November 23, 2016
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Jesus is here! Did Jesus say, “If two or three holy and sinless people gather in My Name, I will be there in their midst?” Did He say, “If two or three Bible scholars gather in My Name, I will be there in their midst?” Did He say, “If two or three sincere people, proven that their motive is right, that they really gather in My Name, there I will be in their midst?” What did Jesus say, “If two or three gather in My Name, I will be in their midst. With pure or impure motive gather in My Name and they seek for My presence, I will be there.” We don’t have to do what the prophets of Baal did in calling their god.
We don’t need to summon Him with our praise and worship, with our laser lights and all of those innovations in order to create an environment for the presence of God. God is with us! This is our King. His kingdom is forever. He is the Ancient of days. Can you imagine God staying with us, boring people, forever? Can parents be bored with their children? As parents, have you ever gotten tired of the faces of your children, with all their weaknesses and strength?
I want to focus on one character of God tonight. I want us to understand that He wants us to have this character in us – His Divine nature in us. This character is: He is with us. He stays with us. As a Church, we made it to the end of the liturgical year. How did we make it to the end? We stayed. A Facebook post says, “ Hiking is a bit like life; the journey only requires you to put on one foot in front of the other again and again and again. If you allow yourself the opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit.”
God intended life for us to put one foot in front of the other and witness the beauty of the journey, not just the destination. In order to experience this, we need to stay the course. Patriarch Bates was asked, “What is your secret to a long marriage? How do you stay together all these years? He said, “Simple. We decided not to divorce.”
In our Cathedral, we have a didactic ritual that we do during the wedding where we put the cord around the neck of the bride and the groom and we make them light the unity candle together. This teaches us something. The couple may want to go their own way, but it will hurt both of them. They are stuck together. They cannot do their own thing anymore. If one is too slow, wanting to go ahead to do something else, the other partner need to be considerate to wait.
Lately, I have been jogging with my youngest son around the neighbourhood. I take larger strides, but I need to wait for him. During our runs, many times, he would ask me Math questions. The point is we go together at the same pace. Even if I want to burn calories faster, I need to stay. I need him to go with me at the same pace and at the same speed because the goal is not just the destination, but the journey itself. At home, my son would ask many questions, even if I would do something else like watching TV, but I need to pay attention to help him with his assignments. Staying with your children is important, even if you want to do your own thing, so parents need to be considerate.
God clung to us. He didn’t have to do it. What advantage would He get from a relationship with us? We got the better end of the deal. What can we offer God in a covenant? Everything came from Him, but He decided to cling to us, stay with us for eternity. When Jesus put on flesh, there was no turning back from it; He cannot undo it. Jesus Christ is forever God and man – flesh forever. There is no fall back; no plan B. Jesus made Himself ever present among us.
Revelation says, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men. He will be their God; and they will be His people forever.” God decided to be with us forever! We are not necessarily the life of the party for Him. We can be burdensome or troublesome at times, being demanding and taking a toll at His patience, which we can never exhaust. In God’s relationship with us, He decides to fix not to discard. Our God does not discard; He fixes.
We live in a society where everything has an expiration date. Everything is designed to not last. Consumer products like cars, appliances and electronics are made not to last because the manufacturer wants to make profit out of the consumers. It is not with our God! Creation was disfigured by sin. It was not only humanity, but all of creation was subjected to futility because man fell. We are the steward and the manager of the earth. Something happened to us, and now, creation is groaning for the fullness of our repair, of our fixing, and we are in that process.
God could have discarded us; but He fixes us. He could have said, “I will wipe these people off the face of the earth and then I will make another generation of human beings.” Instead, He sent a second Adam, not to replace, but to fix. He is not a husband who would divorce his wife and replace her with another wife. God fixes us and helps us with our struggles.
Why would manufacturers make profit? It is because of self-centeredness. In the school, in the Faith Formation Class, we touched on the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. To CEC, all life is sacred, and so, we are against abortion. We are pro-life. We talked about why women would go through an abortion. Why do they murder children? All because of self-centeredness, the inconvenience it brings to these women. Some would say, “It is for the sake of the child. It is better that the baby is not brought to life instead of suffering from famine or neglect when born.” To this, I would say why not give the food instead to the child that the mother would consume in order to live so that the child could live? It is all about self-centeredness.
The root of the pro-choice movement is love of self. “I want myself to have convenience.” In order for us to love another and stay with them and commit ourselves, it takes commitment. 1 Corinthians 13 says that love is patient; bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things. It continues to say that prophecy, tongues, knowledge, and other gifts will all be done away with. All of them will pass away, but faith, hope, and love remain. These three stay; they continue; they last forever.
The other things that we pursue have expiration dates. We pursue knowledge like spending many years in school. There was a certain person who was wise and built a business empire, and now has Alzheimer’s disease. He doesn’t have knowledge or memory. It is not like love that stays forever. Love is God; God is love. It is His character and 1 Corinthians 13 says that the greatest is love. If we only have the stubbornness of a fly, which is the stubborn love of God; that when it is killed, it comes back. This is how we treat God. We shove Him away, but He keeps coming back. He stays with us.
Our theme for our new liturgical year is: Building up Itself in Love. In order to build, in order to love, we need first to stay. Stay the course. I go back to my quote where I said that only by staying the course and paying attention to the journey can we appreciate the beauty of every step of the way.
We need to stay the course, but I would go further. Don’t just stay; be present. Don’t just put one foot in front of the other, but pay attention to what is going on around you. Be present; be there. I ask all you present now, “Are you here? Is your mind here or the traffic later? Is your mind here or what you are going to do tomorrow of what will be served after the Fellowship?”
Don’t just exist; live. Don’t let life pass you by. Life is meant to be lived, not do time for. We don’t just do time, but to live the life given to us by God. The life that God wants for us is to live the fullness of. I always give you this quote, “When the Great Scorer pens your name, He writes not whether you won or you lost, but how you played the game.”
How are we going to build the Cathedral building? Are we going to leave somebody behind when we build? The reason God put in my heart the theme of “Building up Itself in Love” is for a dual meaning. We are building a physical building, but we are really building God’s building, which is us. The goal is not to pass the test, but to learn a lesson. The goal is not to get to the finish line, but to appreciate the journey with brethren alongside us.
What we need to do is to go through the process, not just finishing it. Our building is not just at the summit, where something beautiful will be seen that eyes have not seen, but we would waste a lot if we hurry to the destination. God intends us to appreciate the process, not just for us to get things over with. Many times, when our goal is just getting things done over with, we get frustrated. In our frustration, what happens is we don’t finish the course; we walk away. There is beauty in every step of the way which doesn’t mean that it is just a walk in the part. The beauty is how we work out our differences. How we fix what needs to be fixed. We don’t discard what is very tempting to discard and easy to do.
Part of God’s design is how we work things out; how we wait for the little ones, the slow ones; how we take others arm in arm. This is part of the beauty of the journey. If you are a leader, you just don’t want people to do what you say and get a mouthful if they don’t do it. We want them to do it out of their heart. God does not want us to give our tithe with an attitude of being forced to do it. God loves a cheerful giver. If am a boss in a company, I would like for my employees to serve with enthusiasm. As a parent, we want our children to hug us because they love to do it, not because they will get a spanking if they don’t. What would men, if they have respect for themselves, get out of a prostitute? Something fake; something that they would get because of a business deal. If it is one’s spouse, he gets genuine love and it comes all out of the heart.
The goal is not feigned obedience, but to get the people to give from their hearts. How do we do this? Be interactive! Don’t spend your time just doing your time on earth. Life is meant to be intertwined with other lives. No man is an island. Our lives are meant to be interactive with other lives.
The historic thing that God has granted to us, which is the piece of property and the ability to build, is just the beginning of the life of the Church. Our generation maybe just a small dot of eternity in the history of our Church, but the life of the Church is long. I am very thankful that we are given the grace to start this. A hundred years from now, from wherever we are looking down from, we would look at our grandchildren’s children, and we would probably say in our hearts, “Thank God that in 2016, He gave us the opportunity to start the Church and look where it is now.”
The key, the requirement is to stay the course. Put one foot in front of the other. Notice you are moving, you are progressing, and then you will get to your destination. But keep in mind that we are to savour what is to be savoured in all that happens during the journey because that is the way it is in the kingdom of God.