December 14, 2016
Dcn. Garry Salguero
1Corinthians 13:13 says, “But now abide faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” In this passage, St. Paul is encouraging, rebuking, and correcting Corinth because of their attitude in the many problems that they were facing. It is just like us, the Cathedral. We have been tested for years –up and down; left and right; front and back; inwards and outwards; and from within. The problem of Corinth is that the people inside the Church were divided. Some were saying, “I am of Apollos; I am of Paul; I am of Peter; I am of Jesus.” For some of the people in Corinth, some have lost their faith, some have lost their hope, and some have lost their love for the Church.
Despite of the division, those who stayed in their groups were bragging about their gifts – of how good they prophesy, of how strong their faith is. St. Paul is saying, “Why are you bragging about these things? Where is your love?” He said, “Your love will bring the people back to the Church.” The gifts were being used by the people in Corinth to make themselves feel good and have a good image. Paul encouraged them to continue to love one another. In fact, he dedicated 1Corinthians 13 to describe love and he used it to correct the Church, although this is now used in marriage.
Love is our favourite subject. All of us have experienced to be in love, and no one is exempted from this. It is very interesting to note that most of us have a concept of sacrificial love. It is built-in in us. It is planted in us that need to be watered. Love is sacrificial. Francisco Baltazar says in his book “Florante at Laura” “O, pag-ibig na makapangyarihan. Kapag pumasok sa puso ng sino man, hahamakin ang lahat masunod ka lamang.” When one is in love, he will do all things to pursue his loved one no matter how hard or how big the obstacles that he would face.
True love is in our hearts, and we give of ourselves sacrificially. What is the love of God? In the light of John 3:16, love is, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but will have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that He gave man eternal life, but man sinned and was doomed to perish, but God gave Jesus Christ.
God loves the world. The world is the cosmos, the universe, the whole of creation including man. God loves the whole of His creation. Man is His crowned jewel. St. Gregory, the Bishop of Nissa, said that the reason why God created man last was because He was a King inspecting His subjects. He made a house for man, which is earth, and He prepared it for man who was like the VIP, the guest of honor. God created man upright to worship Him, to praise Him. Man is the only created being that can speak intelligible words. Man is the only created being that God formed. The other creations were just spoken of by the Lord. Scriptures says, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God said, ‘Let there be fish, birds in the sky.’” With man, God formed him out of dust, and God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Man was only the created being where He gave of Himself. Life flowed from God to man, and this makes man this special.
God gave His only begotten Son. This is how He loved man. He gave His Son, sacrificially, not thinking of Himself. We would think that it was only Christ that suffered. God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one. When God the Father gave up His Son, He gave of Himself literally. In Philippians 2:6-8, “Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Why would the Almighty God, the All-powerful One, Creator of heaven and earth, Creator of all things, the Source of all things, the God who can measure the heavens and the universe by His arms, the God who can hold all the waters of the earth by His palm, and the God who performed miracles, confine and restrain Himself in man? Why would God do this?
Man is weak. His physical strength is limited. He is emotionally unstable and easily succumbs to temptation. Man is prone to selfishness. So why would God subject Himself to all of man’s weaknesses? This is because God loves us. It is a selfless action of God; an act of unselfish love. Why would the Omnipresent God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Author and Perfector of our faith, the One who is, the One who was, the One who is to come, limit Himself and restrict and be bound by time and be born in the humble manger, grow old, and eventually die? God is everlasting, but He subjected Himself and allowed Himself to be bound by them. Some of us are afraid of growing old and of dying. God did all of these things because He loves us. God took the form of man and carried our sins. He gave of Himself and this is how He loves us.
There is the Millennium Cross where God the Father is sitting on the throne; the crucifix is in front of Him; and the Holy Spirit is above. Some were saying that when Christ was crucified, God the Father was in heaven, and that He so grieved and closed the veil of dark clouds so that He would not see what was happening to His Son. The Millennium Cross renders to us that God the Father was crucified with Christ. In other renditions, it shows God the Father holding the cross of Christ. Why would God create the tree from which the cross of Jesus would be made from if He knew that His Son would be crucified using this? This shows that God the Father also sacrificed.
When man sinned, the root problem was his doubting God’s love or forgetting God’s love. There was this commentary that the serpent was walking uprightly, but it slithered on its belly when it was cursed. The serpent was crafty that it imitated man because probably it was jealous with the way God treated man. The serpent deceived man telling him that God did not love him and that God did not want him to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree because He wanted to control him and to limit him. Man believed the serpent thinking that he can be God and this showed man’s selfishness and self-centeredness. Man was deceived and he wanted to exalt himself.
In the Corinthian church, some of the leaders exalted themselves. They emphasized on the gifts which brought glory to themselves. This started the problem of forgetting the love of God and doubting His love. With the Israelites, they experienced the power and the miracles of God. God said, “I am the God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I parted the Red Sea. You survived in the wilderness. Don’t forget My love.” In marriage, couples separate when they doubt their love for one another. They only think of themselves. Some children rebel against their parents because they doubt their love for them.
In Luke 15:11-32 is the story of the prodigal son. 11 And He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’” A son would say to his father, “Why would I till the soil, take care of animals? I think I have a different personality and I need to be independent from you. I think you don’t see this because you don’t love me. I want things for myself.”
“So he divided his wealth between them.” This action is in the extreme selfishness because a son would not get his inheritance while his parents are living. In their custom, the eldest son always gets the biggest portion of the inheritance. Sometimes, the eldest son will get everything to preserve their property. The younger sons will be the slaves of the eldest son. The eldest son of the eldest son will inherit the same property, so what the younger son did in the parable was very uncommon.
“13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.” This is selfishness. In verse 30, the older son said, “You devoured your wealth with harlots.” The younger son attracted women with his wealth, and he used up all his wealth. When this son got to his senses, he changed because he got hungry. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!” When we become selfish, we end up serving the world. Pigs are not allowed to be taken care of by the Jews so they are pets or animals of the Gentiles – ending up the serving the world. When we start serving the world, we will eventually die.
“20 So he got up and came to his father… compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.” The robe, the ring and the sandals are symbols that the son is being brought back to his status as a son of the father.
In this story, we thought that it was only the younger son who doubted. The older son also doubted the love of the Lord. “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’” The fattened calf is for very important persons. This is the gesture of the Lord. “28 But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. 29 But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends.”
We have the attitude of the older son and we would say, “I attend ministry meetings. I am never late. I always volunteer for Church work. I would do the work of evangelism. I attend the Wednesday Fellowship. I study at LFM. I followed my mother and my father.” What does Christ say, “One thing you lack. You are doing these not because you love Me, but because you know that one day you will have all of these things.”
In Matthew 19 and Luke 18, “A rich young ruler questioned Jesus saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Or “What shall I do that I should not perish and have eternal life.” “20 You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess, convert your possessions to cash and give it to the poor and follow Me.” The rich young ruler was following the commandments out of his own self-image and selfishness.
Remind ourselves of God’s sacrificial love. We should motivate ourselves in the love of God for us. This is how we are designed to be blessed to be a blessing. We were designed to be a giver. Just like in Genesis, the breath of God flowed through man. In our body, what flows is blood and air, and if it stops doing so, eventually, we die. God’s love flows from Him to us.
In Israel, there are two bodies of water, which has only one source, but they are different from each other. The Dead Sea is lifeless; nothing grows around this sea and the water is toxic, bitter and undrinkable. It contains no life at all. The Sea of Galilee is rich in exotic fish. Over forty species are found in this sea. It is a source of food. Its shores are filled with birds and vegetation. There are communities living along the shore. The water is used for irrigating crops. The source of these two seas is the Jordan River. However, the difference is that the Dead Sea keeps its water for itself and there is no outlet while the Sea of Galilee has many streams that flow from it.
In our lives, if we allow God’s love to flow through us, we will not die. We will not grow weary in serving God if love is our motivating force. I would like to encourage us, especially the youth who have more energy, more drive, and more time: use the love of God; use the strength that God has given us; and prove the love of God in our lives. We will not dry up because we have one Source – God.
Faith, hope, and love and the greatest of all these things is love. The time will come when we won’t need the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When the time comes when we are with Jesus, we will not need the gifts. However, love will remain and love will not fail.