“The Family of God: Unto the Lord a Kingdom of Priests”
June 18, 2017
The Eleventh Sunday In Ordinary Time
Exodus 19: 1 - 9a / Psalm 50: 1-7; 15-17; 22-23
Romans 5: 1 – 8 / Matthew 10: 1 - 8
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
You are all priests! Do we have women priests in the CEC? Yes! We are a kingdom of priests to serve our God. This is our calling. It is a renewal of the mandate given to Adam, representing man, in Genesis. He was created to be a priest and a steward. As a priest, he was expected to lead all creation in offering to God the fruits of the life given to them and the fruits of the earth given to them. This was Adam’s calling. As a steward, he was given authority and the ability to take care of the earth – serve it and once again, manage it. Adam was to lead all creation. In the Parable of the Talents, God expects us to produce by using the talents that He has given to us as this is our calling.
We come to Pentecost, and God is pouring His spirit upon all flesh so that we can produce fruits. We can prophesy, and we can proclaim His goodness and His good news. The good news is man being given the ability, His gifts, His grace in abundance, and He fell, but God forgives and He restores. This is what we need to proclaim, to prophesy, and to spread.
God did not say, “I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh so that bishops, priests, or deacons can prophesy.” He said, “I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh so that All flesh can prophesy, will prophesy, and shall prophesy.” Prophesy simply means to proclaim the good news that God loves us. God has won life back to us and for us.
Some men will dream dreams and some will see visions. Is it so that they can be entertained? Is it so that they can boast about being spiritual? No, it is so that they can prophesy. They are empowered and given the Spirit so that they can proclaim the goodness and the greatness of God and His good news.
Our current direction during our Midweek Fellowship is to impress upon our people that they are witnesses. You are witnesses of these things as Jesus said. What are these things? I wasn’t there when Jesus resurrected? I did not see Him alive, crucified and rise again. Was anyone here in Israel two thousand years ago? We are not witnesses of the physical resurrection of Jesus Chirst. What then are we to proclaim? Luke 24:47-48 says, “You are to proclaim repentance for forgiveness of sins in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” You are witnesses of repentance and forgiveness of sins.
Acts5:31 says, “…to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things.” We need to proclaim this. We have one member in CEC New York who proclaims and who prophesies about the forgiveness of sins sharing, “I was a wretched. I was dead in the life that had no meaning for me. I was a drug addict; I was an alcoholic. My marriage failed. A family was broken, and then I found God in this parish. I can mark the date when God restored my life to me.” Now, he is actively serving in the Church, and he prophesies because the Spirit of God was poured upon him and he experienced God’s forgiveness for himself.
What is a witness? A witness is somebody who testifies about the truth, the reality, and the actuality of things that he has seen and experienced. The prerequisite is the experience of what we are to proclaim and to prophesy. Have you been forgiven by God? Then, this is what you need to prophesy – God’s forgiveness and new life. We may not live a very colorful life, but we have something to proclaim of God’s forgiveness and God’s love. We don't need to know the Four Spiritual Laws or the strategies for evangelism. You simply need to open your mouth and by the power of the Spirit prophesy, and proclaim the good things that God has done in your life and to the lives of others that you know. It is all about the experience.
In the gospel today, the apostles were given authority over unclean spirits, to heal and to restore lives. This is our mandate. This is what we are called to do. This is why we were given the spirit of God, authority and power over spirits over anything and anyone, and any power that is out to destroy lives. Life came from God, and this is what we are to perpetuate.
In many Church traditions today is observed as the Feast of Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi means Body of Christ. All of us are parts of the Body of Christ. We have different roles, but we are to walk in unity as we fulfill them. There is this German philosophy called gestalt which was misunderstood, and the misunderstanding was what became popular. The misunderstanding is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I read and found out the original author saying that this was not what he said, but what he said was similar this, “The whole is other than the sum of its parts.” The whole is different; a different identity. It is not just greater, but different.
As a classic example, is the Voltes V robot. The Voltes V robot is not just greater, but is different than the other five parts fighting the enemy individually by themselves. The whole robot is different from the other parts no matter how sincere they are fighting individually against one enemy. They are not the same.
This is the same principle that applies in the Church. The Church is not the same as the sum of each individual effort if not in unity. We will be like shooters trying to topple a wall, but shooting in different directions. If we are united and we aim at one target, it is easier to achieve our purpose. Sad to say, Christianity is misunderstood because some think that Christianity is a therapy for self. It is not because Christianity, like humanity, is supposed to be unity, and observed in solidarity. We were and are meant to be one Body.
St. Paul asks in his letter to the Corinthians, “Is Christ divided?” No, He is one, and we are His body. The song says, “We are His hands. We are His feet. We are His people.” We are His body, and we are His representatives. We are the embodiment of the Body of Christ, and the visible representative of Him here on earth. Some of us build; some of us are teachers; some can sing like angels; but all of us can love like God. Hence, we have unity because we have something in common and we have a common goal.
Today is also “Father’s Day.” Fathers are priests in your own right. You are priests of your little churches, your little parishes called families. You are called “Father” because you are a priest. You are to offer sacrifices. The implication of a sacrifice for many is that you have to up something. The root of the word sacrifice came from “Sacre” which is holy; sacred. You may need to give up something in order to offer that which is sacred, that which is acceptable to God; but understand and renew your mind that what is acceptable to God, what is holy to God is in the first place what is good for you. You are actually not giving up something, but you are improving and enhancing the life God gave to you.
Fathers are also the pillars of the home. They are also the pillars of the Church. It is not an excuse for Fathers to say, “I am too busy being a Father to my family, so I cannot be a Father in the Church. They are not separate entities; they are connected to each other. They don’t have to be in contradiction and in conflict.
St Paul addressed the misunderstanding of the Corinthian church about their gifts and he said to them that it is not about having gifts, but it is about you using the gifts that you were given, and using them with the right motive to love others. Fathers and mothers know this because they apply and live this in their homes and toward their children.
Gifts, empowerments, abilities of God are not about our vindication or our recognition or our reputation. Gifts are for the common good, for the building up of the Body of Christ, hence, the glory of God. His will is for the Body to be built. It is all about Jesus. We have made worship, service, and ministry as about us; making a name for ourselves; being known for our gifts. This was the childishness of the Corinthians.
Somebody told me, “Have you experienced building your own house?” It is different when you buy a house already built than experience building your own house. In the latter, your personality is in the structure. All your preferences are there. In my lifetime, I may never experience this, but I am humbled, privileged, honored, blessed and overjoyed to be blessed by God and given the opportunity to at least see the progress, to see it rising slowly and surely in our Church building according to the promise of God.
More than this and more importantly, I am humbled, blessed, privileged, honored, and joyful that I am seeing not just the building up of the physical structure, but the building of the real temple and the Body of Christ. I am really, really joyful about this, which is the whole point anyway. It is not about the building of the Church; this is good, and I am thankful for that and we will pursue this. But the point is what it does to us as the real Body of Christ.
I have always shared this quote on one wall of my university’s basketball court where it said, “When the Great Scorer pens your name, He writes not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.” The Israelites goal was not simply to get to the Promised Land, but how. I have shared before, “Ang mabagal ay hindi kinukutya, hindi iniiwan, ngunit inaalalayan.” The point is not to get ahead of someone, but to get to the goal together. This is because we are one Body. We are the Body of Christ.
God told the Israelites, “The point is not just getting there. The point is, “Did you take care of the weak? The feeble? Did you put your arm around them and carry them and help them walk?” We need to have all of us getting to our destination together in unity, in cadence, and in taking care of each other.
I would welcome it if somebody gave the funds for the construction of the Church building, but I would be very happy if each one would give anywhere from two mites to two hundred million pesos toward the building as long as each one of us, in giving our offering, meet the minimum. The minimum for our offering is one hundred percent of our heart behind the giving. The point is not making a name for ourselves, but it is for us, as a Body, achieving and accomplishing what God wants for us. It is not about gifts; it is about using them. It is not about accomplishments; it is about love which is the perfect bond of unity.
St. Paul said, “If I give my body to be burned, if I build a big church, but do not have love, it amounts to nothing.” This means that it is possible for us to accomplish great things, and yet not have love for a motive. We need to be cautious about this because love is the perfect bond of unity. St. Paul further says, “When I was a child, it was about childish (selfish) things; when grown, I found a more excellent way, and that is love.” It is not about us, but it is about using our gifts, expressing our love to others. With love, no one thinks of their own salvation, but the Body’s salvation. It is not about us making sure that we fly with Jesus when He comes back, and I say goodbye to those left behind. The point is: all of us together, as the Body, obtaining the promise.
In Hebrews 11:40, it says that no one can obtain the promise apart from the rest. The promise of God is meant to be given to the whole, not parts, because parts, even the sum of them, are different than the whole. What God meant for us to be one Body – the Body of Christ – which is a big part of our witness.
The former Patriarch Adler prophesied on his tenth anniversary of his consecration that the CEC will not be known for being three streams or its convergence or its consensus government, but it will be known for our relationships, and how we take care and love each other. This is the point because we are one. It is not even us being a local Body. The building is not about the local Body, but it is about doing our share in the whole mystical Body of Christ to which we belong.
I encourage us: do your share. Proclaim. Prophesy. Build. Sing. Teach. Mime. Dance. Read. Do acolytes stuff. Do your share and proclaim the good news and the gospel of God until all creation lives and learns His joy, His peace, His justice, and His love. This is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.