In the Land of the Living
“In the Land of the Living”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Fifth Sunday of Epiphany
February 5, 2017
Readings: Habakkuk 3:2-6, 17-19; Psalm 27
1 Corinthians 2:1-11
The season of Epiphany gives us the hope of God’s plan for man. Man betrayed God and left Him out of the picture when man succumbed to the enemy’s deception. Then God sent His Son into the world to help man realize who he is and rise above the darkness that sin brought into his life.
I was reading Psalm 27 and was struck by the 13th verse: “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Many people believe that we have to wait till we die and go to heaven before everything goes well for us. But this verse tells us otherwise; that we can see the goodness of the Lord now, here on earth, in our lifetime. We just have to believe and have faith in God so we can see His goodness and presence in our lives. Christ will come back in glory, and when He does, every knee shall bow to Him and declare that He is Lord. So no matter what we see in the world today, no matter the chaos and unrest, nothing can stop us from seeing the goodness of the Lord.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food; though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” Sometimes we think that when things go wrong, our hope is also gone. I was in the wake of Mother Lily in Tanay yesterday and her daughter shared how her mother wasn’t anxious even when she was in pain. Mother Lily was ready to go to the Lord. Even when everything seems to go wrong and we face darkness, we can still rejoice in the Lord and praise Him because we know that He will never leave our side.
St. Paul to the Corinthian church: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Sometimes we focus on the problem too much that we fail to see that God is with us. But we know from Psalm 27 that we shall “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” if we believe and put our faith in God. St. Paul told the Corinthian church that they must know Christ crucified. He’s telling us today that we must understand the cross. Christ went to the cross, not just to do away with sin, but to destroy the works of the devil. This includes sickness and disease, strife and financial worries. When Christ was crucified, He went to hell and destroyed the works of the devil. We were bought with a price – by Christ’s own life! We belong to Christ and the devil has no right to attack us. When we stand firm in our confidence in God, the enemy will flee. Let us not be deceived by him.
St. Paul told the Corinthian church that the wisdom of man denies the cross. “We speak of God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” We should realize that Christ has set us free, not just from sin but also from sickness, disease, and all the works of the enemy. He gave us a whole new life. It doesn’t mean that we will no longer have problems, but the problems can’t stay. He took away death and gave us new life. Our faith is not in the wisdom of men but on the power of God. Greater is He in us than he who is in the world. It doesn’t matter what or who is against us. Those that pull us down have no right to do it.
1 Corinthians 1:23 “But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.” They can’t believe that salvation comes through the cross because they only see it as being bloody. The things of God are those that can’t be seen, but they will correct those that can be seen. God’s wisdom is a mystery that man can’t understand. But He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us understand His wisdom. God created man in His image and likeness. We have the potential to be like Him. We sang “As In Heaven”, but do we believe that what’s happening in heaven will also take place on earth? Many do not, but Scriptures tell us it will happen – “the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory.”
He created us so that He may reveal His glory in our lives. We are the glory of God. If we study our physical body, we will realize how awesome it is. It’s God’s mystery that our physical bodies were formed from a sperm and an egg. If only we would believe, we‘d be aware of God’s provision in our lives.
In the Old Testament, they didn’t understand the mystery completely. But now the Holy Spirit is with us. “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” And because the Spirit is with us, we now know and understand the mystery – that God is with us. He will lead us to green pastures and calm waters. We didn’t receive the spirit of the world, but God’s Spirit dwells in us to empower us to live His life. The power of God is in us and with us! Here’s our hope. Look at Israel in Egypt: 400 years in slavery, yet it only took the lamb to deliver them. They ate of the lamb and left Egypt, and not one of them was feeble. With Christ as the Lamb of God, we partake of Him in the Holy Eucharist and not one of us should be feeble.
Epiphany challenges us to wake up and realize what God has given us. He is with us, and God is more powerful than anything in this world. And even if we die, we live. The enemy can’t win; he’s already marked and defeated. Mother Lily wasn’t afraid to go to another realm. God brought her to another level of life. When one dies, he/she will be so overwhelmed and awed to be in the presence of God that they won’t even be thinking of us; at least, for a time. True wisdom is in the cross; the news of salvation is in the cross. Therefore, we must understand the cross.
The Gospel tells us that we are the salt of the earth. “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” I thought before that this means that we preserve the earth. Maybe this is true to a degree, but what this really telling us is that salt gives flavor. Our task as the salt of the earth is to show that life is beautiful by bringing flavor to others that they, too, may see the beauty of God and this life He has given us and serve Him. “You are the light of the world….let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Light gives us the ability to see the path we’re walking in. We bring understanding by our walk of God’s love for man. “Let your light shine….that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” It doesn’t say “good words”. It becomes a “diarrhea of the mouth” when we say a lot but do not fulfill our words. God fulfills what He says He will. My frustration with the Philippines is people say they’ll come at a certain time, but they always come late, and sometimes they don’t come at all. Don’t say words only to make people feel good. Don’t say anything that you can’t do or have no intention of doing. On Saturday, we will do good works through a medical/dental mission in Baras. This will speak volumes to those who will be helped. People will see the love of God by our works.
Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you will respond to each person.” People react differently to what we say. We should use wisdom when speaking to people. Our words should always be with grace to give them the ability to rise above their circumstances. We must have the wisdom not to be always giving them what they need as dole outs; rather we must teach them “to fish”, to use the abilities and talents God has given them.
In the Gospel, Jesus said “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” The Law will not be destroyed. Jesus combined the Law into two commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” He made it easy for us to fulfill the law. Some people love themselves a lot, but do not love their neighbors. Proverbs 4:18 “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” Maybe at first, we don’t see that we’re able to fulfill or be what God made us to be, but we’ll eventually get there, shining brighter and brighter until the full light of day. Pope Francis said that it’s what’s inside us that brings joy. When the bank account is near zero, remember that God is with us. When the pain comes, we don’t give it a place in our lives. By His stripes we were healed. We claim this. We’re in different stages of growth in our faith. Some are already high up there, while others are still struggling. Let’s be patient with those whose faith still needs to grow.
I remind you of Psalm 27: “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” We don’t have to wait till we die to see the goodness of the Lord. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” Trust Him. Be blessed.