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THE WEEKDAYS OF ORDINARY TIME ARE FEAST DAYS OF CELEBRATION OF THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, the First Week of the Year, January 14, 2019
Hebrews 1:1-6, Psalm 96, Mark 1:18-20


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15).


The beautiful Christmas season ended yesterday, and now we begin ordinary time, but really for a Christian this is no ordinary time that has nothing to celebrate or be glad about. On the contrary, at this time of year we celebrate the whole Christian mystery in all its aspects, not just focusing on one aspect, such as Christ's birth, as we did during the Christmas season.


The Church uses the old Latin word feria (meaning days of feasting and celebration) and calls the weekdays of ordinary time "ferial days." In other words, there was a sense in the early Church that for a Christian, every day is a feast day, a day of celebration (a ferial day), because Christ has come and saved us, and so we are now living in the messianic age, in the fullness of time, in the age of salvation. It should therefore be a time of rejoicing in the Lord and in all that he has done for us.


Today St. Mark tells us that Jesus began his preaching ministry in Galilee, and he said as he preached,


"The time [kairos] is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).


This is now the opportune time. Kairos is the Greek word used here for time. It is not just ordinary time, for which the Greeks would have used the word chronos, but rather now is the unique, special time (kairos), especially prepared by God from all eternity, in which his own Son walked the earth as a man and revealed God to us and his special plan to save the human race from their sins and renew them by communicating to them his own righteousness which makes us righteous and holy in his sight.


And what is happening now in this special, unique, and opportune time? "The kingdom of God is at hand," Jesus says today (Mark 1:15). This is the kingdom of salvation, where God lives with us and within us and is at peace with us, and we with him. So we should "repent and believe in the gospel [evangelion, literally, the good news]" (Mark 1:15). If we repent and believe in the gospel, we will enter into the kingdom of God on earth, which Jesus says today "is at hand" [engiken, literally, has drawn near].


"The time [kairos] is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand [engiken]; repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

 

It is one thing to draw near to the kingdom, but it is quite another thing to actually enter into it and experience its benefits. For this to happen, we must repent and believe in the good news that Jesus is now preaching.


So what exactly is this good news so that we might believe in it and enter into the kingdom of God on earth and benefit from it? To answer this question we must note that Jesus, at this point in his ministry, is not yet laying out the full gospel message, but rather is giving them just a little bit at a time, using good pedagogy, so as not to overwhelm them with too much information all at once that they are not yet ready to process and understand.


It is we who live after Easter and Pentecost who can put it all together, as it is revealed bit by bit, here and there, in the New Testament, and come to a true understanding and appreciation of what the good news, the gospel, is all about.


And what is this true understanding? It is that this man Jesus of Nazareth is actually the divine Son of God, equal in divinity with God, who has come into the world to teach us about God, about how we should live, and to save us from our sins.


"He will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).


He will save us from our sins by dying on a cross for them in order to bear our sins and endure our just punishment for them for us, in our place, instead of us enduring and suffering it. This salvation will happen to all that genuinely repent of their sins, abandon them, and put their trusting faith in Jesus Christ.


Then God will count Christ's suffering and dying on the cross as just and full punishment and payment for our sins and will therefore acquit us of them, remove our guilt for them from us, and declare us righteous. God reckons our faith to us as righteousness. He declares and makes us righteous, by our faith in Christ, because of what Christ did for us on the cross in suffering our just punishment for our sins for us, thereby making just reparation for them before God.


This salvation is Christ's great gift to us. It is the real content of what it means to enter into the kingdom of God on earth. The fullest form of this kingdom on earth is the community of those that have been renewed by their faith in Christ. They are now "new men," new creatures, a new creation in Christ, and they live in a completely new way, centering their life now on God and on Christ, and no longer on themselves and their own worldly pleasures.


Now that Pentecost is behind us and we have received the Holy Spirit, we have the key that enables us to put all the various pieces of biblical revelation together and begin to understand them in an organized way.


First of all, today we see how Jesus' first disciples reacted to him. They left everything to follow him. They left their boat, their nets, and even their father Zebedee. We should do the same. The more radically we can do so, the better.


Our first reading today from the letter to the Hebrews also contributes to our understanding of the good news that we are to believe in in order to enter into and enjoy the benefits of the kingdom of God on earth. Today Hebrews tells us that Jesus is God's Son, "through whom also he [God] created the world" (Hebrews 1:2).


Then Hebrews says something very important about Jesus, namely


"When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3).


This is a reference to Christ's redeeming work on the cross, whereby he saved us from our sins. Hebrews makes it clear that Christ did this work of purification for our sins for us by shedding his blood in reparation for them. We sinned, but he was punished for them on the cross in our place, as our substitute, to pay our debt that we have with God for them. When we repent and put our faith in Christ, God credits Christ's suffering and death on the cross to our personal account as paying our debt that we have with God for our sins and so acquits us of them and declares us righteous.


"He [the risen Christ] entered once for all into the Holy Place [heaven], taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:12-14).


"He [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26).


This is why if we are in Christ by faith, we are in his kingdom, with our sins forgiven, our debt with God for our sins paid for us, and we ourselves made righteous before God. Hence every day for a Christian is a feast day, or "ferial day," as the early Church indicated by calling all the days of the liturgical year that have no other designation "ferial days" or "feria" - feast days!

 

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