daily biblical sermons


THE ONLY CURE FOR A DEADLY ILLNESS
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Saturday, Twelfth Week of the Year, June 25, 2016
Lamentations 2:2, 10-14, 18-19, Psalm 73, Matthew 8:5-17


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"As he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.' And he said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.' But the centurion answered him, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed" (Matthew 8:1-8).


Here is a Gentile of great faith, whose servant Jesus heals from a distance. He says that he only wants Jesus to say a word and heal his servant, that there is no need for Jesus to go to his house. Jesus marvels at such faith. This is the kind of faith he wants to see, and he says that this Gentile has more of it than he has seen in any Israelite.


This then leads Jesus to look ahead to the Gentile mission, when many Gentiles would come from east and west and enter the kingdom, while the unbelieving Jews would be cast into the outer darkness. "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:10-12 NKJV).


This is a prophecy of the Gentile mission and its success. Gentiles from all parts of the world will enter the kingdom of God, while the majority of the Jews will be cast into the outer darkness because of their refusal to accept and believe in Jesus as their Messiah.


Faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation. Without faith in Jesus, being a Jew will be of no avail. Jews who refuse to believe in Jesus will be cast out into the outer darkness, while non-Jews who were pagans, but believe in Jesus as their Savior will recline at table with the Hebrew patriarchs. The key to where you will end up, whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, is faith in Jesus Christ.


We are like the sick servant of this Gentile centurion. Faith in Jesus can and will cure us. As the centurion's faith gained physical healing from Jesus for his servant, so our faith in Jesus will gain spiritual healing for us. The servant needed to be healed of his paralysis, but we need to be healed of our sins, which is a far more serious illness.


Many young people today have no faith, and lacking belief in heaven and hell, they don't fear divine retribution after death. So they have become deeply involved in a life of sin, especially sexual sins, which at first seemed to them to be a paradise of delight and happiness. But after a while deep guilt began to seep into them and they became depressed and could not get out of the dark pit of their depression. As a result many more young people now commit suicide than previously. They would rather be dead than live in such a constant depressed state with no relief. If they do not believe in heaven or hell, they think that death is annihilation, that all life, consciousness, and pain ends with death. They think that death is like a dreamless sleep that will relieve them from the inner pain and sadness that they now constantly feel, because of their sinful life. So they take their life, as their only hope of escape from their inner pain. In death they hope to find relief, annihilation, endless unconscious sleep.


But the truth is that heaven and hell do exist, and death is not extinction, annihilation, or dreamless sleep. For unbelieving people, living in mortal sin, death means hell, which is terrible pain and torture, far worse than any pain they are now experiencing because of their guilt, and there is no end to it, no relief from it. Hell is where unbelieving people living in mortal sin go when they die, and suicide is a deadly mortal sin.


Their only hope is faith in Jesus Christ, who came into the world to do for us what he did to the servant of this believing Gentile centurion. He came to cure us of our sins, for which there is no earthly cure, no medical relief, and these sins cause us far more pain, suffering, and misery than any physical illness could ever cause us; and if we don't get them cured now, we will continue to suffer from them forever in hell when we die.


We can be quite happy during a physical illness, but guilt because of our sins and the resulting depression robs us of all joy, peace, and happiness. We only feel deep sadness, depression of spirit, and misery. This is the sickness that Jesus came to cure us of. His physical cures were visible, verifiable signs of his power to cure us of sin and guilt by completely forgiving us and declaring us righteous.


He does this because he justly paid for our sins, paying our fine for them on the cross. This happens to us when we confess our sins and trust in the just payment that he made for them on the cross. This justification occurs especially within the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23).


What do we have to do to receive this cure for our sins? We have to express to God our sorrow for them, promise to abandon them and to amend our life, and then trust in the reparation he made for them on the cross.


Christ then does the rest. He pays our debt, suffers our punishment for us, fulfills the law for us, dying for our sins, instead of us dying for them, so that we can now go free, absolved, exonerated, and declared righteous. God's case against us is legally dropped, and we are acquitted, because our price has been paid.


This is the deeper meaning of Jesus' physical cures. As Jesus exercises his divine power to cure the paralysis of this servant, so does he use it to justify us, when we ask him with faith and genuine repentance. Then we no longer need to fear hell, that is, as long as we stay in Christ's grace and keep from falling out of it again. Through our faith in Christ we are justified and saved. Our final destiny will be heaven, not hell, if we remain faithful.


Heaven is presented to us today as a banquet where we will recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. This is what we now long for and look forward to. This will be our time of rest and peace. We have something very positive and happy to look forward to. Death is not annihilation, and for the truly born-again believer in Christ (John 3:3) it is rest, light, and peace with God forever.


This is the good news that we live by and for, and this is the message that we seek to share with all we can. This is the meaning of evangelization, namely the preaching of this good news. This preaching requires words, it can't be adequately communicated without words. The phrase that many repeat, "Preach the gospel; if necessary, use words" makes about as much sense as saying, "Wash yourself; if necessary, use water" (Ray Comfort, Conquer Your Fear, Share Your Faith: Evangelism Made Easy, 2009, Kindle 113).


Yes, good example is important, but in itself and without words it is insufficient to communicate the good news that God became man to take our sins upon himself and suffer and die for them to make just reparation for them so that those who put their faith in the merits of his death will have those merits applied to them and counted by God as just reparation and payment for their sins so that they might be absolved and justified. To communicate this message requires words as well as good example.

 

 

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