WE LIVE IN HOPE OF SHARING IN THE GLORY OF GOD
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, 21st Week of the Year, August 27, 2015
1 Thess. 3:7-13, Ps. 89, Matt. 24:42-51
Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.
May he "establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thess. 3:13).
This is the hope for which we live, the Parousia or second coming of "our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thess. 3:13). This should not be a day which we fear and dread if we are "in Christ." St. Paul says, "We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). This should be a day that we long for. We are "awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself to redeem us from all iniquity" (Titus 2:13-14).
If it were not for Christ's death on the cross and our faith in him, we would only be able to hope for God's unrelenting justice and wrath for our past sins at our death. Then the time of justice and reckoning would finally come upon us, and we would be held accountable for all the evil we have done. Then, finally, justice would be done, and we would have to pay up in full and make full and just reparation for all the sins that we did not already make reparation for before our death.
But all that has changed with our conversion to Christ. He makes the reparation for us. He sees that justice is done as regards our sins, because it is he who suffers and dies for them, not us. For those who are "in Christ," through faith in him, death is changed. Its sting is removed for those who have faith. The sting of death is our sins, for which justice will be done without mercy at our death. But Jesus removes for us the sting of death, which is our sins, by himself making full reparation for them on the cross. When we believe in him, we are reckoned righteous through our faith (Rom. 4:22-24). So for us who believe, the terror of death is removed, and it becomes instead the passage way into the fullness of life.
For those who are "in Christ," "‘death is swallowed up in victory.' ‘O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
Because of Christ, when we die, if we die "in Christ," we will meet mercy. Christ on the cross has already taken care of God's justice for us. He has satisfied it by his death in full and just reparation for all the sins of the world. It is those who are not "in Christ" who will meet the just wrath of God for their sins when they die.
Our task, then, is to live in hope, which will be fulfilled at our death, for then we shall begin to see the coming of the Lord with all his saints. Our task is to grow in holiness and seek to be blameless before him in all we do. We are to live in vigilance, watching and waiting, and preparing for his coming, that he may find us blameless when he comes. Our lives now should be completely focused on the Lord so that when he comes for us at our death, he may find us ready, watching in prayer, blameless in his sight. May he find us clothed in the righteousness of Christ and giving full evidence of it in the way we live, not for our own worldly pleasures, but for him who died and rose for us (2 Cor. 5:15).
May he "establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thess. 3:13). This is a beautiful ideal. This is how the hope of God's coming for us at our death, or at his second coming, whichever comes first, should cause us to live, seeking to live in holiness, avoiding worldly pleasures that make us forget all this, and eagerly engaged in the Lord's service for the good of others and the extension of his kingdom in the world. We should be hard at work, like St. Paul, transforming the world into the kingdom of God by the witness of the way we live and by our word and our preaching of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
We should live only for the Lord, seeking all our delight in him, denying ourselves worldly pleasures, living and eating very simply and plainly. In this way our hearts will not be divided and distracted from the Lord. Our love will go only and directly to him, and our life will be spent working in his service, extending his kingdom on earth.
If we want the Lord to have mercy on us when he comes and not exercise his wrathful justice upon us for our past sins, we must be clothed in his righteousness through our faith in him and then manifest our justification by faith in our new way of living for the Lord. We must in fact become the new man (Eph. 4:22-24), which Christ has made us.
And so we now live as a people of hope for the coming of the Lord, "and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God" when he comes for us (Rom. 5:2). We therefore live in peace with God, hoping for his coming, because we are justified by faith. "Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ ... And we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God" (Rom. 5:1-2).
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