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ST. PAUL'S MISSION AND OUR MISSION
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Friday, 7th Week of Easter, May 22, 2015
Acts 25:13-21, Ps. 102, John 21:15-19


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I should like to hear the man myself.' ‘Tomorrow,' said he, ‘you shall hear him'" (Acts 25:22).


This, then, was St. Paul's defense before King Agrippa and the Roman governor Festus. St. Paul began by recounting his conversion, when he heard a voice from heaven telling him that he would be sent to the Gentiles, "to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:17-18).


This was St. Paul's mission, as it is the mission of every Christian in every age, for it is the mission of the Church, given to her by the risen Christ (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). It is to go to both Jews and Gentiles, to those that do not know Christ the Savior of the world, to preach Christ to them, thereby giving them the possibility of believing in him for their eternal salvation, for this is the means by which God wishes to save the world. If they believe in him, their eyes will be opened and they will turn from the darkness of their ignorance, from sin and guilt, from depression caused by their guilt, and from the clutches of Satan, to the light, to receive the forgiveness of their sins by Christ and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by their faith in him.


When they repent and believe in Christ, all this will happen to them, because Christ took our sins upon himself and died in just punishment for them on the cross to make adequate reparation for them for all who believe in him. In God's plan it was necessary that Christ suffer, die, and rise to make reparation for our sins, for God is all just and only in this way can he forgiven us without violating his justice, for in Christ's suffering our just price for our sins was paid for us. This also manifests God's infinite mercy, because it was God himself who suffered and died on the cross to pay our debt of suffering for our sins for us.


Before Christ, the sins of the Jews were forgiven by way of anticipation by Christ's death, through their faith in the Savior who was to come. Now we are saved from our sins by Christ's death through our faith in the Savior who has come. And now God wants all peoples to be saved in this way, through faith in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, because of his death on the cross. It is the mission of the Church to bring this about.


So we see the necessity of Christ's suffering in God's plan of salvation. Therefore St. Paul said in his defense before King Agrippa that he was always preaching the necessity of Christ's suffering. He said: "I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer" (Acts 26:22-23).


The risen Christ said the same: "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26). St. Peter also said this: "What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:18-19). Here we see that St. Peter links the forgiveness of our sins to the suffering of Christ and faith in him. That is, our sins are forgiven through our faith in Christ, because of the reparation that he made for them by his suffering for them on the cross. In Thessalonica St. Paul "for three weeks ... argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead" (Acts 17:2-3).


St. Paul preached like this in order to convert all that he could to Christ for their salvation, so that they might turn from darkness to light and receive the forgiveness of their sins. Therefore when King Agrippa said, at the end of St. Paul's defense, "In a short time you think to make me a Christian!" St. Paul answered, "Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am--except for these chains" (Acts 26:28-29).


We should say the same, for this is the mission of the Church. This is the means chosen by God to save the world.

 

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