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Monday, April 22, 2024

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LIFE MATTERS: The Way of the Cross and Divine Justice

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By Dencio S. Acop

The world has just celebrated Holy Week. Hallelujah! Today, in 2024, it is only fitting that we remember what the message of Easter really is. That it marks the end of tyrants. ‘Jesus, not Caesar, is Lord.’ The conquering of man’s greatest fear, death, makes all upon the face of the earth merely subordinate to the incarnate son of God who is the same monotheistic Deity as God the Father and Holy Spirit. This review of our relationship to the only one true God brings to mind three facts of reality whether we like it or not. One, there is only one true order in the universe of which man is merely a part: God’s order. Two, God does not need man but man needs God; therefore, man needs to exercise his free will as to what he ultimately believes and stands for. On the one hand, there is Love — for God is love. Logic dictates that man ought to choose love which is for his own good. But, lo and behold, it is not that easy for there also exists a deceiver who seduces man’s sensual nature away from saying yes to God and his own good. Three, man should not deceive himself that there is no divine justice. To believe this lie is to fall into the final deception of the deceiver who does not reveal himself until the soul of man is his. While it is true that the messiah saved us from our sins, to continue to willfully sin following our baptism into his ambit makes us fall away from him onto the fold of the deceiver. Like I said, God does not need us but we need Him. Why would God waste his time on someone who does not want Him? When lovers say: ‘I love thee’, is that the end of it and they live happily ever after? That is mere fairy tale. A lover loves his beloved with his words, deeds, and prayers every day of the remainder of his life. And the loved ought to do the same. That is true love. To love someone with merely his lips is not true love but something else altogether. That is why Christ is the bridegroom and his true followers on earth his bride. Christ’s relationship to his people is as that between a husband and wife who are persevering and faithful to each other.

Please allow me to elaborate further. First, there is only one true order in the universe of which man is merely a part: God’s order. The recent holy week has allowed us to meditate upon the history of our Christian faith. When God began to manifest himself to man on earth, he did so through his chosen prophets beginning with Abraham in the desert. From a small number of people, the word about the one and only true Deity spread and grew. In the beginning, God did not show his face but appeared as fire or swirling cloud. He appeared as an incessant, unmistakable voice in a dream, a trance, or a vision. God chose a lineage of prophets to do his work upon this earth. Why did God do what he did? Because his creatures were worshipping his fallen angels and creation instead of acknowledging the author of all these. God finally decided that it was time he put order unto his creatures especially those he created according to his image and likeness with intelligibility and heart. The nation of Israel was chosen to realize this global order beginning with it then later spreading to the gentiles — the rest of mankind. One after another, God destroyed both pagan gods and earthly rulers through miracles reluctantly performed by his chosen prophets which included Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Jonah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and many others. For those among us who conveniently believe that there is no such thing as divine justice because God is supposed to be incapable of doing it, the Old Testament is replete with the stories of the prophets who warned both pagan and Judaic rulers. That when these rulers turned deaf ears to God’s warnings, God destroyed them allowing natural disasters and their enemies to overpower them. Hardened hearts were punished severely through death, becoming slaves, and losing their kingdoms and loved ones. 

Not giving up on his children, God ultimately sent even his only beloved son in order to write his global order unto the heart of man and not just through his commandments. God gave no reason for man not to be able to live according to his design by allowing his son to be among us and live like one of us. His messiah was no King David even though he came from the lineage of David. The life of Jesus Christ on earth was the lived example of how man is supposed to live his own. This life was the complete opposite of the lives of the rulers, then and today. It was devoid of drunkenness with power, wealth, honors, and sensualities which are so characteristic of the lives of people who claim to be gods by their own designs. It was a humble life, serene, simple, meek, kind, and true. It was a pure life. The life emulated most by the saints. All are called to be saints in heaven. But we must deserve it. Don’t ever think you are to be given a free ride into heaven. That is the biggest lie. For even that pure life was fuming mad with rage when the merchants and money changers made his father’s house a den of thieves. There is an order to this earthly life. And God already showed it to us all. Over and over again. That order is written in the temple of his institutions. And most importantly, it was written in our hearts through the life, passion, death, and resurrection of the messiah who was sent into the world to redeem us back to the father. If only we subscribe to this order. 

Two, God does not need man but man needs God; therefore, man needs to exercise his free will as to what he ultimately believes and stands for. On the one hand, there is Love — for God is love. Logic dictates that man ought to choose love which is for his own good. But, lo and behold, it is not that easy for there also exists a deceiver who seduces man’s sensual nature away from saying yes to God and his own good. This deceiver was once a favored angel of God who rebelled and was therefore cast out of heaven along with his minions. Man was created by God in order to redeem order through a process of the will whether to accept or reject God’s love. The world may have changed. But I believe it has not really changed much. For the issues that confronted man during the time of Jesus continue to this very day. After all are said and done, the issue that matters at the end of the day is still the battle between good and evil, right and wrong. Man’s brokenness, with or without technological advancement, continues to blind him. The symbol of the cross is all around us today. It is the symbol of the highest love man can ever hope to achieve in his life. But few actually ever do. The way of the cross leads anyone who follows it to God’s kingdom no doubt. Our faith tells us that part of the reason why God sent his angels and finally his son to us is because we are not merely confronted by ‘bad’ men but by dark spirits and principalities who whisper when we are vulnerable tempting our weaknesses. God therefore comes to level the playing field for us. The enemy does not fight fair. But God wants us to respond not with the same strategy and tactics waged by this enemy. But by the way of the cross shown by his son. Now, some of us try to talk our way out of this. Other so-called pastors even preach as the pharisees did. Believing in Christ is not a ‘you can have your cake and eat it too’ kind of deal. Being a disciple of Jesus will demand that you carry your cross. Just like his disciples did who all died (except for John) martyrs. Along with most of the saints. This is what is demanded of us. Our faith tells us that our love for Christ is measured by how much of ourselves and our desires we gave up for him. 

In the City of God written by Saint Augustine, the most gifted use their gifts to take care of their lesser brethren. There is no inherent desire by anyone to lord it over others. For there is a God who is the undisputed ruler of the city. All men are created equal and the lot of one is the lot of all. The citizens who rise to the top are not those seeking self-glorification. They are selected by the people themselves and appointed by God for their merits and virtue. Thus, the most virtuous among the people are chosen to be the leaders. Often, these chosen leaders, like the prophets of old, are very reluctant to assume their posts for public recognition is not in their nature. But, in line with the wisdom of God, these selfless leaders turn out to be the best for their interest is not for their own self-aggrandizement but for the common good. But not in the City of Man where leaders eventually end up serving themselves and not the people they swore to serve. The leaders of men may believe in the Cross but do so only nominally. Soon, the sinful demands of campaign contributors, inner circles, party mates, classmates, schoolmates, relatives, friends, and even illegitimate circles make public service the business of serving exclusive private interests than inclusive public interests. How many of the ‘gifted’ own so much but give so little? How many clubs, fraternities, associations, and other exclusive memberships (secret or not) are there that are good in taking care merely of their own but not of others who are in greater need? The world professes equality and yet around half of the global population remain in dire need and abject poverty. If public news is quoted directly, around half of public officials are corrupt and govern mostly for themselves and not their sworn publics. Leaders who seek public office today shamelessly do so even if unqualified for they do it not for the genuine interest of the people but for their own selfish agendas. But there is an end to the City of Man. Whereas, there is no end for the City of God. For this city is otherwise known as the Eternal City. And only the citizens of Heaven are in this city.           

Finally, man should not deceive himself that there is no divine justice. To believe this lie is to fall into the final deception of the deceiver who does not reveal himself until the soul of man is his. There is heaven and hell. And we all can take this to the bank. If this wasn’t true, then it is like saying that we can eat our children and it is alright. If there is any take-away from this universe, it is that there is balance. There is positive and negative. Good and bad. Yin and Yang. Everything-ness and nothingness. While God is Love and does not condemn, we condemn ourselves when we deliberately sin and willfully disobey the will of God. Our believing in God has nothing to do with going to life in eternity if our love is hypocritical. As I have said, if we think that God is incapable of divine wrath, think again. But also note that divine wrath came as a result of man’s disobedience to God’s order. From Abraham to Jesus and until today, God’s divine justice is at work. History is replete with evidence. Christianity has survived for more than two thousand years even when the powers of the earth boasted it will not outlive Jesus. The liberal order based on the moral code emerged after World War II defeating fascism, totalitarianism, and imperialism. It is the global order of today. But alas and behold, God’s order is once again being challenged by communism and despotism of every kind. God’s justice is based on truth. Those not on the side of God are still asking Pilate’s question to this day: ‘What is truth?’ One thing we all know is that what is untrue is eventually revealed. No matter how long it takes, the truth shall prevail and set us free and no amount of lies and protraction can defeat it.      

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