Jan 3, 2021
2nd Sunday of Christmas
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
We have a beautiful Collect for this Second Sunday after Christmas that says, “O God, Who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of Him who humbled Himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, Amen.” Our creation by God was wonderfully awesome but He outdid Himself when He restored mankind and His plan of restoration was more wonderful because it involved the giving of His own life.
In the beginning, God breathed His life into us but when He restored us, this life had to die in human form so that He could give His life to us so that we can share in the divine life of Jesus who became human for our sake. Today, we look to Jesus, the perfect human being, who demonstrated the divine nature of God; and we are called to be partakers of this divine nature as well.
In the gospel today, Jesus was ‘lost’ in the temple. His parents found Him there and He asked His mother, “Why are you looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” This is a very good question to start the year for us to meditate upon.
Jesus’ parents were devout Jews who observed the Passover. Every year, they went to Jerusalem. At age 12, Jesus stayed behind. After the caravan returned, they noticed that Jesus was not with them. They returned to Jerusalem and after three days, they found Him in the temple. His mother said to Him, “"Why do You treat us this way? Your father and I had been anxiously looking for You.” Jesus replied, "Why? Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father's house? The angel told you that I was the Son of God and I had a mission to be attending to My Father’s affairs. Why did you waste three days looking for Me elsewhere when this temple is the first place that I should be in. I had to be in My Father’s house.” We need to tell this to ourselves and to others, “We need to be in our Father’s house.”
The year 2020, to a certain degree, kept us from our Father’s house – not necessarily being physically present in the Church. Somehow, our activities have been lessened. We slowed down. We shouldn’t be because in the kingdom of God, things increase, and we should be in our Father’s house – being busy taking care of His business, attending to His affairs. Jesus asked His mother, “Why didn’t you look here in the temple? I wasn’t the one lost; you were lost. You kept looking for Me and I was just right here where I should be and I am not lost.”
We are sons of God. Are we attending to His affairs? We should be busy with His business; we should be seeking first His kingdom, if not, we are lost, and we need to be found. Sons of God attend to God’s business and they are to be in the Father’s house.
There is a story of a bishop visiting a high school class in the church’s school and having a gift of discernment, he pointed to five male students and said that they were going to a seminary. He visited the school again, and he saw one of the five students taking a college course. The bishop asked the student, “Why are you here and not in the seminary like the other four students?” The student replied, "Well, I don’t want to be in the seminary. I want to take this course." The bishop asked him a confrontational question, “Who cares what you want?”
What does our God want? We say to God, “Lord, You are more precious than silver; You are most costly than gold and more beautiful than diamonds. Nothing I desire compares with You.” Our will is to do our Father’s will. God’s Word is our priority. This is a bit confrontational, but this is true. Who cares what we want? We are supposed to be not just sons but bond-servants. We have a Master, a Lord that we need to follow. Our food is to do His will.
St. Peter, in his sermon on Pentecost, said to the Israelites, “Be saved from this crooked generation." The word crooked in Greek is skolias. This is where we get the English word, “scoliosis” meaning crooked and this is in some cases causes pain in the body and is also deadly. We are to be saved from the crookedness in this generation and age from the spirit and the attitude that pointed fingers at Jesus and accused Him of something that is based on the Bible. Be saved from this spirit of accusation and condemnation. The people cried for Jesus to be crucified and they were successful. They had the Sanhedrin passing a sentence on Jesus based on the supposedly Word of God. The Word of God can be twisted to accomplish selfish motives, and so, be saved from this. Do not ever point a finger, accuse or condemn.
Pentecost was a commemoration of the giving of the Law of Moses. During Moses time, he was on the mountain and he came down to a sinful, idolatrous people. Moses told his fellow tribesmen that every man in his tribe to go back and forth and kill every brother and friend. This is what they did – killing three thousand brothers in one day. On Pentecost, Peter came down from the Upper Room and there was fire and the rushing wind. He came down to a people who were sinful but three thousand brothers were not killed but saved.
What is this telling us? St. Paul tells us that Moses used a veil in his face because his ministry was one of condemnation, of death because of the three thousand that were killed. Their basis for the killing was the Word of God. Jesus’ ministry is the ministry of reconciliation and He presents to us a ministry of life, not of death. We can point fingers but we can be saved from this. Jesus could have pointed fingers at His executioners, but He did not; instead He saved them.
St. Paul said in 2Corinthians 3, “We are unlike Moses who used to put a veil over his face and those who listened to him, their hearts were hardened, so he could not see clearly. Now, in Christ, the veil is removed and we can now see more clearly so as not to point a finger and condemn and sentence to death.” This shows that God is not a taker of life, but a giver of life. We are involved in the ministry of reconciliation not of the ministry of death. We are to be saved from this generation into the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation which is the Church.
We need to be saved into the Church, but spoiler alert: the Church is not perfect. In the Church, we will still find sin among us. Though the Church is not perfect, it is God’s house and His business that He has ordained. We may say that the early Church was perfect as it said in Acts 2 and Act 4, but for how long? Acts 6 talks about a dispute among brothers over food – the same petty things that we fight over at this time. They are human beings so they are prone this.
There were three thousand saved, but the one thing that messes up the Church happened: more people joined. When people are in the Church, there is a potential for things to be messed up. St. Paul said that the Church is an illustration of the Noah’s ark. Some preachers say that the Church is the ark – it stinks inside but if we leave, we drown. It is more than just the smell; it also requires lots of patience, work – feeding the animals, clean up their mess, keep them from killing each other. This was on top of taking care of the family’s needs and own needs. This is the Church, but it takes patience and work to be in it. This is what God called us into. It is the only boat that is afloat, the only vessel headed toward life.
Outside of God’s will for us is death. We are still in the process of being perfected; we are not yet there, but we are making headway because the good work that God has started in us, He will be faithful to complete it. Jesus bought the Church with His own blood, giving His life for her and sanctifies her that He might present her to Himself holy, blameless, without spot and without wrinkle. Stop looking for the perfect Church for it is not in existence yet. Jesus is not done sanctifying the Church. Instead, love her and grow with her because this is God’s business and this is God’s house. We need to be in our Father’s house attending to His affairs – feeding the animals; cleaning up their mess; ministering to them. There is fulfillment in this. There is work to be done.
We have to be in the Father's house, just like what Jesus set as an example. He became incarnate to show us how it is to be human and how to follow His Father’s will. This is His will and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.