January 13, 2016
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
It is always a joy that God’s people gather together. As we continue with our Season of Epiphany, the Season where we are to manifest and reveal Christ to the world, we are starting a series entitled “Oremus.” Oremus is a Latin word which calls people to pray. Oremus means “Let us pray.”
We have come to 2016 hopefully with a resolve, with a purpose driven desire to grow in Christ. We are to begin a next phase in our journey in our lives with Him that we no longer are we mediocre in our Christianity being just ordinary and just normal. We want to raise the bar and establish a new normal. A person says to another, “Uy, palagi ka ng nagpra-pray ngayon, ah. Hindi normal sa iyo yan.” Welcome to the new normal. Another goes, “Palagi ka ng nagsisimba ngayon.” “Palagi ka ng nakangiti.” “Palagi kang nagmamahal.” “Bihira ka ng magnood ng TV. Madalas ka ng magbasa ng Bible. Hindi yan normal sa iyo.” Welcome to the new normal.
This is what we want to happen as we look at this year – not in the political realm, not in the financial realm and not in so many things that people are so caught up with. We can look at it from the eyes of faith and begin this journey called, “Let us pray!” I believe that prayer is the thermometer of our spiritual condition. It is an indicator of how much we spend time in prayer and how intense we pray.
We would like to spend the next few weeks planting this seed of understanding to us, of how important it is to begin our lives in Christianity with this very basic activity called prayer.
We have been taught in the past months of what the kingdom of God is. Living in the Kingdom involves what Jesus said in Matthew 28, which is the only recorded meeting He had with His disciples. There is a designated place of meeting, in the mountain. Before Christ ascended to heaven, He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (the kingdom of God). He is saying, “Nothing is higher than Me; no government, no law, no regulation, no school, no organization of man, no political party is greater than Me. I am in-charge of heaven and earth.” Then in verse 19, He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Kingdom-life is all about discipleship. Prayer is the beginning point of that discipleship, of that desire for Christ, in us, to grow in our lives with Him. We are talking here about our introduction to prayer which is a necessity in our lives as disciples in the Kingdom. We are to understand that when we are in the Kingdom, we must move up or in our today’s lingo we saylevel up. We need to level up in our spiritual life. One says, “Hindi ako nag-aattend ng Wednesday palagi.” Maglevel up ka na. Magattend ka na palagi. “Palagi akong nala-late kapag Sunday.” Maglevel up ka na – be on time or even come in earlier. “Wala akong ministry ngayon. Hindi ako masyado involved.” Maglevel up na tayo – let us get involve in ministries. “Minsan-minsan lang ako nagpra-pray.” Maglevel up na tayo – araw-araw na tayo magpray. “Bihira ako magbasa ng Bible.”Maglevel up ka na. We must begin to see that we need to grow.
Matthew chapter 5, traditionally called the Sermon on the Mount, is our introductory Scripture. A disciple is defined as someone who consistently operates under the rule of Jesus in his/her life. Consistently operates means someone who can translate what Jesus has taught into every aspect of their lives. This is the goal in the Kingdom. We are not just here to attend a Mass. We are not here just to be involved in a ministry. We are not here just to wear vestments. We are not here just to do activities. The whole aspect of Kingdom-life is make disciples. It is to make people consistently operate their lives according to the rule of Jesus in them.
This is very vital because today, there are many Christians. Ask anyone, “Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Are you a Christian?” They would probably say, “Yes, I am a Catholic.” “I am a Protestant.” “I am attending this Baptist Church.” “I am attending this Christian group.” Attendance is not the goal. The goal is to make disciples, to be a disciple of the Kingdom. Discipleship involves growth.
Matthew 5:1 “When Jesus saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.” Jesus saw the multitudes; the disciples were those who came to Him. There appeared to be a demarcation line, a sifting where there were the multitudes but only the disciples came to Him. The Sermon on the Mount was really addressed to the disciples. Disciples are those who are willing to say, “I am going to make the effort to be there.” This is what God is looking for in our lives. He has done everything. In theology, it is called “Objective Spirituality.” It is something that God has already placed in us, that is, we are holy. There is another part in that, which is our part. It is “Subjective Spirituality” which is the response we make. How do we bring now that holiness into an epiphany, into a manifestation?
We want to be transformed from just being the crowd – the Sunday attendee, the member of a Ministry or the one just coming here every time. We want Jesus but we want Him only when we want Him. We want just not to be the multitude, but we want to be a disciple and transform ourselves to be consistently operating our lives according to His rule.
It doesn’t matter what we think. It doesn’t matter what we feel like, “I don’t feel like going to Church today.” Your feelings have nothing to do with your response to Christ because His rule is the most important thing. You don’t say, “I don’t feel like saying sorry.” God said, “Forgive.” If you offended someone, ask forgiveness. “I don’t feel like loving. I don’t feel like reading my Bible.” God said, “Let the Word of God richly dwell in you.” This is a disciple.
The first point of spiritual growth is: it is a necessary part of the kingdom of God. If we really want to see the Kingdom, which we have heard about for the past Wednesday teachings and hopefully have not been put to waste, we should manifest it but it is not until we make ourselves grow in it. Growth is a necessary aspect of the Kingdom. If you want to see the kingdom of God, you need to grow into it.
In Ephesians 2:19, the Living Bible says, “Now, you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven; but you are members; you belong to God’s very own family; and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” Because of this, Colossians 2:6-7 says, “And now, just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust Him too for each day’s problems. Live in vital union with Him. Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him. See that you go on growing in the Lord and become strong and vigorous in the truth that you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all that He had done.”
God has already done the work. We celebrate the Eucharist to thank Him for this great work. The best thanks that we can give Him, after the Eucharist dismisses us to go forth into the world, is that we take that which Christ has done - transforming the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ. If He can transform that miraculously, and if you believe that it is the body and blood of Christ, then, we can also believe that we, who have weaknesses and failures and difficulties and problems, can believe that we can be transformed and grow up in all aspects in Him.
The number two point is: the ultimate goal of spiritual growth is to be like Jesus. We want to be like Jesus. We want people to see Christ in us in all and in every aspect of our lives. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that we would be the firstborn among many brethren.” From the beginning, our destiny is Christ-likeness. The stages of our lives are like the stages of the nation of Israel. They began first by being delivered out of Egypt. Then, after the deliverance, comes the development of their lives in the wilderness. As their lives were being developed, then the true destiny was to be revealed, which is the Promised Land.
The Promised Land in our lives is to be like Jesus. We say, “Ang layo ko pa! Ang dami ko pang problema. Masama akong mag-isip. Palagi pa akong nagmumura. Hindi pa ako sumusunod sa aking mga magulang. Ang layo ko pa!” Praise God! This is all the more why we need to continue to grow because we are continually being in a stage developing into that likeness that we need.
We must begin to challenge ourselves in this 2016 to develop even a little. Every morning, when I wake up, I pray every morning for at least fifteen minutes. I have decided that I am now going to add five more minutes. Find something tangible that you can say, “Gusto ko pa ma-grow.” If you are used to giving one hundred pesos for the Alms, add twenty pesos or fifty pesos or a hundred, as the Spirit leads you. If you wash the dishes on Mondays, tell your mother, “Mom, Lunes at Martes, kukunin ko.” Dagdagan ang bagay para unti-unting nakikita na, “Aba, lumalago ka na.” As a student, if you get a mark of 95%, don’t be content with that. Strive to make it higher. It is trying to say, “I want to level up.” Let us level up in all things because we have to see that in our lives.
The third point is: spiritual growth is intentional. It just doesn’t happen. You need to intentionally grow. This intention needs effort, commitment. A person must desire to grow and must make the efforts to grow.
Because of this, point number four is: there are certain spiritual activities and exercises for growth. Proverbs 8:34 says, “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts.” When a man courts a woman, it can’t be seasonal. If you really like the woman, you show up every day wherever she is. To grow spiritually, you should be watching daily with Christ. Because it is intentional, it takes effort. 1Timothy 4:7 says, “Spend your time and the energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit.” There is a measure for being spiritually fit. The weighing scale shows your weight; the thermometer tells your body temperature; the measuring tape to show you if you grew a belly or not. Spiritually, there are also things we need to involve ourselves in.
There are four basic things that I grew up with as a Christian. With Christ as the center and the goal, they are: the Word; prayer; fellowship; and witnessing. We must intend to grow in the aspects in these areas. In the Word of God, how many things have we allowed? 1Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Babies like to drink milk and they long for it. As spiritual babies, the challenge for us is to constantly long for the pure milk of the Word of God that will be able to sustain our souls.
I like to challenge you to memorize a Scripture verse and our growth starts with this. I would recommend Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Memorize this in your heart if you really intend to grow.
There is a vertical relationship between God’s Word and prayer and horizontal relationship between fellowship and witnessing. Fellowship is the time that we spend together in the Body of Christ. Many would say, “I don’t need to go to Church. I will just listen to the tape or watch it in TV. I will not go to Church. Just lend me your notes.” Life is not complete if you don’t have fellowship. There are things that we receive when we get together than those who do not attend. There is something that happen called spiritual synergy when people of like precious faith are together. We find strength with each other. From 1John 1:3, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Hebrew 10:25 says, “We are not to forsake our own assembling together, as is the habit of some.” We are so confident that we think we know more than God, and that we will grow by not attending. This cannot be. We must not forsake the assembly. Hebrews 10:25 says that it is the habit of some people; so we must not make it a habit to forsake the assembly, but to always be present when the assembly is gathered together.
The fourth component is witnessing. Acts 1:8 says, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” We all have the Holy Spirit so we shall receive power. It is not that you will feel good, gain wealth, but the Holy Spirit is in us so that we will be witnesses both in Jerusalem, Samaria, and Judea and to the outermost part of the earth.
My first challenge to you is to memorize a Scripture. My second challenge is to share Jesus, share your faith with someone you do not know. Don’t say, “I am just a youth.” This is what Jeremiah also said. When the Spirit of the Lord comes upon you, you will be able to share Jesus. It may just be saying, “You know, Jesus loves you.”
Start with these as your challenges. It is time to grow. Let us level up. We cannot just be attendees. We can’t just stay as converts. We can’t just be called Christians without a purpose. Our purpose is to be disciples and to make disciples because this is what the Kingdom is all about. We must begin to see our lives grow in this.
Prayer is another component. It is vital and a very important aspect of our Christian life. It is the thermometer, the indicator, and the measure of our spirituality. How much do we pray?