HOW A JUSTIFIED CHRISTIAN SHOULD LIVE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, 30th Week of the Year, October 24, 2016
Ephesians 4:32-5:8, Psalm 1, Luke 13:10-17
Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.
"Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2).
Christ offered himself in sacrifice for us to redeem us from our sinful, lost state and restore us to God. Because of his sacrifice, we who once were in darkness are now light in the Lord, as St. Paul says today, "For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). And "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light" (Ephesians 5:14).
Therefore we should now live in a new way, renouncing the ways of darkness and sin that Christ's sacrifice has ransomed us from. "Immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving" (Ephesians 5:3-4).
It is not we who have saved ourselves by living so virtuously, as though we had the power to do such a thing; but rather it was Christ's sacrifice of himself that redeemed us from darkness and from following the desires of the flesh and made us light in the Lord. So we should therefore "walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). The new reality that Christ has made us by the sacrifice of himself makes us light in the Lord, and this light enables us to live in a new way.
It is not our merits that give us this light. It is not our good living that gives us this light. It is Christ's sacrifice that justifies us and puts Christ's righteousness within us, when we accept him through faith. This is what puts the light of Christ within us. Then we are enabled by his righteousness within us to live in this new and virtuous way and by doing so grow in holiness.
St. Paul today tells us, whom he has redeemed by his sacrifice, how he expects us now to live as a result. Living a holy life does not cause us to be light in the Lord, but rather being light in the Lord, because of Christ's sacrifice, enables us now to live a holy life, which we were not able to do before, because our passions were too strong and they were leading us in evil ways.
So now we need to pay attention to the new God-pleasing way of life that God now wants us to live, since Christ's sacrifice has made us a new creation, newly enabling us to live in this new and holy way. So St. Paul says, "Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God ... Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret" (Ephesians 5:5, 11-12).
We do not justify ourselves by our good living and by avoiding these sins, for justification is by faith, not by works, as St. Paul so often reminds us, "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Romans 3:28). And these works of law are the moral as well as the ceremonial laws of Moses. That is, we do not justify ourselves by keeping the Ten Commandments any more than we can justify ourselves to keeping all the Mosaic laws about circumcision and diet. We are justified by our faith without works of any kind, whether moral or ceremonial. Justification is by faith, not by works, as St. Paul never tires of telling us.
This justification comes about because "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2). Therefore St. Paul says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV).
Otherwise Christ died in vain. That is, if we could justify ourselves before God by keeping the law, Christ died in vain, as St. Paul says, "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Galatians 2:21).
What justifies us is Christ's death, for God sent him to die as a man for us to make full and just reparation for our sins before God by his suffering and death, which God counts as his vicariously suffering our penalty for our sins for us. Hence all who accept him and entrust themselves to him in faith receive the forgiveness of their sins and are declared righteous by God with no further charges against them.
What then are we now to do as justified Christians? We are now empowered by the grace of justification to live a good life in accord with God's moral law, a life filled with good works. So the faith without works that justifies us does good works. If it does not do good works, it is dead faith that does not justify us. So by their works you shall know them. If a person does not have good works, he does not have justifying faith, and he is not justified.
What specifically are these good works that a justified Christian will do? He will walk in the light, resist temptation, live a good and pure life, and avoid immorality, as St. Paul tells us, "Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Neither fornicators nor adulterers will be saved if they die as unrepentant fornicators and adulterers, with full understanding of the seriousness of their sin, living in a sexual relationship with a woman who is not their wife, especially if they are validly married to someone else and have gone through a public civil wedding ceremony with this new woman with whom they are now living openly in an active sexual relationship. They are living in a constant state of mortal sin. If they are not aware of the seriousness of their state, it is the duty of the Church and of preachers to make clear to them the seriousness of their situation, for if they die unrepentant, they can expect to find themselves in hell forever.
If they are Christians and Catholics, to be reconciled with God they must separate and stop living as man and wife. Then they can be forgiven and become once again living members of the Church, growing in holiness and living a life of good works. Then will they walk in the light of Christ.
This is a point that needs to be especially stressed today, because there are so many false interpretations of Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia now going around within the Church, confusing many people, so that some are now even thinking and preaching that adultery is sometimes okay if it is too hard to avoid committing it! This, of course, is utterly false teaching.
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