daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Saturday, the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, June 04, 2016
2 Timothy 4:1-8, Psalm 70, Luke 2:41-51

Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.


"Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wonder into myths" (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

St. Paul charges Timothy, his assistant, whom he left in Ephesus, to preach the word of God and to be faithful to the truth. This is the duty of an evangelist. This is his ministry. The ministry of preaching the gospel, that is, preaching the basic Christian message, the apostolic kerygma or proclamation, the good news of God's salvation now available in Jesus Christ, is of the greatest importance, and it is as important today as it ever was.

Although Christianity has been around for nearly two thousand years, still many have not yet heard, or understood, or really put their faith in the basic gospel message of Jesus Christ, even in Christian countries in the West where most of the population is Christian. Hence it is of the greatest importance that we make this message heard and understood by as many people as we can reach. This is God's will for us. He wants all people to hear and understand his good news of salvation. That is why he sent his apostles out to the ends of the earth to preach the gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20). This is the work of an evangelist. This is our ministry as missionary apostles of Jesus Christ, as it was the ministry of St. Paul and Timothy.

Some have heard the gospel, but do not properly understand it. It makes no real sense to them, and they are unable to pass it on to others. They need to be reactivated, reevangelized, and this time in such a way that it will make sense to them, so much sense that they will accept it and dedicate their whole life to Christ and to his mission in the world, preaching this gospel of salvation to as many people as they can.

The secret of effective preaching of the gospel is to preach it in such a way that the person who hears it will see it as God's answer to the misery that his own sins have put him in, filling him with guilt and fear of future punishment. We must preach the gospel in such a way that he sees it as God's remedy for his own problem, for his sins, failures, and guilt that discourage and depress him and make him lose his peace with God, with others, and with himself. The gospel is God's solution to this human problem, which has no other solution.

Some people feel guilty and miserable now because of their sins, and so are ready for this remedy. Others are living in grave sin but do not feel guilty, because they have turned away from God and deadened their conscience. They are not yet ready to hear the gospel, because for them it would sound like a solution to a problem that they don't think they have. What they need to hear now is not the gospel, but the law.

The law is God's moral law, the Ten Commandments, and Jesus' commandments in Matthew 5:21-48. The law is our custodian or pedagogue that leads us to faith in Christ for our salvation (Galatians 3:24). People who are living in grave sin but don't feel guilty need to hear God's commandments to awaken their conscience to the seriousness of their situation. They need to hear about hell, which is the eternal punishment they can expect to receive if they die in the state they are now in, that is, the state of mortal sin.

People who are living in a state of adultery (such as divorced and civilly remarried Catholics) or in a state of fornication (cohabitation without marriage), for example, are living in a constant state of mortal sin. Every time they have sex with their partner, who is not their spouse, they commit a new mortal sin, punishable in hell when they die if they do not repent and breakup their adulterous relationship in time. And they could die suddenly at any time, with no chance to repent.

If they think they are not living in sin, it is because they have blinded themselves to God's moral law (Exodus 20:14) and to the words of Jesus against adultery (Mark 10:11-12). They are not yet ready to hear the gospel of mercy, because they have not yet really heard God's moral law, which shows us how to live and convicts us of sin when we fail to follow it.

It is an error to try to console such people by telling them that the moral law of God is just one inspiring input out of our tradition that they must enter into dialogue with, along with other considerations, in deciding what is best for them, given the mitigating circumstances of their life. It is also an error to tell them that adultery is all that God is asking of them now at this point in their life.

These contemporary errors are an example of what St. Paul is talking about in today's reading, when he says, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

When we hear this kind of false teaching being given all around us, then we need to "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine," as St. Paul says today (2 Timothy 4:2 KJV). We need to preach the law to them to cause them to feel guilty and recognize and admit their sin. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him" (Luke 17:3; see also Galatians 2:14 where St. Paul rebukes St. Peter for his error that is leading many people astray).

When preaching the law has done its work and the person is repentant and ready to amend his life, only then is he ready to hear the gospel. If he is unrepentant and not ready to rectify his life, then he is not yet ready to hear the gospel and to be saved. But preaching to him the law will sow a seed in his mind that may later bear fruit.

But if you are preaching to many people all together, some of them may be only ready to hear the law, but others may be ready to hear the gospel. So preach the law first and then the gospel. In preaching the gospel, tell them that God sent his Son for sinners like us. If we repent, promise to rectify our life and to abandon our sin, and if we put our faith in Christ and in the gospel, his death on the cross will be counted by God as sufficient reparation for our sins, as paying our debt of suffering for them that we owed God. And so when we commit our life to Christ in faith and accept his work of redemption on the cross, God will declare us righteous and just, and so we will be, with Christ's own righteousness reckoned to us and shining within us (Romans 4:22-24).

This makes us a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is the beginning of a whole new life for us as people made righteous in God's sight. God's moral law then shows us how we are now to live to be pleasing to God and not fall out of his favor and lose our salvation. We are now helped in a new way by the grace of justification to keep God's moral law and do good works, whereby we grow in holiness.


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