Advent Proclaims: The Lord Will Suddenly Come!
December 6, 2015: The Second Sunday of Advent
Malachi 3: 1 - 4/Song of Zechariah (Luke 1: 68 - 79)/Philippians 1: 3 - 11 Luke 3: 1 - 6
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
This is the Second Sunday of Advent and we continue our preparations for the coming King and the fullness of His kingdom. As promised in His Word, the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh, all mankind shall see it. It is a privilege to be called to participate in the preparations.
In the Olympics, the countries take turns in hosting the event which happens every four years. The countries hosting sees it as a privilege, an honor, a big benefit, and a rare opportunity. We prepare for a much bigger event which is bringing much more honor and privilege and not to say, much more with incomparable benefits. We are preparing for the coming of the King of the nations and the Lord of all creation.
St. Paul says in Philippians 1 that we have a participation in the gospel, in the work of the Kingdom, and in the ushering in the coming of our King. We are partakers and sharers of His grace. St. Andrew is called by the Greeks as Protokletos, the First-called. He was a disciple of John. Upon hearing about Jesus, he at once believed Him and He knew Him and went to Him. Right after discovering Jesus, he went to find his brother, Peter. He knew God, through His Son Jesus, and he made Him known to his brother. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, our brother is all of mankind. Andrew believed in Jesus, went to Him, and immediately went to his brother to make Jesus known to him. Andrew told Peter, “I have found the Messiah.”
I wonder if we have the same zeal and desire in our heart to share this new found knowledge or this precious knowledge of the Son of God and have a desire to share Him with our brother and in fact, lead our brother to Jesus. We are called to be an Andrew. John the Baptist knew Jesus from the womb. He was kicking in his mother’s womb upon sensing the presence of Jesus. John the Baptist knew Jesus and this made him an effective witness, a herald, and preparer of His way in the hearts of people who would choose to want to meet Him. We are called to be a John the Baptist. God calls such people. They are those who seek Him and have zeal to make Him known.
Our Mission as the Cathedral of the King is to know God and to make Him known. This is exactly what Andrew and John the Baptist did. They knew God and they made Him known. Before you can make God known, you have to know Him first. If you are making God known without you knowing Him first, what you are doing is religion. If you know God first and make Him known, then you are involved in spreading the kingdom of God. A rock star said, “When the Holy Spirit leaves the building, what you have left is religion.” If you don’t have the Spirit or the knowledge of God in you, and you are trying to do what Christians are doing, then it is Church work. It is not the work of the Kingdom. It is empty religion without form or substance.
In Luke 3, God calls John the Baptist. The gospel starts with the mention of names with titles – king, governor, tetrarch – all of the bigwigs in the nation. In the reign of these big names, who does God call? It was somebody who ate locust, dressed in camel’s hair and somebody who is in the wilderness. God uses John the Baptist to prepare His way.
Our former Patriarch Adler said, “The Church accomplishes a lot more in an hour of Mass than Congress does in a whole day of session.” Right now, we are accomplishing a lot more than what the government does. We are not boasting; we are saying that God uses the Church, the faithful people, to make a difference in the world. Yes, the government has their part, but as far as God’s kingdom is concerned, He uses the Church to make it forward and further it in the world. God didn’t use high priests like Caiphas, Annas. They had their part in the church, in the organized institution that day, but God used John the Baptist. He was somebody who knew Jesus and willing to be weird, to be peculiar, and to proclaim the forgiveness of God so that the people would have knowledge of their salvation.
God uses the common people; the lay persons. We must not be guilty of clericalism – saying that the clergy like the bishop, the priests or the deacons are the ones who can be used in the Church and the lay persons are just ordinary and useless. It is also looking at the clergy to make the difference. This is a very wrong thinking. Leaders are supposed to equip the people because the people do the work of ministry as written in Ephesians 4. God uses the lay persons and He wants to use them. God wants us to know Him and to seek Him so that the more we know Him, the more zeal, desire, and ability you have to make Him known. Thus, you are more effective as a witness.
In 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, St. Paul says that God chooses common people to prepare His way. You might say, “Whom am I? I did not graduate in the seminary. I don’t have a degree in Theology. I don’t know much. I don’t even read the Bible.” Probably, you should start reading the Bible, but God uses common people who are faithful. St. Paul said to Timothy, “Those who are faithful, He makes able.” He instructed Timothy, “Select from among you faithful men and entrusts these things to them and they will be in turn be able to teach these things.” One of the first things that God looks for is the heart that is faithful. Ability comes after because ability comes from God. It is not by our might or by His power. It is His spirit, but His spirit looks for a vessel, something that God can empower first that is faithful.
In verse 26, Paul says, “For consider your calling; not many of you are wise by human standards; not many of you are influential; not many of you are of noble birth; not many have big names; not many have power or wealth.” God was not looking for tetrarchs, for kings, but for the common, faithful people. God calls them to go not in ivory palaces, but to go the wilderness, to the marketplace, to the offices, to the neighborhood, to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the remotest parts of the world to be His witnesses. Even in this place today, God calls us to be a witness even in small things. God calls the faithful and enables them to be good witnesses.
A Papal encyclical called Lumen Gentium (Life to the Nations) defines the lay people as sharers in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world. It does not mention the pope, the bishop, the priest, deacon or the archbishop. We are not just supposed to serve inside the Church; we are called to go into the world. We say, “It is enough that I sing in the choir or serve as an usher or be a counselor. I fulfill my ministry.” This is just one component of it. We are also called to go into that world and proclaim that His kingdom is at hand.
Luke 3:6 says that all flesh shall see the salvation and the glory of the Lord and we are called to participate in this. All flesh is not in the Church. A lot more flesh is out in the world. We look for and hasten the coming of His kingdom by preparing and doing John the Baptist’s work. In Jesus first coming, in His incarnation, it was prophesied in Galatians 4:4 where it says, “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son.” It was God who made Jesus manifest. In His second coming, we participate in gospel, partake of grace, and actually prepare for His coming. In Acts 3:21, Jesus is held in the heavens until the restoration of all things is done and all His enemies are put under Christ’s feet. Christ’s posture in heaven is sitting down and He is sitted at the right hand of the throne of God the Father. The throne indicates that the Father is also sitting down. They are waiting for us to put all things under Christ’s feet and restore all things. They have empowered us and they are sitting and waiting. In fact, all of creation is longing for the revelation of the true sons of God who are faithful in preparing His way.
The fullness of time has to do with our participation and our response. How fast will we prepare the way? How fast will we get to the Promised Land? In a few weeks which was the time that the Israelites could have taken from Egypt to Canaan? Or for forty years which was the time they actually took? Malachi 3:1 said that the Lord, Whom you seek will come and He will come suddenly. The suddenness of His coming depends on how much we seek Him, how faithful we are, and how much effort, heart and zeal we put into preparing His way.
James 5:16 says that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. How do we pray? Do we pray fervently? How do we serve? Do we serve fervently and zealously? How fast did Israel go from Egypt to the Promised Land? Did they take their time? Instead of marching, did they grumble, and complain? Did they look back to Egypt instead of fixing their eyes upon the price? This slowed them down.
James 5:17 says that Elijah prayed earnestly for rain during the drought, and God answered his prayer. The Cathedral of the King has been praying for a piece of property for 24 years now. God will answer our prayer soon. He will come suddenly, but we have to be persistent, earnest, and faithful. This is our response to God.
In the parable of the persistent widow and the judge in Luke 18:2-8, the widow was described as a very stubborn and persistent widow. She kept coming and she “bothered” the judge. Jesus said, “Will not God answer the elect who cry night and day; will He delay?” They don’t just pray once a month, once a year or when they think about it, but because it is burning in their hearts, they pray about it. God will respond quickly to persistent, earnest, fervent, effectual prayer, asking, knocking and seeking from His people. This tells me that God would probably think of delaying if He doesn’t see these things in the heart of His people. When the Son of Man comes, will He find such faith on earth? This is what Jesus is seeking from us.
Again, we are preparing for a much bigger event than what the world is excited about. This is not just about the second coming, but also the fulfillment of His promises to His people, to us as a Church. He has promises to the Cathedral of the King and He will fulfill these promises. We are preparing for His visitation. Right now, we are being prepared ourselves as we prepare ourselves for His coming. We are being refined by fire. In our lack of understanding, we ask, “God, where are You in the midst of all? He is right in the middle, refining us. We say, “It is uncomfortable and not pleasant.” But this is what refining does: to get the purity out on the surface. God is purifying us, cleansing us with fire and fuller’s soap. He is at work in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure because we are partakers of grace. We are privileged; honored; blessed; chosen so that God can empower us and enable us to serve and to please Him.
There are a lot of crooked things in our society, in our culture and need straightening. We ask God, “Can we fulfill what You called us to do, which is to make straight the crooked path?” It is difficult and maybe impossible. But if God called us, this means He enables us. There are a lot of things that are rough, but how are we to straighten and smoothen them out? It is by the same thing that those before us accomplish in what God wanted them to accomplish – by His grace, by His Spirit - not by human wisdom or human might.
What we need to do is to start with what little God gave us. Anything big starts with a small. If you are in a ministry - counselor, an usher, a camera man, a singer, a dancer - be faithful and God will entrust you with bigger things. He will entrust to you much.
We had this vision years ago that I believe God will grant. I believe that God will grant Cathedral of the King a complex. To disappoint you a little, we may not see the fullness of it in our lifetime. The very famous Notre Dame Cathedral started with a small piece of land because that is what they could afford in the first generation. It took them 900 years to finish the Cathedral. Chances are, whoever received the vision for the Cathedral, he died before its completion. They were faithful in small things and God granted their vision.
It was just a seed and it doesn’t say how fast the mustard seed grows. I don’t think He promised us that we would see the fullness of what He spoke to us. What He said to Abraham, Abraham did not see. He became the father of many nations. He did not see it, but he saw it looking down from heaven.
Let us not be selfish to say, “Lord, I want to see the fullness of it.” All that God wants us to do is plant a seed, lay the foundation and build a meter or so of a building. I am not saying that we will not see a full building; I know we will shortly. What I am saying is that this may not be the fullness of it; the fullness of it may be seen by our children or their great grandchildren. That may be their part, not ours. Our part is to lay the foundation. Unless somebody is faithful and willing enough to lay the foundation, the next generation will have nothing to build upon.
We are to be faithful in the little thing that God called us to do. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. His good work is a good work of grace because that is exactly the way it is in the kingdom of our God.