“We Proclaim Sanctity”
November 1, 2020
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
Today is the Feast of All Saints and it is fitting that our gospel is the Beatitudes. We remember the faithful of the Church. St. Paul said that death doesn’t separate us from the love of Christ and whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. They continue to be one Church with us.
The Beatitudes are the blessings from God. It is God’s grace. John proclaimed that the coming of the kingdom will raise the valleys and the lofty hills will be brought low. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s kingdom. God’s justice is restoring that which was destroyed. We were created good and it is only through justice that we are restored. It is making the crooked straight and exalting the valleys and making the lofty hills low so that there is equality. The first will be last and the last will be first. Jesus said that He came to heal the sick. This is justice and restoration. Some people think that they are “healthy” but they benefit less from His kingdom.
In Luke 7, John the Baptist sent his messengers to Jesus to ask Him if He was the Messiah. Jesus said, “Go back to John and report to him what you see. Tell him that the sick are healed, the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised up, the poor, the disadvantaged hear the good news that their deliverance is near.” When the messengers left, Jesus addressed the crowds and told them that the least in the kingdom of God will be greater than John.
In Luke 7:29, it says that “When all the people and tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John.” The baptism of John was the baptism of repentance and he was asked how it is to repent. John said, “To repent, if you have an extra coat, share it; if you have food, share it with those who are in need of it.” This is justice and restoration of the poor. To the tax collectors, he said, “Do not collect more than the need to collect. Don’t extort money nor harass anyone.” This is the good news because those in power do not oppress poor people. This brings good news to oppressed people and they acknowledge the justice of God. However, in Luke 7:30, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law rejected God's purpose for themselves and refused to be baptized by John. The Pharisees were lovers of money and they did not want to share. They did not want the status quo. They did not want to rock the boat. They were the upper crust, “holier than thou” wealthier, and more respected. They rejected Jesus because of these.
God is more than enough. We think that in giving, we will lose. Our greed makes us accumulate for ourselves and yet we are not satisfied. While we accumulate for ourselves, others are left behind and they stay poor. A multibillionaire said that some have way more than they need, and others have less than they need and he says that this is gross injustice. Society is grossly and unjustly lopsided.
The Beatitudes shows the justice of God. It promises that one day, we may thirst and hunger for now, but also one day, we will be satisfied and comforted as we stay steadfast in the things of God and in the ways of the kingdom of God. The Beatitudes encourages us to be steadfast in our faithfulness. The first and the eight Beatitude have the same promise: all about inheriting the kingdom. They sandwich the six others, but though differently worded, they talk about inheriting the kingdom of God. Even if in the world’s eyes we are last, we will be blessed because we will be the first. We may mourn, hunger or thirst for a moment, but we will reign with Christ in meekness and humility forever.
Jesus said that the meek and the gentle shall inherit the earth. During those times, the people did not know about the earth. In the Bible, the earth meant flat land. To the Israelites, it is inheriting the Promised Land but was lost to the oppressors for 801 years. Jesus said that those who are meek, gently, and humble will inherit the land. In effect, Jesus is saying, “You have heard from of old (from the Old Testament) ‘Inherit the land by slaughtering its inhabitants;’ now I tell you, “Inherit the land through meekness.” To inherit the land, be meek, offer the other cheek. To inherit is to rule, to take dominion. It is a repetition of the creation mandate that was given to Adam which was to subdue the earth, to fill it and to rule over it. Now, we reign with new Adam by serving others. We don’t take advantage, not rule over others, but we serve.
I was told before, “You are a naïve person, but this can work to your advantage.” I did not take offense and I accepted it, but I don’t believe in being naïve. I believe in meekness and humility. This is how we overcome violence. This is how we overcome anger and hatred. Martin Luther said, ‘You cannot overcome darkness with darkness.” We cannot overcome anger with anger; only love can do this. It is meekness and humility which is the message of the Cross – the wisdom and the power of God. In the world, this is foolishness, but to us Christians, it is the wisdom and power of God. If we seek His righteousness and His kingdom, then we will be satisfied. Pursuing the worldly ways will not satisfy us. The Samaritan woman at the well was told by Jesus that she keeps on drawing and drinking the water from the well but is not satisfied. It is a symbol of what we pursue. We are never satisfied with the things that we pursue if they are what the Gentiles seek. Jesus said to pursue God’s righteousness and then, we will be satisfied.
Jesus said that if we live by the sword, we die by the sword. If we live in peace, we will reign in peace because there will be no end to the increase of the kingdom of our God and His peace. Isaiah 9:7 prophesies that in the last days, when the Kingdom comes in its fullness, there will be no swords nor wars, and the mountain of the house of the Lord, with its humility and its meekness, will teach the whole world of God’s ways.
Jesus has all the power in the universe; He is Almighty and Sovereign. How does He reign? How did He establish the kingdom of God? Jesus wrapped a towel around His waist, got on His knees and washed the dirty feet of His disciples who knew Him, who betrayed Him, who abandoned and who denied Him. He cleansed the lepers. He forgave those who betrayed, abandoned, insulted, tortured, and killed Him. This is the foundation of the Kingdom.
Who is on the throne? Is it a beast with worldly power? No, it is a meek Lamb that sits on the throne who gave His life. It is not easy and we will look foolish to the world and we will be persecuted for following Him, even by our own brothers. But like the saints of old, the faithful departed, as it says in Revelation 7, out of the great tribulation they give us inspiration for their perseverance. They washed their robes white in blood of Lamb which is the way of the Cross. Verse 15 says that because of this, they are before the throne of God serving Him night and day, and they will no longer hunger or thirst, and God will wipe the tears from their eyes.
Be encouraged. Affliction may be here momentarily but rejoice and be glad with the eternal hope of glory. Be steadfast. We are a peculiar people. We may go against the flow of world, but we have the grain of love, justice, humility, and the gentleness which is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.