“The Family of God: With Minds Set on His Interests”
September 3, 2017
The Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 15: 15 – 21/ Psalm 26: 1 – 8
Romans 12: 9 – 21/ Matthew 16: 21 – 27
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
The theme for today is on "The family of God with minds set on God’s interests". We build ourselves up by focusing on the things of God, not the things of man, because the things of God build up, and the things of man tear down and take life from us. Jesus said that He came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. This is the very will and the mission of Jesus because this is concerned with God’s interests and the things of God.
In Luke 9, there is an instance where Jesus resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem. Some translations say He set His face like flint; another says that He was determined to go to Jerusalem. He was going to accomplish God’s will and interest, and He had so much zeal that nobody could stop Him. Peter expressed something contrary to this in the gospel today. Jesus said, “I am going to accomplish My mission. I will go to Jerusalem, where I will suffer in the hands of the elders, the priests, and the scribes, and they will kill Me. On the third day, I will rise again.” Peter thought he had good intentions, and said, “No, Lord, (which is contradictory because you don’t say, “Lord,” and say, “No”) God forbid that happens to You.” In a couple of verses before today’s gospel, Jesus praised him and said, “You are rock and the Lord revealed something great to you. Your mouth spoke of the truth.” And now, Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan, because you are not interested in the things of God, but in the interests of man.”
Peter was standing in Jesus’ way, and He sternly rebuked him. In Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” The grace comes from God that has appeared is the evidence of our salvation. We always say, “It is God’s grace,” but that grace has to be evident and seen. God plants the seed in us, and He expects from us fruit because the seed that He plants is so programmed to produce. In the Parable of the Talents, the master expected a return of the talents he gave. We need to produce, not for His sake, but for our sake, because He doesn’t need anything. It is the evidence of eternal life in us.
Eternal life, that salvation, that grace, is equivalent to denying ungodliness and saying ‘No’ to it and living righteously, looking to Jesus, who set an example for us and, “14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Zeal is something that this generation lacks. There are just a few who are zealous and who are passionate about what they do. Some are just laid back and are mediocre in their ways. We say “no” to ungodliness with zeal and with passion. Anything that hinders or is contrary to the things of God, we say “no” with passion, with zeal, and with urgency because we are serious about it. We don’t compromise. When Joseph was presented with ungodliness by Potiphar, he did not just say “no”, but he ran away. There was no compromise in him. He probably knew the Proverb that says, “Can man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?”
In the story of Samson and Delilah, Delilah was offered a sum of money for Samson’s capture by the Philistine leaders so she wanted to know where the strength of Samson was coming from. Samson told Delilah twice to let himself be bind and for the third time for his locks to be braided so that he would lose his strength, but it did not get the result. With Delilah’s persistent request, Samson finally divulged that his strength came from his hair, thus his strength left him when his hair was shaved, leading to Samson’s being captured.
When you compromise with ungodliness, not only do you lose your strength, but also your common sense, so we say “no” to ungodliness and to temptation. Do say “yes” to godliness with equally strong zeal. It is the Spirit that prompts us to do the will of God and guides us to God’s interests. Don’t quench the Spirit who teaches you and prompts you to do the will of God.
Remind ourselves that we are partakers of Divine nature. Do not go against it. We are creatures of God, creatures of love, and we share the same nature like God. Isaiah says to look to the rock from which you were hewn, the Rock of our salvation, Who is God. Romans 12 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” We need to know where we came from so that we will know what is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is behaving contrary to the Divine nature. If we share the Divine nature, we act accordingly.
Let love, which is God’s nature, which we take after, which we share and partake of, be without hypocrisy.
How do you act accordingly? Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you. Do not curse.” Verse 20 says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink.” This is love without hypocrisy. Romans 12:2 says, “This is good, and well-pleasing, and the perfect will of God.” Loving, blessing, praying for, greeting your enemy and those who persecute you is not hypocrisy. It is godliness, Christ-likeness. It is the Divine nature. It is love. Love is one way. It does not expect a return from others. If you are not loving, blessing, praying for, greeting your enemy and those who persecute you, this is hypocrisy because our nature is love, and love is unconditional. Always look to the Rock from which we were hewn. The Rock is love; divine; and godly. If we say “No” to that which is of love and the Divine nature, then, it is the voice of Satan. We say “no” vehemently, radically, violently, with a lot of zeal and urgency.
Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Do the godly thing. Jesus was going to accomplish this; He was to demonstrate God’s love, John 3:16; and Peter stood in His way and was trying to stop Him. To anything or anyone who tries to stop you from doing God’s will, say “No” to them. Have the same attitude just like Jesus, Who gave of Himself.
With hope, I believe in the restoration of all things and the making of all things new. If we say that we are going the way of all the earth, all the earth is headed towards restoration, not death nor destruction. Everyone will have to go the way of Jesus Christ because He is the first born of all creation, the new creation.
Jesus said, “You must be born again,” which means we must be born from above like Jesus Who came from above. We need to follow Jesus so that we can know God the Father. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but by Me.” I don’t see this as an exclusive statement but as a guideline. It is not a dividing line that separates the righteous from the unrighteous. It is a guideline not to prevent some, but to direct all to the Father, to the life. What is the way? St. Paul said that if we conform to the likeness of His death, then, we will also conform to the likeness of His resurrection so that we may live no longer for ourselves, but for Him by living like Him.
A Collect says, “Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain and entered not into glory before he was crucified.” There was first the suffering, before the glory of the resurrection. “Mercifully grant that we, walking on the way of the Cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace.” The way of life and peace is through Jesus, by following Him. We need to die to self first, and then, we rise again. If we conform to the likeness of Jesus’ death, we conform to the likeness of His resurrection. Jesus said, “The cup that I drink, you will drink. The baptism I will be baptized in, you will be baptized in.” However, this doesn’t stop here because on the third day, He will rise again.
Jesus is making disciples of all nations, through us. We make Christians, little Christs of all people by showing them the way, the same way that He taught us and guided us through. We disciple one person at a time. We build them up, we teach them, and we send them. It is not impossible to that which Jesus wants us to do and to go. Jesus is not superhuman; He is the Alpha (male) human, the proto human. He is the perfect human specimen, not physiologically, but essentially in character because He demonstrates the real intention of God for us human beings. Jesus being one hundred percent God and one hundred man is not a theological statement, but it presents Jesus as a model for us to follow. Go His way. Go after God’s interests Let zeal for God’s house, for God’s interests, for God’s will consume us with passion.
The things of God are the way of the Cross, the way of love, the way of Romans 12. It says to associate with the lowly. Don’t regard ourselves as higher than other people. This is the way of Jesus. Do not be wise in our own estimation, but lean not on our own understanding and submit to God. Romans 12 tells us to abhor what is evil; cling to what is good; be devoted; be fervent; be persevering. We have received the grace of God in order to accomplish, and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.