Gospel: John 8:31-42
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.”
They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”
Jesus said to them,
“If you were Abraham’s children,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
But now you are trying to kill me,
a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God;
Abraham did not do this.
You are doing the works of your father!”
So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication.
We have one Father, God.”
Jesus said to them,
“If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came from God and am here;
I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”
During Jesus' ministry, it's hard for the Jews to believe in Him and in His words. As a son of a carpenter, it's hard for them to accept His precepts. It became harder for them when His words seems to contradict with the laws they already have, the laws handed to them by Moses, enhanced, modified and made complicated by the pharisees and priests that time.
In today's gospel, it's like Jesus is talking to the Jews this way:
"Abraham talked to God. Abraham listened to God. Abraham followed and obeyed God. And now you're telling me that you're the descendants of Abraham who listened and obeyed God? And now you're telling me that God is your Heavenly Father? How come my words doesn't have any room among you? If Abraham is truly your ancestor, then you should have listened and obeyed God. If God really is your Father, then you should have recognized me, listened to me, loved me because He will surely tell you that I am His son, and I came from Him. Or maybe He already have told you but you didn't listen to Him. You ignored Him when He told you that I am His son, and the one who is going to free you from your inequities. And you find it hard to believe what He have told you because you knew and judged me for I am just a son of a poor carpenter."
As our God, as our Father, God likes talking to us everyday. Showing, leading, and instructing us in our every decision.
But oftentimes, just like the Jews, we fail to recognize God's directions in our life. We don't mind listening to Him anymore. Or worse, we listen to Him, but we're not obeying what He's telling us. Because we fail to recognize the purpose and reason behind His every instruction. And also because we're already loaded with our own self-approved beliefs and with what the people have told us.
It's like having a conversation with Him that goes like this,
Us: "Hey, God, what's your advice for my problem?"
God: "Ahm, do this..<God will provide His solution..>"
Us: "Err! Your advice seems so uncomfortable and hard to do and it contradicts with what I have in mind.. Sorry, I'd rather follow mine. Thanks anyway."
We're not anymore submissive to God. And when troubles and misfortunes come our way, it's easy for us blaming Him for what we have become.
In our time, where new, loud, convincing, and sometimes confusing and misleading beliefs and new age wisdom, God is still speaking with us,
"Listen to Me. Heed My words. Know that Jesus is My Son. Recognize Him, honor Him and believe in Him. I sent Him to set an example and for you people to follow. He's your Messiah. I sent Him for the salvation of humanity. Only through Him people will achieve eternal life."
How do we recognize the voice of God in our life?
Do we still pray?
Do we still read the bible?
Do we still contemplate on every verses?
Do we still participate in the activities of faith community?
Just like Jesus who recognized the reason of His Father why He would have to suffer and be crucified, which is for the salvation of humankind, in the deepest and silence of our hearts - talk to God. Seek and search God. Recognize His voice.
And when you find His Holy presence, don't just listen to Him, obey His instructions. Recognize the purpose of His instructions no matter how difficult it may seem. Recognize that whatever He tells us to do, it's for the best.
And most of all, God wants us to recognize His Son Jesus Christ as our Savior who has gone through sacrifices, sufferings, and death to pay for our sin.
In Jesus' time, basing from the basic laws, priests and pharisees formulated new complicated laws to follow. And because pharisees and priests were highly honored, respected and known to be God's anointed one to lead that time, whatever law they passed on, people will just follow.
This led to confusion and at the same time caused burden to the people. People didn't know anymore what and where to start. They didn't know anymore if the laws still coincide with what their God really wants them to do, if they're still in accordance with the will of God.
Some of them religiously followed each law. Some found themselves guilty for they failed to follow some of the laws. While some, because of confusion, just gave up following the laws, including God's original laws, and chose to live a "lawless" life, went astray, and became guilty sinners.
They became victims of the laws. Some who fervently followed all the laws became slaves of laws. Some who can't follow all the laws became slave of guilty feeling. And some who gave up all the laws and lived sinners became slaves of sin.
Today, we're experiencing this same confusion and burden in our day to day living. Everyday, we encounter rules, principles and ideals (let's call them worldly laws) that we can't fully understand but we still follow. And these modern worldly laws are mostly invented, created, advertised, advised, lived, implemented, and even demanded by known, popular, famous and powerful people.
Some of these worldly laws are still in-line with God's will, but sad to say, the majority are also derived from God's laws, only twisted, that do not coincide anymore with God's will, which is used to lure and mislead other believers. And we can't already determine which is which. Dragging us to confusion. Burdening us with our every decision.
Unfortunately, some of us base their decisions from these wrong "worldly laws", became victims, were led astray, and became prisoners and slaves of guilt, fear, anxieties, and sin.
Today's Gospel is reminding us what and who to follow: Remain in Jesus. Jesus wants us to be free from these confusions and burdens especially those caused by the "twisted" truths about God's law. In His time, He even simplified the laws into just two major laws, first is we should love God, and second we should love our neighbor.
Jesus did not mean to break the laws, but He only wanted to simplify them to free the mind of the people from confusion, from loading their mind with lots of things to follow, and to give clarity to the complicated laws imposed by pharisees and priests.
What does "remaining in His words" means?
..It's putting His every word on top of others.
..It's His words that is our top priority.
..It's His words that should be our basis to every decision we make.
..That there is no way we should follow the words of people that contradict with His words.
..It's letting ourselves to unload and unlearn the worldly laws we already have in our lives, and letting His words fill and guide us.
..It's faithfully following His words.
..And it's thinking and contemplating in His every word everyday until we discover their intention and truth.
Jesus came to earth not just to offer His life in the cross. But before fulfilling this greatest task, He first made it sure that we will have something to refer to and to live by. By preaching and by actions, He destroyed the walls of confusion that trap us from seeing the truth.
Jesus has already clarified everything to us. Jesus has already said everything that will serve as our guide to live our life. He has already determined what are the things that matter to God.
And we only have one thing left to do: To remain in Him and in His words.
Israelites during the time of Moses were captives of Egypt. There, they were forced to work and serve the pharaoh. They lived in fear, guilt, and anguish. They were slaves. Yet, upon hearing their cries, God heard them. He sent Moses to a mission, a mission to free the Israelites from the hands of Egypt and guide them to the Promised Land, a land of milk and honey.
Israelites were slaves of Egypt that time. And in Jesus time, even nowadays, yes, people are not anymore slaves of Egypt, but Jesus told us that we're still slaves - slaves of our sins. We are slaves of our own will and pleasures. We live in fear, guilt and anguish because of our sin. We looked to ourselves as hopeless and unforgivable sinners.
So God sent His only begotten Son to redirect and help us repent. To change our beliefs. To change our actions. To inspire and guide us. To give clarity on everything. To free us from the dominion of our selfish will, desires and pleasures. To show us the right way. To reveal to us the truth. To take away the feeling of guilt, fear, and anguish caused by our sin. To pay the ransom demanded by our sins. To give up His own life so we may have life. And To free us from the chains and slavery of sin and curse of death.
The truth is, God selflessly sent His Son to pay for our sin.
The truth is, Jesus didn't mean to break the laws, He only wanted to free us from confusion.
The truth is, He is the Son of God, but He chose to live according to the will of His Father, to be a man vulnerable to pains.
The truth is, He was overwhelmed and was scared by the thought of that one day He will be crucified to death, yet He chose to stick to plan laid before Him by God.
The truth is, Jesus didn't died for nothing.
The truth is, He suffered and died to so we may live.
The truth is, He was not thinking if His sacrifice will change us and will make us turn away from our sins.
The truth is, He's not thinking of Himself when He's at the cross. He thinking about us, about our salvation.
The truth is, He died while we were sinning.
The truth is, He did it all not because He wanted to be famous. He wanted us to be saved, to free us from the curse of death caused by our sins.
The truth is, until now, He's calling us - to remain in Him.
The truth is: Jesus offers freedom for those who will believe and follow Him - by repentance, by faith, and by action.