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(Part 22)


March 14, 2011

Today’s readings:
Leviticus 19:1-18
Psalm 19:8-15
Matthew 25:31-46

The most fundamental thing God says to His covenanted people is this: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” (Lev 19:2). Peter echoes this, when he says, “as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’” (1 Pet 2:15-16).

What does it mean to be holy? To be holy is to be set apart. When God chose the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, He intended to set them apart to serve Him and to show forth His glory through them. Thus He entered into covenant with them at Mount Sinai.

To be holy is to truly reflect the image and likeness of God, into which we were created. To be holy is to become true disciples of Jesus, and live out his salvation and lordship in our lives. To be holy is to respond to the call to proclaim the good news of Jesus throughout the world, and to allow the Holy Spirit to guide, inspire, refresh and empower us. To be holy is to be like God, reflecting His plans and intent for the life of the world.

To become a holy people, we need to obey the commandments of God. Holiness does not just happen. It comes, certainly by the grace of God, but as we respond to that grace and strive with all our heart to live according to God’s designs. On our own we could never attain to holiness, which is the attribute of God. We would quickly veer away and give in to our flesh and the allure of the world. So God shows us the way, and gives us very specific ways of living (Lev 19:3-18).

Notice that with every commandment, God ends with: “I, the Lord, am your God” or “I am the Lord.” God keeps bringing us back to Himself. It is only He alone who knows the way of holiness, and who can bring holiness into our lives. But even given this stern reminder, we still go astray. We recognize the Lord, but we do not live according to His will. This is why Jesus himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21).

Now what is the will of our Father in heaven? First, certainly it is obedience to His commandments, for these are His very way of life for us. The commandments are what God tells us to do. But there is something more. It is what we tell God we will do for Him. It is when we freely enter into a commitment to Him for a certain way of life. For us in CFC-FFL, it is our covenant. According to God’s call to us in CFC-FFL, according to why God raised us for the work of this third millennium, He invites us to enter into community, and to make the covenant. We are not forced to do so. But when we do so, then our covenant becomes part of God’s will for us, intended to further His purposes for the life of the world.

What do we commit to? We commit to be God’s followers, who will pray and read the Bible everyday. We dedicate ourselves to building a strong family for Christ, including strongly defending the culture of life. We commit to be active members of our community, faithfully attending meetings and supporting our work with our financial resources. We commit to witness to the world of God’s love, including helping build the Church of the Poor.

One major aspect of our commitment, and indeed this is the charism and call of CFC-FFL, is to evangelize and do mission. We are an evangelistic and missionary community. We exist to evangelize, within the context of family renewal. Not to do this would negate the very reason for our existence.

This brings us to the gospel of today. This is about the judgment of the nations at the end of time. It is when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep are those who go off to eternal life, while the goats are those who go off to eternal punishment.

And what is the criterion? It is what we did or did not do for the least of our brethren (Mt 25:40,45). It is whether we did works of mercy, showing God’s compassion on the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.

Now we traditionally look at the above persons to be the materially, emotionally and socially poor. A case may also be made that these persons are Christians, probably Christian missionaries, who suffer due to their preaching of the gospel. But I would like, for our purposes today, to identify these persons as those who are spiritually poor in the world, who need to be reached and touched by the gospel.

Jesus taught about the beatitudes. In the gospel of Luke, the poor refer to those who are materially and socially poor (Lk 6:20-22). In contrast, in the gospel of Matthew, aside from addressing the economically poor, there is more emphasis on the spiritual nature of people’s needs (Mt 5:3-11). Thus Luke has Jesus saying “Blessed are you who are poor,” while Matthew has “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” In Luke, “Blessed are you who are now hungry,” while in Matthew, it is “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

Here we can see the richness of Jesus’ teachings, with varying dimensions of life and application. So we look to how Jesus’ words at the judgment of the nations impact on our life and mission.

Who are the “least brothers” of Jesus? They are not only those who are deprived of the material bounty of God’s creation intended for all, but even more importantly, they are the ones deprived of the fullness of salvation that Jesus offers.

  • The hungry and thirsty. They are the ones who do not know or believe in Jesus the Savior, who is “the bread that came down from heaven.” (Jn 6:41). Jesus himself assures us, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (Jn 6:35). But how can people believe in Jesus and accept him as Lord? That comes through the work of evangelization (Rom 10:13-15a). When we evangelize, and because of this people turn to Christ and are saved, then we fulfill God’s will. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” (Jn 6:40).
  • The stranger. These are those who have not been admitted into the community of Christ’s disciples. They are lost in the world, which is under the dominion of the evil one (1 Jn 5:19b). But God wants all to be saved, “not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9b). And so Jesus issued the great commission, intended for all his disciples, and especially us in CFC-FFL, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15). This is God’s command and we need to obey.
  • The naked. These are those who are not clothed with the righteousness of God. They are those who are not properly dressed for the wedding feast, who are then thrown out into the darkness (Mt 22:11-13). They are those who are proud, especially those who think they can live their lives apart from God. “And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: ‘God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.’” (1 Pet 5:5b).
  • The ill. These are those who have not received the grace of being made whole, of experiencing the fullness of the salvation of God. Jesus not only healed the paralytic but forgave him his sins (Mt 9:2-7). The woman with the hemorrhage was healed because of her faith (Mt 9:20-22). Likewise the two blind men (Mt 9:27-30).
  • The imprisoned. These are those who are imprisoned or bound by their pride, anger, lust, prejudice, false notions, false ideals. These are those who are enslaved by the desires of the flesh. But Jesus has already won salvation and set us free, if we allow his salvation to come into our lives. “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1).

So we see how crucial is the work of evangelization and mission. It is a very important part of the way we fulfill the righteousness of God and obey His commands. It is how we can minister to the least of our brethren. It is how we can participate in God’s very own work. It is how God can harvest more sheep than goats. God commands us: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev 19:18b). We want salvation for ourselves, so we must also want salvation for others. We want to make it to heaven, and so we must want to bring as many others as we can with us.

God calls us to be holy, and the way that happens is when we obey His commands. His commands are both those that He tells us to do, and those that we freely commit to do for Him.

God’s commands are wonderful. They are not impositions, but manifestations of His love, by which He wants all His children to make it back to Him and to our eternal home. His commands are perfect, trustworthy, right, clear, pure, true and just (Ps 19:8-10). As such, they refresh the soul, give wisdom, rejoice the heart, enlighten the eye; they endure forever; they are more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey (Ps 19:8-11). David affirmed their value: “By them your servant is instructed; obeying them brings much reward.” (Ps 19:12).

So once again we are at the crossroad. The choices are plain enough.

A relationship with or without God
Holiness or worldliness
Obedience or disobedience
Fidelity or infidelity to covenant
Doing or not doing God’s will
Being followers of God or of the world and Satan
Being sheep or goats
Eternal life or eternal punishment
Being evangelizers or bystanders

We have a wonderful calling. To be holy as God is holy. To do the very divine work of God in the world. It is difficult and is a great challenge. And so we need the grace that God freely provides, and we need the strength of God Himself.

We have already experienced the salvation of God. Now we go forth and look to experiencing the fullness of His strength, as we faithfully continue with our life and calling. God is our strong rock. May we be able to say, “My God is now my strength!” May we be able to cry out, “Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:15c).

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