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November 13, 2022: Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Constructed through Unfeigned Trust”

Malachi 3: 16-4: 2/Psalm 98/2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13/Luke 20: 39-21: 4

Bishop Ariel P. Santos

If Jesus is really King, and He is Lord, then He is number one. Only the best is what we give to Him. He is always the first.

Jesus was observing in the temple people who were giving their offerings. Jesus saw the poor widow that gave an amount equivalent to about three pesos. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you. This poor widow put in more than the others.” The connotation there is not just any of the others, but she gave them more than all of them combined.

In the eyes of God, it is not the amount that we give that matters in the kingdom of God, but how much sacrifice is involved in the giving. The poor widow gave the most because she gave out of her poverty, out of her survival fund. The others gave some of their left-overs.

In our Church, we always define love as the desire and the fulfillment of the good of another at a certain cost to the giver. There is always a sacrifice from the giver. Our gift reflects the value of the person we give our gift to. The more it costs us – the time, effort and money – that we put into our gift, the greater the love behind it.

The three pesos of the widow did more to further the kingdom of God than the millions in loose change of those who were rich. Jesus did not say metaphorically that the woman gave more than the others. What Jesus said, “Truly, really, actually, in the kingdom of God, what is more valuable is what the widow gave compared to the millions that was given without much effort and sacrificially.”

God really does not need our money. What He is looking for are people who are after His own giving and generous heart. The whole point of it is that we are to be like Him. We were created in His image and likeness. Sin entered the world and destroyed that image and God wants us to be restored back to His image and likeness. Being restored to God’s image and likeness is our highest calling. God is such a giver and He loves us that much to give His life for us.

Before, our mission as a Church is to get people to escape the fires of hell. Our mission is to make sure that people will get to heaven by leading them in The Sinner’s Prayer. Roman Catholics were thought to be unbelievers and were going to hell unless a savior leads them to heaven. Now, our mission is to form Christ in people. St. Paul said, “I will continue to labor for you until Christ is formed in you and you are molded in His image and likeness.”

Worship is formative. We are here to be formed in the likeness of God through certain spiritual practices and exercises. Worship is not coercive. We are not under the law but under grace. Grace does not mean that we can do whatever we want to do. If we do this, we will end up like the prodigal son in the pigpen. The thinking of the prodigal son was, “I receive the grace of my father, my inheritance, so I can squander it.” Grace doesn’t mean lawlessness.

Christianity is something that we inherited. This is the reason for Apostolic Succession where bishops are the successors of the apostles because they preserve what the apostles handed down to the generations and the next generations. Practices, traditions are passed on from one generation to another. In the Eucharist, we have a tradition that was handed down by the apostles themselves. There are prescribed practices and we submit to that and we inherit that. St. Paul said in 1Corinthians 15:3, “I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received.” We pass on the teachings that we have received. We don’t get to invent or innovate; we don’t just do what we want to do. We follow because we are followers of Christ. We are instructed to observe formative, spiritual practices and traditions.

Titus 2:11-12 says, “The grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all men, instructing (training, forming) us to say no to ungodliness and lust, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age.” If we reject the teachings, we don’t belong to Church. If we don’t follow what Jesus taught, we are not really Christians. In Acts 2:42, it says that the disciples devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers. Prayers were also handed down. They had prayers books and customaries. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.’” We don’t just worship; we are told how to worship. We are given a format. We are told what to do, what to wear. We are given a schedule and when to worship. In the Old Testaments, there were many instructions before one can enter the presence of God. We are not just told to read anything; we are told to read the Bible. The Church added to the Old Testament, the New Testament.

Likewise, we are told how to give of our offerings. Tithing is a specific practice handed out to us. It is what the Church does. The goal of all of these things is to form us into God’s image and likeness. We come to Church to be formed, not to be entertained. As a Christian, we come to Church because our goal and our desire is to be formed and to be molded back into the image and likeness of God. Who is our God? He Who gave Himself for us. He didn’t deny us anything, but bestowed upon us every spiritual blessing from the heavenlies. God even gave His own life, His Son. This is how much God values us.

Worship is worth-ship. How do we value God in our lives? We know how God values us – giving us His Son for us who are undeserving. What should be our response to Him? Giving is primarily an act of worship. When we offer our gifts – ourselves, our preparation, our thoughts and our minds – it is our worship to God. Yes, it is primarily an expression of our worship. What is God worth to us? Is He number one? Is He our priority or an afterthought?

In our home, my wife and two daughters bake pastries and cookies. When they get orders, the first thing the rest of the family asks is, “Are there left-overs?” The family is interested in the left-overs, and what the three of them says, “Nobody touches anything until we have chosen the best and have filled the boxes for the orders.” The rejects of the baked goodies are for the rest of the family members because the customer is valuable. It is the other way around with the Lord: we choose the best for us, and we give Him the left-overs.

As Christians, the kingdom of God is our business. God is number one and the leftovers are not for Him. The tithe is not just ten percent. The tithe is the first ten percent. We set aside the best for God first. What is for God is first, and if there is any leftover, it is for us. We also give out of our poverty as God is priority. Before we can think of paying our bills or using our money for anything, we set aside our tithe. This is what have been handed to us as our Church.

The “Trust and Obey” song verse says, “We can never prove the delights of His love until all in the altar we lay.” The tithe represents a hundred percent proclaiming, “Lord, I am giving my tithe because it is a proclamation that You own everything and I receive everything from You.” We lay on the Altar our offerings beside the offering of Jesus of Himself which was one hundred percent – His whole life. What are we offering? Is He King in our lives? What is fit for our King? It is always the best for our King. Our King is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

It should not be difficult to give our tithe. It belongs to the Lord and we give it because we value Him; we trust and we obey Him. We trust that He would provide. The tithe is not about the money; but it is about us trusting God that He is our Provider. It is not about our leader, but about God and us. Do we trust Him? Do we obey Him? It should never be the left-over. The term “pwede na yan” means God does not matter to us. It means that God is not important if we don’t give our best sacrificially.

Where are treasure is, there will our heart be also. I encourage you to put your heart, your investment into the Church, into the kingdom of God. If our investment is in the kingdom of God, then, our heart will be there as well. Come and bring your proclamation to the Lord that He is number one and He is our Provider.

As we do this regularly, we are formed in His image and His likeness which is giving and giving; and it will be less and less a burden for us and we become more and more cheerful in our giving. Jesus says to not fear for our Father has chosen gladly to give us His kingdom. It is not half of His kingdom, but all of His kingdom. This is the Divine nature that we want to partake of and to be formed into because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.

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