VERSION 1: FULL VERSION
VERSION 2: PART I OF 2 PARTS
VERSION 2: PART 2 OF 2 PARTS
“The Goal of Loving Much”
June 12, 2016: The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Sam. 12: 1-9;13-15/ Psalm 32/ Galatians 2: 17 – 21/ Luke 7: 37-43; 47-50
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
I like the description of one of the biggest worship gatherings in Metro Manila, which they call, “Family Appointment with El Shaddai.” One hundred percent of the time, God has always shown up at every Sunday and weekday worship at our Church; in our prayers, ministries, and activities. It is us; and sometimes, we don’t keep our appointment with Him.
I am happy that He promised to be with us until the end. In the past 37 years, He has kept His appointment with us. The Patriarch says that it is not that we don’t feel God’s presences here, but it is us meeting Him here. He is not more present in bigger gatherings, in more pleasant places, than in any other place where two or three are gathered together in His Name. He can be in all of that. He will show up to meet us in a different venue starting July 3; and He will show up in the new building that we will build. God is faithful!
The gospel today shows us the Pharisee who did not respond according to His calling and to His equipping, including showing compassion and manifesting the divine nature that was in Him and showing particularly God’s love to the woman sinner. The Pharisee failed to do that; Jesus had to do it. It is not that we are Pharisees in the sense that we are hypocrites, but we are Pharisees because God called us and counts on us to minister His love. Instead of looking at people as sinners, we are, beyond that, to minister God’s love to them and to proclaim to them the good news that Jesus loves them and God has, in Christ, forgiven them and reconciled them to Him. If we don’t do that, what is our use of being chosen by God to do the task?
In the feeding of the multitude of four thousand and five thousand, Jesus told the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” It may be that the disciples looked over their shoulders to say, “Who are You talking to? Is it us? We have only five loaves and two fish?” Jesus said, “You feed them because I have equipped, and what I have equipped you with is more than enough.” After this, there was this incident where there was a misunderstanding, and Jesus, when He talked to them about the leaven of the Pharisees and they thought they were talking about bread, asked them, “Don’t you still get it? Don’t you remember how much leftovers we had out of five loaves and two fish? Understand that you have been equipped and what you have is more than enough.”
God is counting on us so much that He made His Son sit at His right hand and told them, “Sit it out until the restoration of all things.” Guess who the instruments will be for the restoration of all things? We are! We feed them! We do the restoration! I am not saying that we don’t depend on God, but we depend on what He has equipped us with to do the work.” Jesus is staying in heaven until all things have been put under His feet, including His enemies. We are His hands; we are His feet; we are His body. We are Jesus’ with skin in this world.
We are not to complain about the mess or the broken things because they are exactly why we have been given a broom, a dust pan, a mop and fixing tools. We address and meet needs because that is our calling; that is our mandate. Our calling is not to bring to God’s attention that which He put before us. Of course, we ask God for help. Of course, we ask God for strength, but we do the cleaning up. We must understand that His equipping is once again more than enough. We must not walk by sight, otherwise, we will see five thousand people, five thousand hungry mouths and five loaves and two fish. We must not lose focus. We must understand that God, in us, is more than enough, lest we be discouraged and lose hope.
The Spirit of the Lord has been given to us like it has been given to Jesus Christ because the afflicted need good news; the broken-hearted need binding up; the captives need liberty; prisoners need freedom; those who mourn need comfort. These are the very reasons God gave us His Spirit and His Spirit is upon us, and He is counting on us to respond like the woman in the gospel who responded to Jesus who loved the Lord much.
We used to sing the song, “I will dance for You, sing to You, lift my hands in praise to You, worship You and magnify Your Name. Seek Your face and in Your presence remain. All of these things I do into You because…” Is it because, “I don’t get want to be spanked by You?” Is it because, “I don’t want to go to hell?” Is it because, “All of these things I do unto You because I want to earn brownie points to get me past the door of heaven?” We do all of these things because these are expressions of our love for God. Why do we obey? This is because we have been forgiven and we have been loved! We obey not under compulsion, but we are so thankful for our forgiveness for God for overlooking our grossest mistake and loving us; so we love in return!
We do good works not because our ministry leader will read us the right act if we don’t obey. It is not because the children will be spanked if they do not obey their parents. It is all because we love. Righteous living is an expression of love for God and for neighbor. It is not about law. The law has its place.
I don’t smoke because I want to be a good steward of my body that was given to me by God. I happen to have seen an illustration of how the lungs are affected because of smoking. This is not to condemn anybody, but I don’t smoke because I want to be a good steward of my body plus it is for the sake of my ministry and my family. It is not about me. The little pleasure that I would derive from smoking is much less than my love for my family, for God, for my ministry and my Church. It is not about the law saying “I don’t smoke because the sin tax is big and I don’t like to get penalized for smoking in public places.” It is because I love my family.
Back in the 70’s, there was an ad campaign of a family singing to the father that said, “Take good care of your heart so you can with us longer.” It was talking against smoking and drinking and also exercise. When I was 38 years old, I met up with a doctor, unplanned, and he told me, “At your age, you should start being conscious of your diet. You should consider exercising and stay away from red meat.” All of a sudden, he changed from an angel to becoming a demon. He said, “If you want to die early, then, do what is not good for you.” Instead of me taking it as an offense, I took it as a challenge. From that time on until this time, I’ve never stopped exercising.
I went to the gym when I was younger, but it is very different when you are younger exercising and exercising now. When you are young and single, you build your body so that you are attractive to the opposite gender and for your friend to envy you. This was the motive before. Today, you just want to survive and live longer. You just want to avoid arthritis and other sickness, plus, you want to be with your family longer. It is for them; for the Church; for the ministry and God’s calling. It is also being a good steward of what you don’t own, something that is given to you. This is because you love! It is love that is driving you. It is not for self, not to build up yourself, but to be of service longer
Galatians 5:13 says that we have been given freedom. Don’t take our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, for ourselves, but instead, through love, serve one another. We sing, “I am free! I am free to be a servant of the Lord.” God forgave us so we love. This is the essence of the gospel. This is why I said that it is wrong to evangelize this way, “If you don’t accept Christ, who forgave you your sin, you are going to hell and you are not going to heaven.” It may be true, but the most healthy gospel is, “God loved you. He forgave you. What are you going to do now in return, in response out of love?” Don’t we appreciate that love? This should be motivating us in our obedience to Him.
God's will for us is an abundant life, which is why He gave the Law. The Law is not for consequences; the Law is the way we should go, not to control us, but for us to have abundant life – life to the full. It is to enhance this life that He has given us.
Galatians 5:16-24, which talks about the deeds of the flesh and the deeds of the Spirit, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Holy living is walking in the Spirit of love. It is not just necessarily obligation or duty. It is primarily about love of God.
St/ Paul said that Law served as a tutor when we are children. Enforcement and discipline apply to children. I grew up getting spanked and also seeing children being held in the ears by their parents if they don’t obey, and it resulted to good. However, you can’t expect a parent to do that to a child who is 30 years old. At some point, parents stop that kind of tutoring or discipline, and they expect understanding from the child because they mature. They are expected to obey not under threat of punishment but because they are responsible now. They understand that they have to please their parents. The enforcement then changes as one matures. It is the same way when children are told to eat vegetables. When they are small, vegetables are shoved into the mouth of children, but when they grow up, they understand that they were taught to eat vegetables because it is good for their body and their parents love them. What the parents want is a response out of love.
If a family has been invited to Malacanang and they are to meet the President, the mother would spend time going to the parlor to have herself prepare sometimes months before. What would the children do? They would play up to the time of dressing up. They don’t understand the importance of the appointment. Do you think the staff of the President would tell the mother that she has to get herself fixed for the photo op? It comes from the mother herself that she would have to fix herself because she knows the importance of meeting the President.
We are not under compulsion to obey. Nobody has to tell us. If we love, then, we will obey. As Psalm 32 says, “Don’t be as the mule or the horse which have no understanding.” We don’t need any prompting like a robot or a horse that won’t move unless stirred up. God has given us free will because He wants us, out of our free will and out of our own choosing, to love Him back. God does this not by force, but by loving us and making us understand. Hopefully one day, we would fully understand and we would respond like the woman sinner. Some of us take longer and that is fine for God is patient.
2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must do just as he purposed in his heart, not under compulsion; as he purposed,” as he vows to follow Christ.” This is why Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey Me.” It is not, “If you are afraid of the consequence, then you will obey Me.” There are still consequences, but primarily, we must obey or we should obey because we love God.
Philemon 14 says, “So that your goodness would not be by compulsion but of your own free will.” This is what pleases God – doing things out of our goodness. 1Peter 5:2 says, “Exercising oversight, not under compulsion but voluntarily.” In Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” This is so important because it was preached to the first Pope, to Peter, by St. Paul.
The essence of the whole Law lives in us. It is Christ who lives in us. The whole essence of the Law is no longer written on stone, but on our hearts. This is what St. Paul is preaching so that we obey the Law coming from our hearts and we choose to love Christ, He who died for us and redeemed us. God wants us back to the image Adam lost. He wants us in shining splendor brightly bearing the likeness of the Lord because we are partakers of the divine nature. With free will, He wants us to choose to love Him, not like a robot, not like a horse or a mule. We choose to forgive enemies, ministering to them, having mercies to those who know not what they do, loving them unconditionally, and loving them to the end as children of God bearing His image.
This is our God. This is what He wants us to be like and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.