Sharing in Christ’s Liberating Mission as Priest, Prophet and King
Jgs 13:2-7. 24-25
Reference: PCP II 53-61, 116-121
Every October 20 solemn and festive ceremonies mark what is often called ‘Liberation Day’. The whole thing is really a commemoration of the famous landing by Gen. Douglas McArthur on Philippine soil to “liberate” the Philippines from the Japanese Occupation. It occurred on October 20, 1945. I once heard a story of a boy who asked his grandfather, a World War II veteran: “Lolo, what does ‘liberation’ mean?” The grandfather explained that it simply meant setting someone free from anyone or anything that enslaves or oppresses that person. “Did the Americans liberate us from the Japanese?” the boy asked. “Yes”, answered the grandfather. “But,” the boy asked again, bewildered, “who liberated us from the Americans?”
The grandfather didn’t have an answer.
If you were the grandfather, how would you have dealt with the question?
In a town south of Eastern Samar there used to be a man with a speech impediment. People would pay him a peso coin just to say three words. Well, not trivial words but the famous words of Gen. McArthur. People would say: “Nicanor, here’s one peso for your speech.” And Nicanor would oblige, saying: “Ashyaa itoon” for “I SHALL RETURN”.
The reason I took time to tell two stories is that ‘liberation’ and ‘return’ have very biblical and Christian roots. God is a liberating God. And whenever he liberated his people Israel from any oppressing nation or situation, the result would be a return to their land. For us Christians, liberation means the return of the Savior Jesus Christ whose first coming we are anticipating this season of preparation. The ultimate goal: our return to the kingdom of heaven.
Since Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of God, he also reveals the full meaning of liberation. It must be total to be true. So teaches the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines: “He (Jesus) liberated people by forgiving their sins, by his exorcisms, by his healing power. Thus he demonstrated that ‘the liberation and salvation brought by the Kingdom of God come to the human person both in his physical and spiritual dimensions’” (PCP II 53).
Our readings today touch on liberation, though not directly. The book of Judges narrates to us the story of the birth of Samson, a man known for his extraordinary physical strength which he used to liberate people from their enemies, ultimately the hated, dreaded and oppressive Philistines. Samson represents the non-spiritual aspect of liberation God wants his people to experience from his Messiah.
On the other hand, our gospel presents to us the story of the birth of John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet whose mission would be to prepare the way of the liberating Messiah. His mission was to call people to repentance; hence, his baptisms were of repentance. John the Baptist represents the spiritual dimension of the Messiah’s liberating mission.
It is only in Jesus Christ that the two dimensions of God’s liberation become one. For Jesus liberated people from what ails the body through his healings/cures and from what ails the spirit through his exorcisms and forgiving people’s sins. And Jesus fulfilled his liberating mission in three ways: as priest, prophet and king.
As priest because he offered his very self. “His death, the supreme sacrifice for the salvation of the world. He laid down his life freely for his sheep, indeed for the sins of the world. At the Last Supper he offered himself in signs and sacrifice that sealed the new covenant in his blood. Both priest and victim, this Jesus who is our Savior” (PCP II 58). Held hostage by sin and the devil, we were liberated because Jesus Christ’s priestly self-offering became our ransom.
As prophet because “he spoke the word of God” and he spoke it “with authority”, supporting his proclamation with “deeds of power” and “the incontestable testimony of his own life” (PCP II 59). His words liberated us from the darkness of not knowing God’s will and God’s ways. Suddenly the way was cleared for us. And we can now walk to God unhindered except by our own resistance.
As king because Jesus ruled by service. “He washed the feet of his own disciples. He came, not to be served, but to serve, to lay down his life as a ransom for all. The Father had given everything into his hands, but he used this power not to dominate and destroy but to give life and build up” (PCP II 61). Service liberates people not only from a need that we fulfill but also from selfishness that we are freed from.
What has this got to do with you and me?
The answer is found in the Rite of Baptism. As the minister anoints us with oil he says: “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as members of his body, sharing everlasting life.”
In a word, our Baptism have made us members of Jesus Christ. The anointing we received with the chrism of salvation is a signal that Christ’s own anointing as Priest, Prophet and King is effectively ours too.
When Vice President Jejomar Binay went to Indonesia, he was treated as a head of state. Why? Because he came as an extension of President Noynoy Aquino. But Vice President Binay and President Aquino are two bodies. We are different. We belong to just One Body of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we truly bring Jesus Christ where we are as priests when we offer ourselves to God and people, as prophets when we become mouthpieces of God’s Word, as kings when we serve, instead of being served.
In us and through us Jesus Christ again brings liberation to his people.
Rev. E. B. Belizar, Jr., SThD
The Need for Our Continuing Conversion to Jesus Christ
Fourth Sunday of Advent
2 Sam 7:7. 1-5, 8-11, 16
Reference: PCP II 35-41
Have you ever counted the songs you know that have the words “And I Will Always Love You”? At least I know three. And how many Tagalog songs talk of “Walang Hanggan” when describing love? I was once particularly struck by the song of Basil Valdez Ngayon at Kailanman’s lyrics saying: “Subalit isang araw pa matapos ang mundo’y magunaw na/ Hanggang doon magwawakas pag-ibig kong sadyang wagas [But a day after the world is ended/ Only then will my pure love be over].”
Do not poetry and music tell us in so many ways how true love is permanent? And who wouldn’t follow this truth to where it logically leads—the love of God? If even the world’s finest expressions of human thoughts and feelings reveal to us the timeless character of God’s love which Jeremiah 31:3 summarizes: “I have loved you with an everlasting love”, do we remain unmoved?
What has this got to do with our theme for today?
It shouldn’t be so hard to see. If God’s love is timeless, how can our following of and attachment to Jesus Christ his Son who reveals God and his love to us fully be temporary or, as it were, in spurts? But, frankly, isn’t this a window to reality? Don’t we, in fact, limit our conversion commitment to a time-frame of a week, a year, ten, twenty or even fifty years? And don’t we say afterward, “See you, Lord, when I’m about to die”?
I always recall the story of the Russian prince who had everything—wealth, the right to succeed the king, looks, wisdom and a multi-talented personality—everything except a straight body. His back was horribly crooked, as he was a hunchback. Seeing his son always feeling sorry for himself, the king ordered the best sculptor of the land to make a statue of the prince, an exact replica. When it was finished even the prince was in awe. The statue looked alive and exactly like him except for one thing—it had a straight back. The life of the prince was not the same after that. He would spend every morning just gazing at his statue. Days became weeks, weeks turn into months, months to years. One day the king looked out his window and saw the prince, as usual gazing at his statue. The king stopped and couldn’t believe what he saw. The prince’s back was no longer bent and crooked. It was as straight as that of his statue. End of the story.
The message of the story is that we are that prince. God is the king. The statue is Jesus himself. We have a crooked back because of our sins. But when we continuously gaze at Jesus Christ, making him the center of our being and doing, following him without letup and without fail, returning constantly to him even when our weaknesses beset us, we will, in the end, reflect him, we in him, he in us. His salvation will be achieved in us completely.
This is the wisdom of continuing conversion to Jesus Christ.
Continuing conversion is the only logical and worthy response humans like us can offer to the timeless love of God for us that we see revealed in Jesus Christ who is coming to save us from the crookedness and darkness that our sins have brought us.
In our first reading we hear not only about David’s feeble attempt to respond to everything that God has showered him, that is, by his plan to build a temple for him. It also makes us see how God cannot be outdone in generosity. For it is he who chooses David’s house and transforms it through the coming birth of a Savior who will initiate a timeless kingdom. “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever”. Indeed when one is touched by God’s love, he experiences the touch of forever.
Knowing that only Jesus Christ reveals the eternal God to us fully and brings us to that same God most effectively, St. Paul in our second reading expresses the Christian option: to glorify the Father and to do this by proclaiming Jesus Christ and his gospel. “To him who is able to strengthen you in the gospel which I proclaim when I preach Jesus Christ…to him, the God who alone is wise, may glory by given through Jesus Christ unto endless ages.”
In our first and second readings we see how Jesus is the revelation that perfectly reflects the Father as well as us, implicitly. He is, as it were, the perfect statue we gaze upon to reach God and our deepest selves.
The gospel, in turn, tells us to imitate Mary in her humility and obedience so as to enable Jesus Christ to be born into our world and so reveal most fully the Father’s love. Chiara Lubich, the foundress of the Focolare Movement once described Mary as the “silence through which the Word of God (Jesus) speaks”. We could also dare say that Mary is the humility and obedience that finally carried the eternal Word to human birth. Yet the angel’s words, in a most familiar way, remind us of the touch of forever in the child to be born. “You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus…The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will be without end.”
As PCP II and John Paul II teach us, it is Jesus Christ that not only reveals God to us fully but also brings us God’s kingdom in himself. “In Jesus the power of God’s reign irrupts, bursts into our history. Indeed, ‘The Kingdom of God…is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God’’ (PCP II 41; RM 18). He images the God whose touch is FOREVER.
No parent ceases being a parent to a child.
Our God never stops loving us in Jesus Christ.
Neither should we end our gaze of conversion to him.
Rev. E. B. Belizar, Jr., SThD