“The Family of God: Under the Tutelage of Its Master”
June 25, 2017
The Twelfth Sunday In Ordinary Time
CEC Foundation Day
Jeremiah 20: 7 – 13/Psalm 69: 10 – 18/Romans 6: 1 – 11/Matthew 10: 24 - 33
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
It is always good to dwell with brothers in unity and worshipping God together. Today is the CEC Foundation day. We are 25 years old with CEC. We have grown with this Church. Before this, we were 13 years old as a Church, as Christian Life Fellowship. In two years, our Church will be 40 years old, and it is one generation. We are excited to be starting our building now, and hopefully, it will be completed exactly after forty years. God is moving in our midst, and we are thankful for Him for this.
CEC is not a movement; it is a calling; and we respond to this call. We were called to make visible the Kingdom. As the gospel says, “What we hear whispered in our ears, we are to proclaim from the housetops. We are to speak in the light. That which is invisible, we are to make visible.”
There has been a void in the Church, and we need to proclaim this. As CEC, how do we do this? We believed that we are to follow certain principles to make visible the Kingdom. One is by proclaiming the sacredness of life. We promote the culture of life in CEC so this is why we proclaim that all life is sacred. It is not just the life of the unborn, but even the life of those who are old that we think are candidates for euthanasia. The life of those people whom we think are worthy to be put to death are sacred even if we think that they are the worst criminals in the world. Jesus died for them, and this makes their life sacred.
Another thing that we proclaim as CEC is the convergence of three streams – evangelical, liturgical, and charismatic. We started off as evangelicals and charismatics, but we discovered the rich culture of the liturgy, the history of the Church, the sacredness of order in the hierarchy, and vestments, furniture and images that proclaim the visibility of the kingdom of God here on earth. The truth of the matter is that we did not discover something new. We discovered something old. Three streams point us towards the meaning of Catholic. Catholic is wholeness. We were not whole. We were not being the Church. We were being part of what the Church was, but the Church Catholic is really sacramental, liturgical, and evangelical.
The third thing that we proclaim as a Church is that we believe in consensus government, which means that we have no agenda, but only God’s agenda. Consensus government means that God speaks to one man, the leader; and the leader doesn’t trust himself that he always hears God. This is why he surrounds himself with men he trust that would speak to him into his life, and would help him hear the voice of God. When any Council in the CEC meets (the Patriarch’s Council; the Rector’s Council) nobody has an agenda. The leader does not have an agenda. The one agenda of any Council in the CEC is this: to hear the voice of God. The reason we meet, the reason we gather is to hear the voice of God. What He says is what we do.
When the Council meets, the questions like, “What do you think?” “Do you have any ideas about this?” are not asked. Rather, the question is: what is God saying to you? What do you believe is God saying to us, as a Church? His church is our direction; it is not any man’s church, but God’s church. What we do, what we have for an agenda is what He says. Jesus said, “I don’t do anything that I don’t receive from the Father. What I say is only what the Father tells Me to say. What I do is only what the Father tells Me to do.”
In the CEC, we are also known for the song,”Non Nobis Domine.” It is not because of the melody, but because this is our heart. The glory is not for us; the glory is always supposed to be directed to God. Man is not to receive glory; only God is to receive glory. This is why we serve. This is why we commit ourselves and give of our time, our effort, and everything else that we have because we want to give God the glory. It is not man’s reputation; it is not so that the leader would look good. It is not so that our Church would look good, but so that God is glorified. In everything we do, we do for the glory of God.
The CEC is also known for the Lake George’s Blessing. This blessing came up when some priests were on a retreat in an area called Lake George in USA. It is based on a New Testament Scripture, 2Corinthians 5:19, which says, “God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them.” The Lake George Blessing says, “As you go out from this place, always remember the gospel: God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to Himself not counting men’s sins against them. God loves you; God has forgiven you; God is not angry at you; God will never leave you nor forsake you.”
This is who God is. He doesn’t count sins against us. God knows how to count. He knows the number of our hairs, but He doesn’t know how to count the sins that we have committed. He reconciled us to Himself by trampling down death. Death and sin separated us from God, so how did God reconcile us to Himself? It is by trampling down death by giving of His life. It I s trampling death by death.
St. Athanasius said, “When Jesus died and descended to hell to the realm of the dead, He said, ‘Death died upon confrontation with life.’” Jesus is life. When death came up to Him and death was confronted by Jesus, death melted. Death was dissolved; death was destroyed; and death died. Although Jesus died, He was still life. He died for that which was afflicting us (sin and death) and that which was defacing or vandalizing the good image of God in us. Jesus destroyed this by taking the affliction of sin from us and taking it upon Himself. Jesus absorbed all. Jesus took our sins, and because of this, we were restored and healed. By taking sin from us and upon Himself, we were restored.
What is sin? Sin is hatred, envy, malice, violence, self-centeredness, narcissism, love of self and not of others. Sin is anything that is not like God. These things are killing us because they don’t belong to this image and likeness of God that is in us. They have no place in the life of God. Jesus took all these things from us. These things were confronted by who Jesus was and is – mercy, compassion, love, light, hope, and everything that is good. When envy, hatred, violence and malice were confronted by love and compassion and mercy, they were obliterated. This is how Jesus overcame evil; this is how we overcome evil.
St. Paul says, “Overcome evil with good.” We lose when we overcome with the same envy and hatred. With pure goodness, Jesus absorbed all evil and when all these evil was absorbed by evil, they melted and they were destroyed. We do not overcome with an eye for an eye justice. There is this wrong interpretation of what Jesus said on the cross when He said, “My God,My God, why has Thou forsaken Me.” Others interpreted this to mean that Jesus was separated from His Father because God the Father was angry with man because he sinned. So what Jesus did was to bear all sins of man so that God would not be angry with man, and Jesus would take all the sins by dying on the cross. They also said God would never be satisfied unless He sees repayment of sin with blood and death. This is totally wrong because God does not count our sins against us.
Jesus died on the cross because He bore all the sins of man. It is not that God wanted somebody to die – if not mankind, it would be Jesus. This is not God’s justice. God forgives. Jesus took the heat from us and took the sickness of sin from us, and killed sin and death. God was not separated from His Son when Jesus was crucified on the cross.
I remind us of one of the foundation Scriptures in CEC: God the Father was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to Himself. God became man in Christ Jesus. When Jesus was born, God the Father was in Him. When Jesus grew up and submitted to His Father and Mother and grew up in favor with man and with God, God was with Him. When Jesus healed the sick, God was with Him. God was healing the sick through Him. God was forgiving the prostitute through Him. Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to Me.” This is when Jesus reconciled the world to Himself. This is God, in Jesus on the cross, reconciling the world to Himself.
This is who our God is. He is a forgiving God. He does not take revenge against us. He erased all sin against us, and so we don’t hate because somebody hates us. Instead, we love them. Then, we prove to be children of God. God doesn’t destroy man, but He destroys what destroys man.
Jesus said, “When I am lifted up from here, I will judge the world.” He will not judge man, but the system of the world, the prince of this age and of the air. He owns everything. Creation belongs to Him. We belong to God. He created us. His plan was to restore us, not to discard us because He loves us that much.
It is death that God destroys, not man. God gives life to man and He restores man. The truth is that when Jesus was being led to the cross, He was actually leading the principalities and powers to their death. In the movie Passion of Christ, they used one Scripture where Jesus said, “Don’t worry, I am making all things new.” By dying on the cross, He was making all things new. He was restoring us because on His way to death, He is actually putting death to death. He was destroying death on the cross. It wasn’t His life that was being taken, but it is our life that was being restored. He was making all things new.
Jesus rose from the dead, and He became the First-born of the new creation. As we get born-again, as we return to Him. St. Paul said that if we have risen with Christ, we should not go back to the old self. We are now part of the new creation that we look forward to. Jesus was the First-born. We follow Him, and our mission is for the rest of the world to follow until we all bow with our knees, and confess with our tongue that Jesus is Lord, and that we belong to Him, that we live His life, and that we are a new creation and we are saved by Him.
This is CEC, and we do it as a Church, and we do it collectively. On the 10th anniversary of the CEC, 15 years ago, the former Patriarch Adler said, “We may have all of these things that we may be known for as CEC – convergence, consensus government, culture of life; but one day, CEC will be known not for their doctrine, not for their format of their worship, but for their love, their relationships, and how they treat each other.” CEC will be known for unity, love, which was not visible, and we are to make these visible.
Pope Francis shared what Pope Benedict said, “The Church is not an “I” Church. The Church is a “we” Church. There are those who believe that you can have a personal, direct and immediate relationship with Jesus Christ outside the communion and meditation of the Church. These are dangerous and harmful temptations. It is true that journey together is challenging, and at times can be tiring. It may be that some brother or some sister might cause a problem or a scandal, but the Lord entrusted His message of salvation to human beings, to us all, as witnesses. It is through our brothers and sisters, with their gifts, with their limitations, with their strengths, with their weaknesses, with their idiosyncrasies, with their quirks, that He comes to meet us and makes Himself known. This is what it means to belong to the Church. Remember: being a Christian means belonging to the Church. Your first name is “Christian”, and your last name is belonging to the Church.
Let us ask the Lord for the grace never to fall into the temptation of thinking we can do without others, that we can get along without the Church, and that we can save ourselves on our own. We cannot love God without loving our brothers and sisters. We cannot love God outside of the Church. We cannot be in communion with God without being in the Church. We cannot be good Christians if we are not with all those who seek to follow the Lord Jesus, as one people and one Body. This is the Church.” I say, “This is CEC.”
Hebrews 11 says, “Nobody can obtain the promise without the rest.” Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess, and the whole earth will be filled with the glory of God. Sin will be no more; death will be no more; and the people of God will be one Body. This is CEC. This is our advocacy. This is what we push; this is what we make visible by living.
This is CEC and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God!