takes to promote, to uphold, to sustain and to enrich life particularly that of our neighbor first. We have received life in abundance already and if we realize that, we know that we have something to give and there is enough to go around.
As such, we are opposed to the culture of death and any justification of death. People may say, “They should die. Somebody should kill them.” No, we are pro-life. Nothing concerning death is justified especially to selfish ends. Abortion, in most cases, is for convenience, for selfish gain. This is a culture of death and we are opposed to that. Death is selfishness. Some say that the Bible says that God gets angry because the celebrant blessing the people says, “God is not mad at you. God is not angry at you.” The Bible says that God gets angry at people who do sin - not at their sin.
As parents, have you ever gotten angry with your children? Are you angry with your children now? If you get angry at your children, would you say that you don’t like them or you don’t love them? In the first place, why do you get angry at your children? There can be two answers: one, they bother you. Two, as parents, you get frustrated because your children are not doing what you have trained them to do.
Why do parents get upset when their children don’t do what they are supposed to do that is right? It is because you are concerned for them. Parents want their children to go in the way that they should go. If they don’t obey and they are not accomplishing that which is good for them, then parents get disappointed and frustrated. In the first place, why do parents get disappointed? It is because they love them. They do not get angry because they want to destroy their children. It is because they want them to grow in the right direction because of love. Anger is but for a moment and love for them is for their lifetime.
Borrowing Jesus’ language, “If you then, being evil, know how to love your children, how much more your Father in heaven, who in fact gave you and your children’s lives to you?” This is our God. He does not kill. He does not destroy, but He loves. We, as His children, should be like Him.
With regards to the priest that I was talking about, we ended well. During the Mass, he was aware that the people present were not Roman Catholics. I thought, “Will he give them communion?” He did, and this is one of the things that we talked about. I said, “I was wondering if you would give communion to people you know who are not Roman Catholics.” He said, “Why would I not? This is Christ!” I said, “Yes, Father. That is life!” Why deny it from somebody wanting it if you can give it? I was glad he said that but I did tell him, “You may be peculiar because somebody did deny me communion knowing I wasn’t Roman Catholic.” He said, “Really?” I asked, “Is there an official church position on it?” He said, “None that I know of.”
Personally, to me, this is Christ. What you have in your heart is Christ. What you have in your hands is Christ. This is what the team to Alang-alang understood. They had in their hands life, hope, and Christ Who is the answer to despair, to hopelessness and to darkness? Jesus is how you know who God is and what His will is and He doesn’t change. Jesus is how we go back to bearing the image of God. He helps the helpless and so our goal is to do the same because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.