December 27, 2020
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
We continue to proclaim the good news of great joy of our Savior’s birth. What did He save us from? What did He save us to?
In the gospel, Simeon was mentioned, and he was a devout righteous man who was looking for consolation or the salvation of Israel. Simeon was filled with the Holy Spirit and at that time, Israel was under the tyranny of several conquering nations for about 500 to 600 years. He was waiting for justice and for things to be restored. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the salvation of Israel in the person of the Messiah.
When the Spirit revealed to Simeon to go to the temple, Mary and Joseph were there to present Jesus. Simeon saw Jesus and he sang what is called the “Song of Simeon”. He said, “ Lord, let Your servant now depart in peace, according to Your promise, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared for fall to see, a light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel." Simeon was quoting Isaiah 49:6 where the servant was Israel and also the Messiah because the Messiah was to accomplish the mission that Israel was unable to fulfill. God told the Messiah, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the protected ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
God is saying to the Messiah, “It is not only enough for You to restore Israel. I will make You not just a light to Israel but a light to the Gentiles so that the whole world can experience My salvation.” What did Simeon, the apostles and the prophets mean by Jesus saving the world? The meaning of salvation today, especially in the western Christianity, has been reduced, greatly diminished so that it is now inaccurate, short and skewed. It is wrong to proclaim a gospel that says, “Jesus will save a few (Christians) souls for another world.” This is not the gospel that the apostles preached or the consolation of Israel. This is not what Simeon believed, but it became a selling point that brings in numbers. It will whet your spiritual appetite for a ticket to heaven. Sadly, those vying for tickets for heaven are really not qualified for heaven because heaven is a place for people who don’t think of themselves only. It is not for people who only think of saving themselves for eternity alone and not thinking of others.
Jesus is already in heaven so why does He need to go down to the earth? This is because we need consolation and hope. If heaven is the goal, why leave heaven? If heaven is the only goal, why show Simeon the consolation of Israel before he died? Salvation is seen in the flesh of Jesus because this is what will restore Israel today! This part of the gospel needs to be deconstructed and reconstructed, and corrected.
Jesus famous words in John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world (the cosmos),” that when it went astray, He sent Jesus to save it, not just a part of it.” God sent His Son to redeem all of it, not just a part of it. Yes, Jesus Christ saves souls; and between death and resurrection, we’ll be absent from the body and we will be present with the Lord in the heavenly realm. It is a different dimension where space is irrelevant. It is not the ultimate goal, but a tiny part of the true gospel which is very unfamiliar to the apostles and prophets. They meant Jesus saves the whole cosmos, whole world, not just souls. In fact, not just a part of our being for we are body and soul of human being. The cosmos, God’s good creation, is where men thrive and dwell in love and in unity. Psalm 133 defines what good is: behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers (alive in spirit, soul and body) to dwell together in unity. This is what is good and this is the will of God.
A Church Father said that the glory of God is man fully alive - living a full, abundant life which Jesus says in John 10:10. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it to the fullest.” The glory of God is man living fully alive. Anything contributing to the human flourishing, making man prosper in spirit, soul and body is good. Sometimes, we are quick to dismiss it as secular. Whatever contributes to the well-being of man to the fullness of his life and to make it abundant is good. It is not secular but it is good. Prosperity, abundant life, and what the Greeks called a Zoe life is in the spirit, soul and body just like God created it. It is a necessary part of a faithful life.
In the movie called “Yesterday” a guy didn’t know the Beatles - the composer of this song “Yesterday” among others existed. The guy played this song to his friends and was shocked that they did not know the song. He thought they were joking so when he got home, he googled the name “Beatles” and he discovered who they were and he stole their songs and he became very popular. Two middle-aged people came to him and thank him and said to him, “Thank you for reviving the songs of the Beatles because we could not imagine a world without the Beatles’ music.”
What I am saying is that there are certain things where we can’t imagine living without them – godly, pure music, arts, dance, sciences, culture, literature, righteous governance, agriculture, theater, education. The world may pervert it but we make gold, silver, precious stones out of them. We can’t live a full human life without these good things made for the spirit, soul and body. The number one thing to live a full life is to have a relationship with God and with each other. But like music, it is the sound-track of life. Imagine a world without music, art, science, culture. It is empty. Some of these have been perverted so we need to redeem them because they are supposed to be pure and godly. These are gifts to human life, blessings richly supplied by God for man to enjoy. This is what St. Paul said to Timothy, “Blessing from God richly supplied for man to enjoy.” This is the world that God loves.
Another meaning of "world" is the fallen world - the evil system, the secularized and the perverted world. St. Paul says in 1John 2:15-17, "Don’t love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but from the world. The world is passing away, also its lusts.” This is what we sang in Advent – the power and pomp of nations will pass away. The wood, hay and stubble – the Babylon will go up in smoke. What we are to love is the Father's world of love, unity, peace and building up of one another. Hate the destructive world of lust, greed, pride, division, defrauding, taking advantage of one another and injustice. This is the present world of sin that Jesus came to save us from. In its place, He brings the alternative and Jesus calls it the kingdom of God. St Paul calls it in his Epistle, “salvation” which is the same thing.
This is the gospel of salvation that the apostles and the prophets preached. Because Jesus saved the world, we are on a trajectory toward the fullness and the consummation of the salvation life. We are called to join the work of replacing lust, greed and pride with faith, hope and love. Now, the Church is the new Israel, the servant used by God to bring salvation to the world.
The good news is this: the servant mentioned by Simeon in Isaiah 49 came into flesh and He is the Word of God Who does not return to Him without accomplishing the mission that He was sent to fulfill. God made us one body with Him. What He accomplishes, we too accomplish. He doesn’t fail so we cannot fail. We may fail individually, but we are destined on a trajectory toward fullness. There is no stopping in the increase of the Kingdom. We participate in the work of salvation, and we take away sin because it is destructive and it destroys the good creation. Salvation destroys sin by forgiveness and by being kind. The kindness of people leads to repentance until sin is eradicated. If sin is taken out of the world, then, creation will again be good.
It is joy to the world for the Lord is come; no more let sins and sorrows grow nor thorns infest the ground (which caused the curse) because we are participants in the work of the world for this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.