“Purity of Weakness”
Sunday, July 8, 2018
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 9)
Ezekiel 2:1-7; Psalm 48:1-5; 9-11;
2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-6
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
We are here to know God and to make Him known. My prayer is to be able to help you to know God and make Him known. In Mark 6:4, Jesus faced opposition which prompted Him to say, “The prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”
He was fresh from a miracle tour, doing wonders elsewhere and was praised for doing these only to be rejected in His own hometown. John 1 said that Jesus came to His own hometown, but His own did not receive Him.
Scriptures says that people were astonished and awed because they did see the wonders and miracles, but how did the people respond? They rejected Him and took offense on the ultimate good that Jesus did. In the Old Testament, the Israelites saw wonders in their midst, but they were excited for a while, and then they forgot and rebelled against God. How could the neighbors of Jesus take offense at the ultimate good that He did? Jesus did not sin, and all that they need to do is to accept, and yet how did they respond?
This happens in our lives at times. Many of us have experienced the goodness of God in our lives, but what is our response? Do we forget them? We have also seen the signs and the wonders of God in our lives, and yet we go back to our unbelief. Likened to what Jesus said in the parable, there are seeds that fell on rocky places; they hear the Word, receive it with joy, but the trials and the persecutions caused it to fall away. There are also the seed that fell among the thorns, they heard the Word, but the worries of world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things choke the Word, becoming unfruitful.
Jesus could do no miracles in His hometown, except to lay hands on some people. There is something Jesus Christ could not do at that time. C. S. Lewis said, “The greatest act of Omnipotence is to create beings who could say no to Him.” People want control, which is the ideology of Communists, and this is not God. God gave us free will because we were created in His image and likeness. Just like Him, we are to love and to forgive voluntarily. God’s ways are foolishness to world; power is control; but what are we in power for?
Isaiah 14 says that the evil way is, “I will ascend to heaven and take for myself,” but Jesus Christ says, “I will descend from heaven and give of Myself.” All other gods wants power; but God owns everything and He wants to share. It is covetous assertion versus sacrificial humility. God’s thinking is that we don’t lose by giving; we lose by withholding. Neither do we lose when we are forgiving. Kenosis always adds to others and yourself. It is always a win-win situation. We will all gain when we are giving to others. God’s love is influential, not coercive; it is inspirational not tyrannical; humble not assertive.
In 1Corinthians 1:25, it says that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. On Good Friday, the disciples thought that they were defeated when Jesus was crucified on the cross. Only one person had the belief that Jesus won the victory, and ironically, it was the thief who was crucified also on the cross. He said, “Remember me when You come to Your kingdom.” His disciples who were with Him during His ministry did not understand it that Jesus death won over principalities and forces. One theologian said, “Divine helplessness is stronger than any force in universe.”
St. Paul said that God's grace is sufficient for him, for power is perfected in weakness. “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake.” Give even if we are rejected. The reason we are facing opposition is because the opposition need what we have.
Ezekiel 2 says that whether the people listen or not, they will know a prophet has been among them. They will know that the message of God has been given to them, for the Word of God will not return to Him void without accomplishing what it was sent for. Ezekiel 2:6-7 says, “And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.”
In the gospel, Jesus went to the other villages to teach. He remained faithful even if His people were faithless. There was James, the Lord’s brother, who was among those who rejected Jesus, but in Acts 15, he became the first bishop of Jerusalem. This was because the seed that was planted in him by Jesus accomplished what it was sent for. The longsuffering character of Jesus is what we should have in our lives. Even if people become faithless, we should be faithful and remain to be faithful. Be like Jesus. Persevere even with opposition.
2Corinthians 8 shares about the people from Macedonia, giving us an example that in great poverty, they gave joyfully and of their own accord beyond ability. They even begged for the privilege to support their needy brothers even in their situation. St. Paul was surprised at them; it was unexpected. The Corinthians abounded in faith, gifts, love, but St. Paul challenged them in the area of giving because withholding is not so among those in the kingdom of God. Those who withhold is the way of the devil. Proverbs says, “Do not withhold to those it is due,” but I should add, “Do not withhold good even to those to whom it is not due.” God makes it rain on the righteous and the undeserving.
Proclaim the faithfulness of God. This is His character. Remain faithful even if people are faithful. Do not withhold, because withholding is the way of the devil – “I will take for myself.” Being faithful is how God defeats principalities. St. Paul says that this is God’s manner, not a public spectacle. Jesus’ death on the cross was not defeat but victory.
Constantine, an emperor, was marching with his army that when he looked up to the sun, he saw a cross of light “in hoc signo vinces”. He had a dream in which Christ explained to him that he should use the sign of the cross against his enemies. He misinterpreted it and he placed the sign in swords and armor shields and continued killing people. The sign of the Cross is absorbing the anger, and the hatred of others. This is why priests wear black, because they absorb the weaknesses of others, and when people go to confession they are given absolution.
What is omnipotent power like? It is the Cross of Jesus Christ. This is not defeat, but victory. This is not weakness, but power. This is not arrogance, but humility. The Cross is Godliness – humble, sacrificial, magnanimous, and it is not by the sword, but by the Cross. An omnipotent life is a life of giving. It is life to those who couldn’t deserve it less. This is our God.
Do you want to know God and to make Him known? Look to the Cross! This is who He is and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.