2nd Sunday of Advent: Newness of Faith
Our gospel today starts off with Luke talking about the people in power during that time when John the Baptist preached in the wilderness. Luke mentioned the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Plate, Herod, Philip, and Lysanias to indicate that God indeed entered into our history, into our reality, into our story and into our world. This is because God accomplished that which concerns us. He cares for us so He entered into our world and walked where we walk and He felt what we feel.
Imagine this: in the administration of Rodrigo Duterte and Leni Robredo and Donald Trump in United States, Bishop Ariel Santos, in his homily on one Sunday said, “Walk in newness of life.” We would think, “Who is this bishop as compared to these big names?” What happens in the kingdom of God is what really matters. Did Luke mention anything that Pontius Pilate or Caesar or Herod said? What Luke focused on was what really matters: what John preached in the wilderness. Not a palace or in any headquarter, but in the wilderness. Not in coat or tuxedo, but in camel’s hair with leather belt; but what John the Baptist said was what mattered.
Never ever belittle the things that you do in the kingdom of God. In the eyes of Jesus, it was the widow’s mite that accomplished much for the kingdom of God. Do not belittle what you do in your Bible Study, cell group or ladies or men’s meeting. One hour of liturgy does more for the betterment of mankind than 8 hours of Congress session. One hour spent in the Bible Study does more for the furtherance of the kingdom of God and for the betterment of the world than several hours or days spent in the like of the United Nations meetings. The things that really matter happen in the kingdom of God.
Continue to be faithful in doing small things.
In Psalm 146:3 says, “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” No matter how big the names of people are or no matter how popular they are, do not put our trust in them. Our faith is in God alone because only in Him is our salvation. Verse 5 says, “How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in Lord his God.” It is only God who is worthy to be praised and to put our trust in. He is the real Giver of life, hope and salvation. What we need in our lives comes from God.
Verse 6: “Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.” If you are oppressed, God is your hope! God is the Source of all good things. “The Lord sets the prisoners free.” Only God can set usfree indeed. Whoever the Son sets free, he is free indeed. “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; the Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.” Only in God should we put our trust. God is our Mighty Fortress. We should not put our trust in man, in their ability or in their money, but in God. Our life is in the hand of God. Our faith is ultimately in God alone even if we go through a desert experience and wilderness.
Have you ever experienced a spiritual dryness? Lifelessness? It is like your prayers are dry, your Bible readings are dry and your soul is parched. It seems like you find yourself in a waterless place. The gospel tells us that when we are in this place, “Listen! There is a voice in the wilderness crying. Prepare your heart. Prepare for the coming of the King! A highway is being built. Wait it out because there is hope in the midst of dry land.” You know what you go through, but do not lose hope! Put your faith in the one God who is worthy to receive your faith. Hear the voice and do not lose the confidence because the desert is not necessarily bad news. It is where God comes to you in a new way if you would just faithfully wait.
Advent is waiting for the highway to be finished so that the King may come. Hear the voice calling out! There are times that we experience green pastures, a flock in the fold, cattle in the stall. There is abundance and fruit on the tree, but these things don’t last. This is not the place where we have an intense encounter with God. It is when we go through dry land. This is when we experience God in a new way. We are forced to have faith in Him even if we don’t feel like it. We choose to have faith in Him because we are stripped down to our bare necessities of our faith. Even if it seems like the Caesars or the Pilates reign over us and have control, it is really God who is in control and who holds our lives in His hand. God is working in us.
Malachi 3:3 says, “He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.” We are a royal priesthood, a kingdom of priests meant to serve our God. God intends us to have pure offerings and this is why He is in the business of cleansing us. The purification process is not necessarily always pleasant, but it yields the fruit of righteousness. Yield to the working of God, to the working of the Holy Spirit. He will purify and refine us. He will raise the valleys; the mountains, the hills, He will bring low. The rough places, He will smoothen it out; and the crooked, He will make straight. Don’t freak out, wait it out.
Psalm 25:3 says that none of those who wait for the Lord will be ashamed. There is no shame in waiting but virtue. Hebrews 6:15 says that Abraham waited patiently and he obtained his promise. Psalm 40:1a says, “My soul waits patiently for the Lord.” We should be waiting for the right person – God! We shouldn’t be waiting for the economy to improve or the president to be replaced. We wait for the Lord. Psalm 62 says, “My soul wait in silence for God only.” Waiting changes us; it matures us and it develops virtue and character in us.
Psalm 40:1b-2a says, “He inclined to me and heard my cry, He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay.” He will incline His ears to us if we wait patiently for Him. Even when it seems hopeless, God brings us out of the pit! Not only does He bring us out of the pit, but also, Psalm 40:2b says, “He set me feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.” Footsteps are for our journey, and this year, we are encouraged to walk in newness of life. We wait patiently for the Lord, He will bring us out of the pit, and He will set our feet upon a rock. He will make our footsteps firm and secure. For sure, our journey will be certain.
Psalm 40:3 says, “He put new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.” If we are going through a wilderness or we find ourselves in a pit, realize that God plans to bring us up because He is setting us up. He will deliver us, put a new song in our mouth, and those around us will see, will fear, and will trust our Lord because of our witness. People watch us and they observe how we come out of our problems, how we handle them, and how we maintain the joy and Christian composure despite all. We are peculiar and people are watching us. When God delivers us as we wait patiently for Him, as we put our faith in Him, and when He lifts us up out of the pit, then He puts a new song in our mouth. Many hear of it, and it will cause them to have faith and fear in God also.
Instead of complaining when we undergo spiritual dryness, understand that God is setting us up, and He has a plan to use us for others to see. Don’t fail the test. Yield to the Spirit and wait patiently for the Lord. Scripture says that the verb “wait” has two meanings: to anticipate and to serve the Lord. In fulfilling the two meanings of wait, we are encouraged: wait on the Lord while you wait for the Lord; serve Him while we anticipate Him. Do not belittle your ministry.
I had a friend who would excuse himself from work every Thursday afternoon from one o’clock to three o’clock just to prepare something (50 bags with rice, instant noodles, and canned goods) that he would give to some less fortunate people. This is a task that God put in his heart. It is not the task of putting stuff in the bag, but it is the heart that he puts in what he is doing. The task may seem to be small, but if it comes from the heart and we are serving God and we are fulfilling our ministry, it does a lot for the kingdom of God and it blesses people. I believed that whoever were the recipients of the gift bags, they were not just nourished physically but also spiritually blessed because love was put into those stuff.
Do not belittle what we do. God may be calling us to be involved in existing ministries or to start a new ministry. There is no such thing as a small task. If God puts it in our hearts, and we fulfill it from our hearts, then, it builds the kingdom of God. Let us walk in newness of faith and newness of life because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.