June 14, 2017
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Who among you have been in Jerusalem 2000 years ago and saw Jesus die on the cross and resurrect? So what are we witnesses of? I looked up the word “witness” at the internet and I found two verses that said, “We are witnesses not of the physical, literal resurrection of Jesus.” In Luke 24, Jesus said to His disciples, “Thus it is written that Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His Name to all generations beginning from Jerusalem; and you are witnesses of these things.”
What things are you going to be witnesses of? It is the repentance and forgiveness of sins by God. St. Paul said, “This is the Gospel: God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sin against them.” We are witnesses of repentance and forgiveness of sin. Acts 5:31-32 says, “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sin. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” How can we be a witness of forgiveness of sin?
I met somebody who was a former drug addict. He told me, “2007 was the turning point of my life. I was a wreck; I was dead. My life was in shambles and I found this Church and I was saved from a life of misery, of heartache, of a broken marriage and a broken family.” He was a living witness of forgiveness of sin. From this Church, I have known people who have been delivered from the ugly damage that sin can wreak into the lives of people. We don’t have to have a bleak past to be a witness of forgiveness of sin and the repentance in the Name of Jesus. We are witnesses and how do we do this? It is by proclaiming, “God loves people.”
I used to do witnessing by threatening people of hell that if they don’t receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, they will suffer in hell forever. This is not so because what we should proclaim as a witness is forgiveness, not condemnation or punishment if we don’t receive Jesus. If we receive Him, there is life and this is what we should preach.
In Luke, Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father, the Holy Spirit, upon you. You are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” The fulfillment of this is in Acts 2, but in Acts 1, Jesus said to them before the day of Pentecost, “You shall receive power and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and into the remotest part of the earth.” This is relating the power of the Spirit to be witnesses.
We have received power for the very reason that we are witnesses. We cannot witness on our own ability; we need the power of the Spirit. A witness testifies. A witness proclaims the truth. A witness proclaims the reality of the gospel as they have experienced it. What is the Gospel? God forgives sins, but you repent and you will have new life in Him. There lies the prerequisite. There is a need to experience the life of forgiveness, the life of being with Christ before you can proclaim it, and we have received the power to proclaim this.
In Pentecost, Jesus proclaimed, “The Spirit of God was poured upon all flesh, and they shall prophesy.” To prophesy simply means to proclaim; to testify as a witness. Scripture did not say, “The Spirit has been poured upon all flesh, and only bishops, priests and deacons shall prophesy. The rest of you shut up!” It is all flesh that will prophesy! All of us will prophesy. To prophesy doesn’t mean to say, “Thus saith the Lord….” We can prophesy, “God loves you. He forgives our sins. You don’t need to be guilty. Surrender your life to Jesus.” It may be as simple as these words, but this is a prophecy. When we proclaim the love of God, that is prophecy; and we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to do such.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted the prophet Joel, “Young men shall see visions, and old man will dream dreams and they shall all prophesy.” It is not so that they can be entertained. It is not so that they can appear spiritual and tell people, “I am special. I dream dreams. I saw visions and you did not.”
One of the Scriptures that I really like is from Numbers 11 where the Israelites complained to Moses that they had nothing to eat and Moses prayed to God, “Lord, I did not give birth to these people, why do I have to bring them out of this wilderness? They have a lot of complaints. I need help.” God told him, “Gather seventy people from the elders.” God told Moses, “I will take of My spirit that is in you, and I will put that spirit on the seventy elders.” Two people were not present on the mountain where the seventy were. However, the spirit of God was so powerful that it did not just fall on the sixty-eight present, but also fell on the two that were left behind in the camp, and they prophesied. Joshua told Moses, “The two did not obey you, so why are they prophesying? You have to stop them from doing so.” Moses said, “Are you jealous for my sake? What is more important? Is it for my sake or because they are able to prophesy of good things? I pray that the spirit of God will not just fall on these seventy elders, but also to all people.”
Moses wanted all to prophesy the goodness of the Lord, and this was fulfilled during Pentecost. One translation of Numbers 11 says, “Oh, that God would give His spirit to everyone and make all people prophesy.” This is the purpose of the Spirit being given to us. In the ERV translation, which I can very much relate to and paraphrasing, Moses asked Joshua, “Are you afraid that people think that I am not the leader now? Your people have cautioned me about certain people who are gifted and charismatic and have potential in leadership.” I was told, “Don’t give people much responsibility in leadership because they might overrule you.” I said, “Why should I be afraid to do so? Are we trying to outdo each other here? Do I need to feel insecure?” It is not so because what is important is that people prophesy and proclaim the goodness of God and other people hear about it. It is not about my security or my insecurity. Moses said, “Are you afraid that people think that I am not the leader now? I wish that all the Lord’s people were able to prophesy. I wish that the Lord would put his Spirit on all of them so that they would prophesy.”
We are to perpetuate this, as the song says, until all creation lives and learns His joy, His justice, His love and His grace.
I would like to say this to all of you: I apologize on behalf of the Church for indicating that only clergy can do anything worthwhile. That if you don’t wear purple shirt, a black shirt, or a gray shirt, then, you amount to nothing. This is not the intention, but this is what you call clericalism. The work of ministry is done by the people. What leaders do is to equip the people to remind them that the Spirit of God is in them. They do the work. Deacons set the example and they are the image of the serving Christ. The priests are the image of the sacrificial Christ.
We are witnesses of these things. Every Wednesday in the Season of Ordinary Time, we invite each of you to share how you have been a witness. You have been given a Spirit of power, not timidity. You have been given the power to be the sons of God to prophesy, to proclaim His goodness in His kingdom.
Dcn. Junior Consunji’s testimony:
God is good all the time! In 1995, I was then fifteen years old, and I was walking in Cartimar with a bag where it was written, “You must be born-again.” I am a graduate of Southeastern College which was adjacent to Arellano University, which were rival schools. As I was walking, there were five men going towards me whose main intention was to beat me. As I was being hit by these men, I recalled that all that I was saying to them was, “God loves you.” Then, all of a sudden, one of them said to me, “You are free. You can go.”
I rode the jeep going to Malibay and I was almost in tears because I was mauled. Inside the jeepney, I shared to the passengers what happened to me, but also told them that God love them. The next day, my schoolmates found out what happened to me and they said, “It is our turn to retaliate.” I told them, “Kung ang Diyos nga nakapagpatawad, ako pa kaya?”
I imagine myself today that if somebody would attack me, I would do something drastic. However, thirty years ago, I already had the love of God in me. That was my witness when I accepted the Lord. Today, my children are a witness of what I do. When we are in a fastfood chain or any restaurant and somebody approaches us to beg or ask for food, I would ask them to sit with us regardless of their appearance. Having felt the love of God thirty years ago, my children are a witness to how I share the love of God to others.
Last week, Bishop Ariel, Fr. Roberto, and my wife and I came from Kalibo. On the plane, beside me was an elderly woman. I greeted her and afterwards, she began sharing how nervous she was in riding the plane and was also worried how she would go down the plane. We had a conversation going and she was venting out her feelings about her children whom she said only loves her when she has money. She decided to see and visit her sister who had cancer and who lives in Quezon City.
To calm her, I told her that I would help her with her things as she goes down the plane and I would accompany her up to the time that she is fetched. She said, “Salamat, anak. Meadow near-relax na ako.” As we were talking, she said, “Sir, pwede sa iyo na lang ako tumira? Hindi na ako magpapakita.” I said, “Lola, magpakita ka muna sa kapatid mo. Huwag kang magtampo sa anak mo.” I told her, “Lola, alam mo bang ang Tatay ko ay karpintero at ang Nanay ko ay labandera?” She said kind words to me, even calling me an angel, and displayed so much confidence and joy that somebody talked to her. This is without saying to her, “Mahal ka ng Diyos.”
The love of God comes out of us without saying the Gospel. The Gospel is our lives. I would challenge the youth that you may not have the boldness that I had thirty years ago to preach the Gospel, but preaching the Gospel is all about the life that we are living right now. Witnessing is in simple things that we can to reach out to other people. We may not gain so much if we share the Bible, but if we display a godly Christian character, we will hear words like, “Pwede bang makitira na lang ako sa bahay mo?”
True witnessing is about the Spirit of God that is in us that comes out naturally because the Lord is with us. To the youth, be a good witness wherever you are. If you chance to be with a passenger who has no fare to pay, volunteer to pay. Share your food, if need be. You have planted a seed to show that there exists good people, and this will lead them to know that a good God exists too.
Witnessing is showing the gospel. Don’t preach at them. I would like to stir up the Spirit that is in you. I pray that it is rekindled in you so that you are empowered, encouraged, inspired and reminded that you are to prophesy. You are not to be timid and you have been given the Spirit to proclaim the goodness of God.