Fulfill the Responsibilities of Your Name and Title
“Fulfill the Responsibilities of Your Name and Title”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
October 1, 2017
Readings: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25:1-14
I pray that you heard what was read to us because most of us don’t realize who we are and where we came from. When man was created, God gave him His Spirit, His life. That life can’t be quenched nor taken away from you. You can hinder it by unbelief but it’s still there. You may not believe in God but it’s still there. It won’t leave you because that life is the only reason we exist. Without that life we can’t exist. That life is the energy of God and it’s in every individual. That truth is within us and will be working to be brought out in our lives. It will be in our conscience, in the things we do or don’t do. We will feel guilty when we fail because we’re not allowing what God has put within us to come forth. Everything you need is within you. You have the key. Are you going to use it or not? We’re the ones who open the door. We’re God’s family. It’s like a human family. When you have children, your life is within them; your name is their name. They may not fulfill what you want but they are still your children; you still love them and care for them. They can reject it but it’s still there. As you get older, you remember what your parents did for you – how they guided you – and you realize why you turned out the way you are. This is why Jesus said even if you die you live, because His life in us can’t be extinguished. We have hope because of this life and even if you don’t comprehend the fullness of this life now, it’s still there and all it takes is an awareness that you are a child of God and He has put His image within you. We have His likeness. Sin didn’t destroy it when Adam sinned. God didn’t destroy this likeness. He held it down for a period of time. Man didn’t realize who he was so he continued to live in failure and defeat. Then Christ came and opened man’s eyes and made him realize who he was, and since that time he has began to use the key to open the door so he could live out the life that God has given him.
Whether we like it or not, we’re children of God. We may deny it and say, “No, I’m a Buddhist, Muslim or Hindu”, but we’re not. We’re children of God. God’s life is in us; if it’s not, we can’t live because life comes only from God. Scientists will not be able to create life because there’s only one source of life. Man thinks he’s so smart, but he can’t create life. That truth is in the lessons that God gives us today. We must comprehend this and realize that what God has done for us and given us is awesome. We fail because we choose to fail, and many times we fail because of a lack of knowledge. Scriptures tell us that we can do all things; that all things are possible because of God who works in us. It’s up to us to accept it or will we listen to the world telling us we can’t do these things? With God all things are possible. Did Jesus not walk on water? Ask your physics teacher if you can walk on water and he’ll say it’s not possible. Jesus did the impossible. Can you exist in fire? Didn’t the Hebrew children stay in the fiery furnace and not burn? They didn’t even smell of smoke. Impossible but God is a God of impossibilities. He’s the Master over everything. All these difficulties and tragedies around us are of our own making. If we’re walking in what God has given us, we’ll have a different world around us. None of us are there yet but it’s time that we open our eyes to understand and receive what God has given us. We are His children, created in His image and likeness. You were not created like your mother or father. You were created in the image of God. That knowledge gives you a different understanding of your potentials. You’ll begin to realize that you’re not just flesh but flesh and divine. Christ shows us how that flesh and divinity work together, where the divine controls the flesh and the flesh is only the means for the divine to be manifested in our lives. Is that deep? No; it’s very simple but we’ve trained ourselves to decide what we can and can’t do. There’s truth to that because we hold the key and when we open the door, the power of God will flow to make all things possible. It’s really up to us.
In the Old Testament, Ezekiel talks about how Israel is saying “we’re this way because of what our fathers did”. God said to them that everyone is accountable for his own life, for what one does with his life. It’s not because of your parents or leaders or anybody else that your life is the way it is. We’ve blamed so many things for the state of our lives – we come from a poor family, we didn’t go to college – and therefore we can’t do much. That’s not true. The richest men in this country didn’t have much in the beginning, while those of us who had much in the beginning are hardly getting by now. We’re now the ones in their service. The Ayalas are one of the richest families in the country but Forbes magazine says that the man who owns Jollibee is now wealthier than them. That man used to attend our services in Magallanes. He had nothing in the beginning, but look at him now. We set the course for ourselves. Do we believe that God has given us everything we need? Are we using these gifts, allowing the life He gave us to come forth? We’re responsible for what happens to us, not our parents or economic status. Most of us don’t use what God gave us. We don’t realize what we can do. In the Old Testament God says, “My people perish for lack of knowledge”. God has given us everything. We think sin holds us down but it’s not greater than the love of God. Sin isn’t greater than the love God gave us. It can’t stop us. Read John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” This is the power of the life within us. It can conquer anything, if only we believe. We might say we don’t have enough faith, but everyone was given faith by the Holy Spirit. We may not be using it or may not understand it but that faith has been given to us.
Ezekiel says we’re all going to give an account for what God has given us. We talk about the last days when we have to stand before the judgment seat of God. Scripture says we’re not going to be judged as to whether or not we’re Christians. We’re going to be judged by what we have done with what God gave us. You see this all through the Scriptures, how that the master when he left for a foreign land gave to his workers a certain amount each. When he came back, he asked for an accounting of what they did with what he gave them. We can’t measure our lives by each other but by what God has given us. In so doing we will understand how much God loves us and how much He has prepared for us, if only we believe. That believing depends upon knowledge and this is why it’s time that we listen to God and pay attention to what He’s saying. He wants us to rise up. The world is in trouble because God’s people haven’t lived out what God has given them.
Years ago, John G. Lake, a medical doctor was sent by the Holy Spirit to Africa on mission work. Africa was then in the midst of the black plague and millions were dying. He didn’t know anyone in Africa but he left everything and brought his family there. When they arrived, a lady met them and told him that the Holy Spirit asked her to meet him. They prepared a house for him and his family. John G. Lake treated those afflicted with the black plague and he never acquired the disease. Other doctors and many organizations went to him and asked how come he never got infected and the plague never touched him. He brought them to a hospital, to someone with the plague. He took the foam from the sick man’s mouth and held it in his hand. In the laboratory, he put the foam under a microscope and they saw that the virus had died. The virus couldn’t live in his hand because he had the life of God in him and he believed it. He wasn’t touched by the plague because he had the gift from God and he walked in it. This same life is in us. This life and what it can do to overcome any situation is so powerful, if we will only understand and believe. This is what the Scripture is telling us today. We do nothing in selfishness. Forget self and consider others as more important than yourself, helping them and touching their lives. This is what John G. Lake did. He had a powerful ministry in Canada but gave it up to go to a poor country to help others. He’s an example of the power and ability of God in us. There’s a story that he picked up a man who had died and threw him against a wall, and the man fell down. He picked him up and threw him against the wall again and again until the man came back to life. He wouldn’t allow death to reign. If we had the same confidence in God, we would be bigger witnesses to the greatness of God.
We claim to be Christians. We have taken the name. But if we take the name, do we understand the responsibility that we have to live out what the name means? We’re double-minded. We come to church, sing the songs, listen to the homilies, give our tithes and offerings, but when we go out, we live like the rest of the world. We are sons of the Almighty, His icons on earth to live out His life. That’s why we’re here. This earth was created to give us a place to manifest God’s life. Jesus went to the synagogues to teach and the Pharisees and Sadducees said they were the teachers and asked Jesus, “Who do you think You are that You would teach us?” They wanted to know who gave Him the authority. Jesus in turn asked them who gave John the authority. Did they believe that John was of God or was he just on his own? The Pharisees couldn’t answer because if they did, they would be in trouble. They were being politically correct. Jesus didn’t care about being politically correct. He came for a purpose – to challenge man to realize who he was and to show him the power of the life of God in man. The Word became flesh. Christ took on humanity because 1) He was going to live on earth, and 2) He wanted us to know who we are and what God has given us. He gave us a witness and challenged us to begin to be what He was as man.
Last week’s Gospel talked about the vineyard and the men working there. Many would think that it is unfair for those who worked since the morning to get the same wages as those who worked for only an hour. That’s not what it’s about. What it’s all about is the fact that when we’re called or assigned to the vineyard, we have a task to perform. The vineyard is life or the world we live in. We’ve accepted the challenge to live here as Christians and our responsibility is to live out the Christian life so that it’s a witness to the world; a light to others. We can’t claim to be a Christian if our whole life is consumed with making money for ourselves. Scripture says if we live, we live for Christ. If we die, we die for Christ. Everything we do is for Christ and His Kingdom.
Today’s Gospel is telling us that if we accept the title, we have the obligation to fulfill its meaning. All of us have taken the name Christian, but are we living out that life that people will say of us, “He’s a Christian”. Or are we ashamed to live out that life? When we go to a restaurant, are we embarrassed to pray before we eat? A man came to me and said he quit his job because he was in-charge of entertaining foreign guests and the first thing they ask for is women. He couldn’t do that anymore so he quit. There are times when we have to give up certain things for our faith, even if it means losing our income for a while. But God will always replace what you give up with something better. We have to be ethical even in business. Our elected officials are called public servants but they aren’t really public servants because they steal from us. They are corrupted and this is why they end up with very difficult lives. In the church we have a title, position and a task. Are we living it? Does a bishop, priest or deacon live like one or does he demand respect and expect people to do things for him, using the office to make people bow down to him like the Pharisees and Sadducees of old? The challenge Christ gives us today is if we take on the title and the name, then we need to live out what the title and name requires to the best of our ability. There’s a saying of old that goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. How many times do people say they will do certain things for you but they don’t do it? We need to be very careful when we make commitments. Let’s not say we’ll do something when we have no intention of doing it. People will never trust you after you fail them many times. And you will then fail yourself because you can’t fulfill your commitments. We’re all human but these are the goals that we should all be moving towards, to bring Christianity to its full meaning. If we take the responsibility, we fulfill it to the best of our ability.
Humanity has failed in many ways. Many countries in the world now allow same sex marriage and abortion. These things are totally contradictory to humanity, never mind Christianity. We are on a path of destruction. Give us a few years and there will be no humanity left because of the things we are doing. The Church should stand up against these things. God is our leader; He is in-charge, not the government. If we agree to do something that we feel is too hard for us, we must realize that God is the Source of our strength. Rather than saying, “I can’t”, we say, “With God’s help, I will do it”. You’ll be surprised at what God will do. He will give you the ability to accomplish it. Sometimes we’re afraid of taking on a challenge, of commitment and responsibility. That’s not godly. God doesn’t back out from anything.
So the challenge to us in this Ordinary Time is for us to be what He created us to be – His family – bringing honor, glory and praise to Him in everything we do. I’ve told you many times that I talk to my trees and plants. I tell them that they were created to bring fruit for the glory of God. The pineapples, people say are the best they’ve tasted. The calamansi harvest is abundant. This week they harvested 100kgs of rambutan, and the trees are still full. This is the abundance of God’s provision when you’re trusting in God. God will work with you where you are to accomplish what He wants you to accomplish for His glory and honor. You never lose with God. If you accept a title, be it priest, deacon, usher, child of God or Christian, fulfill that responsibility to the best of your ability. Live it out, not for you but for the glory of God. This is what the Gospel today is all about. When people ask you who gave you that authority, tell them that your authority is from on high and you will be wise to tell them to be careful because if they attack you, they will be in trouble. When you’re on God’s side, God will be there to protect you and anyone who comes against you will have problems. People will make accusations against you and later on you’ll find out that they are the ones guilty of what they’re accusing you of. What you accuse others of will come back to you. Isn’t it much better to say, “I love you”? Because then you’ll be loved. Instead of hating and destroying, lift them up.
The challenge to us – be who you are. Stop being a hypocrite and double-minded. If you’re not going to live like a Christian, then don’t claim to be one because you’ll have to answer for what you accept or claim to be. God will always judge us with love and compassion, even if we think we’re not ready to stand before Him. But we must do our part. This is the challenge to us on this 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time. The first thing God gave us is life. Then He gave us holiness and righteousness and you can’t deny this because if you do, you’ll be turning against Him. If you say that you’re not holy, you’ll be telling God that He doesn’t know what He’s talking about. I wouldn’t want to attack God because nature will always defend Him. God is righteous and holy. He doesn’t lie. He created everything for our benefit and we need to be thankful. Be who you are. Your life came from God. Whether you like it or not, you are a child of God. We need to live that way, not with heads down, ashamed, but with our heads high because we know that we belong to God. With that assurance and confidence, it doesn’t matter what goes on around you. You’re secure. God loves you. He will not fail you. Trust Him.