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“The Family of God: For the Love of Him Above All”
July 2, 2017
The Thirteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 28: 5 - 9; 15 – 17/Psalm 89: 1-3; 19-21; 36-37/
Romans 6: 16 – 23/Matthew 10: 37-42
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Our theme for today is: The Family of God: For the Love of Him Above All. Who is our God? It is our vision, our mission, and our desire to know God and make Him known. We need to know Him so that we can experience eternal life, that which is His will for us.
God is immutable; God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. God the Father does not change, but He is like Jesus. Who Jesus is, is who the Father is. I would like to impress this in our hearts because we have heard people distinguish God the Father and God the Son. They are two distinct personalities, but their essence and their nature are the same. Jesus said that He has seen the Father because They have the same heart, same desires, same will and the same nature. Never let the Father compete with the Son.
I have heard of this illustration that on judgment day, God sits as the Judge on the throne, reading to us the offenses and charges against us that we are guilty of. We have nothing to say because all of what God the Father said as Judge is correct. Then, we have beside us a lawyer in Jesus Christ, and He stands and says, “Excuse me, Dad, I represent this brother of mine and I have satisfied all the requirements of the law for him.” This shows us that Jesus is our friend who has mercy on us, and God the Father doesn’t have mercy toward us. This is not the correct picture!
God, in Christ Jesus, reconciled the world to Himself. It was God, through Jesus. The judicial orientation of the Gospel is wrong. The Gospel is restorative. Jesus did not come to appease God’s wrath or to pacify Him. Jesus came to change man's mind about God, not God’s mind about man. There is a big difference. Man did not know God before, but now, he can because Jesus revealed Him. The mystery that once was hidden for ages and generation is now revealed in Jesus.
There are many ideas of God before, that God was a violent God. That God kills people. That God keeps a record of wrongs, and that He remembers your sins. Then, Jesus comes and He forgives sins. He can never have to do anything with sin and darkness because He was too holy. This is not correct. Jesus comes to the darkness. Jesus comes to where sin is.
Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” It is not that the Father is different, and Jesus is different. It is not like the Father is grumpy, impatient and unforgiving, and Jesus is not, and the Father needs to be born-again and received Jesus into His heart. This is not true. God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to Himself. It wasn’t an angry Father who needed to be reconciled to us. It was us who needed to be reconciled to God. Now, we can know Him and say, “God loves us. God doesn’t count our sins against us and we can be reconciled to Him.” This is the Father’s heart; this is His nature; this is life; and this is what sustains our lives as we abide in it. This is what losing one’s life means.
Jesus said, “If you try to find your life, you will lose it. If you lose your life, you find it.” It may be confusing, but what does it really mean? Life that the world pursues is actually the false alternative that the serpent offers to us, which is not really life. There is only one life, and it is defined by the life of God. This is the only life given to us, and any other alternative or life is false.
What kind of life does the world and the devil offers to us? It is what is best for us or so we think. This is the deception of old. “You take a bite of this because it is for your good. You will be like God.” The thing is we are already like God because we were made in His image. What really was that trying to say to us was, “Take a bite of this, and you will not be like God.” This is because God is others-directed, and what the enemy is offering to us is self-directed, which is the definition of sin.
Sin is self-absorbed. It points towards us. “This will enhance me. This will enrich me.” This is what the world teaches us: prosper in your life and if you do, you will have lots of money, fame, power and fortune. People with this kind of life say, “This is life!” This is the false alternative to finding God’s Zoe, the eternal and abundant life. Life is what God gave us with His nature inevitably attached to it. It is being like Him. God is ever blessed and eternal because He is ever-blessing. He is always others-directed.
God never turns away from sin. He always thinks of His creation’s sake. Creation has sinned and He wants them delivered from this. He never turns away from sinful man. How do we know this? This is because God the Father is like Jesus.
Anywhere in Scripture, have you seen Jesus turn away from a sinner? When Mary Magdalene was brought to Him, did He say, “I am sorry, I want to help you, but I am too holy. I can never have anything to do anything with sin. Just go to the Pharisees and you confess to them.” Jesus did not do this. Did He tell Zachaeus, “Zachaeus, I want to go to your house, but I think you are a sinner. I am holy and I have nothing to do with you. Light has nothing to do with darkness. Confess first, and then, I will go to your house.” Again, Jesus did not do this. He did not turn away any sinner.
Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. He drank with sinners, and this is God because Jesus is the exact representation of God the Father. It was the Pharisees who would not have anything to do with the sinners, and they gave the wrong idea of God to those who were in need of God. They misrepresented God.
The clergy – bishops, priests and deacons- are all icons of God. They represent Him. May we not misrepresent Him. Everything we do must give the impression to the people, “This is who our God is.” Actually, all of us are the image-bearers of God. The impression that we give to people is their impression of God. If we are impatient and grumpy, people would think that God also has the same character. If we give people an impression of love, of acceptance, then, that is how they will know God. That is how we make God known to other people.
God never turns away from sin, and He never wills that anyone perish. This is why He saves and He restores. If a house gets flooded or a car is scratch, what we do? We have it repaired or restored. If children err or gets a pimple or gets sick, parents don’t ask their children to be adopted by others because they are no longer perfect. What parents do is to take care of their children because they are the apple of the parent’s eyes.
Jesus said, “If you, being sinners, know how to love your children, how much more your Father, Who is in heaven?” God is not about to throw away the apple of His eye. God is in the business of restoring all things. Sin is not natural to us. Never believe that we have a sinful nature. Sin is foreign to us; it is unnatural to us. What is natural to us is godliness. God gave us the privilege of being partakers of the Divine nature. If we are going against this, we are being unnatural. It is an anomaly.
The good thing about God is that even if we do fail, He doesn't turn away from us. His love is stubborn; it is always there. That stubborn love is a blessing to those who would accept it, and burning coals to those who would reject it.
Psalms says, ‘In the presence of the Lord is fullness of joy.” In the presence of the Lord Jesus, it wasn’t fullness of joy for the Pharisees because they rejected His love. For the sinners, for the lame, for those who were naked and those who were imprisoned and for those who were sick, Jesus’ presence was a blessing, and there was fullness of joy. They understood that God doesn’t count their sins against them and Jesus heals them. It was a blessing to others; to some, it was hell, like burning coals.
St Paul said, “If someone persecutes you and you love them, it will be to them like burning coals on their heads. As for you, continue to love them.” Don’t condone their sins, but love them. Sin is self-directed not others directed and self-absorbed. It is saying yes to the serpent’s deception and going against our Divine nature.
Jesus said, “If anyone loves father, mother, brother and sister, car, money, job, house, boyfriend, girlfriend or toys more than Me, he is not worthy of Me.” If to anyone, anything else is more worthy than Jesus, then, it is not worthy of Him. If to anyone, anything is more worthy than Jesus, he is not worthy of Jesus’ life and he will not get His life. If we prioritize our self-interests over Jesus and God, then, we are not going to be availing of His eternal life. Actually, this is called idolatry. Idolatry is loving anything more than God. Whatever it is that is created, and loving the created more than the Creator is idolatry, and the wages of this is death. Death is the absence of God’s life for us.
In the gospel, Jesus said, “He who doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” We say “no” to sin and we say “no” that which is for our sake because God always thinks of other’s sake.
Jesus also said, “To honor one another, especially the man of God.” On January 4, 2018, there will be an installation ceremony of our new Primate, Bishop Ricardo Alcaraz. This will happen in Kalibo, Aklan. We, in leadership, honor this man of God, so on July 30, during our Diocesan Fellowship, we would like for all of us to give a special offering towards the installation ceremony to help them get by in the costs. We are telling this to help you prepare for this. It is a voluntary amount from your heart. As Scriptures says, “For the elders who rule well are worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” Bishop Ricardo rules well and works hard in fulfilling the work of ministry. I would remind us, “Do not move eggs from one basket and transfer them into another basket.”
Our desire is to honor God. Yes, our Church is in need, but we honor the man of God nonetheless because we are not self-directed. This is the nature of God. Abiding in this nature leads to and sustains life. We grow by moving and moving away from self, and letting God’s nature grow in us. John the Baptist said, “Let me decrease, and He increase,” so that my nature grows more and more like the Divine nature.
St. Paul said, “When I was a child, I was childish, selfish; but when I became man, I discovered something better and greater, and that is, love. Faith, hope and love, abide in these, but the greatest of these is love.” Love is being like God. Now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face, as become more like Him.
I proposed this: as Jesus is the exact representation of the Father, so we are Jesus’ representation. The impression that we give to people is the impression they will have of God. Being like Him is not being intimated by people’s sin, but loving them despite their rejection of our love. It is up to them to choose: blessing or burning coals. It is not condoning, but sin no more. If you condone, you are not actually restoring or repairing.
As for you, be like God, abide and live with Him, because that is His desire, that is His will, and that is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.