daily biblical sermons


The human race was alienated from God by Adam's sin, but reconciled to him by Christ's death on the cross
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, Pentecost Monday, June 01, 2020
Genesis 3:9-15, 20, Psalm 86, John 19:25-34


 

 

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

 

 

 

“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:25-27).

 

 

This is a new feast, created on February 11, 2018 for the day after Pentecost. We know that Mary the mother of Jesus was with the apostles and other disciples when the Holy Spirit descended upon them and they began to speak in many languages, preaching the wonders of God’s salvation now available in Jesus Christ. We have seen that only with the illumination of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost did Jesus’ disciples finally understand his mission, and hence their own mission to the world.

 

 

One wonders what illumination must have taken place in Mary his mother, who knew that he was conceived without human seed, by the Holy Spirit, and heard from the shepherds who adored him at his birth that the announcing angel had told them, “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). She knew all along that her son was the Messiah and Savior of the world, but even she did not know how he would save the world. But now as of Pentecost she also, like the other disciples finally understood that it was precisely by his death on the cross that he saves from their sins all that put their trusting faith in him, because on the cross he made reparation for our sins and paid our debt of punishment that we have with God for them.

 

 

How must she have felt knowing that her own son, to whom she had given birth and taken care of in his infancy and youth, is the only Savior of the human race? She must have been filled with wonder, awe, and joy. And so two years ago the Church instituted this new feast in which we focus on Mary’s reaction to the great revelation that took place on Pentecost.

 

 

So our first reading today tells us why God sent Jesus as our Savior and what he came to save us from. It is because of Original Sin, the first sin of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, in the garden of Eden when they disobeyed a command of God directly given to them by God himself, not through any intermediary, namely that they were not to eat “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil … for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Genesis 2:17). But they ate of this tree, and therefore they died, in the sense that they lost their special privileges of living in the garden of Eden, walking and talking intimately with God each evening, having control over their passions, and, when there lifetime came to an end, they would die.

 

 

Because of their sin God expelled them from the garden of Eden, and they would have to toil and till the earth that will bring forth thorns and thistles and “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

 

 

But then God sent the descendants of Adam and Eve a Savior, Jesus Christ, who would restore the intimacy with God that Adam and Eve lost for them by their sin. About this Savior St. Paul says, “If, because of one man’s [Adam’s] trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

 

 

The curse that God put upon the earth and upon the man and woman for their sin would fall upon all their descendants until the Savior came that would bring them righteousness. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness [Jesus’ death on the cross] leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience [Christ’s dying on the cross] many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19). So one man (Adam) brought God’s curse upon all mankind, and likewise one man’s act of righteousness (Jesus’ death on the cross) will bring acquittal and life for all who put their faith in him. Therefore we who put our faith in Jesus Christ will be made righteous by his obedience to God in dying for our sins.

 

 

So now we turn to today’s gospel and read about that one man’s act of righteousness, namely the death by crucifixion of Jesus Christ the Son of God and Savior of the world. When Jesus was crucified he said, “I thirst” (John 19:28). So the soldiers filled a sponge full of vinegar and put it on a stick and brought it to Jesus’ mouth. When he received the vinegar, he said, “‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). This was the one righteous act of the Son of God incarnate as a man that saved the human race; and all who put their faith in him and sincerely repent of their sins benefit from this salvation.

 

 

But what did Jesus mean by saying, “It is finished”? What is finished? “The work His Father had given him to do! The pouring out of His soul as an offering for sin! The work of redemption and of atonement!” (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1989), page 1565).

 

 

By saying, “It is finished” Jesus is referring to “the finishing of all the known and unknown sufferings which He came to endure, as our Substitute – the finishing of the ceremonial law, which He came to wind up and fulfill, as the true Sacrifice for sin – the finishing of the many prophecies, which He came to accomplish – the finishing of the great work of man’s redemption, which was now close at hand – all this, we need not doubt, our Lord had in view when He said, ‘It is finished’” (JC Ryle, 1816-1900).

 

 

“We rest our souls on a ‘finished work,’ if we rest them on the work of Jesus Christ the Lord. We need not fear that either sin, or Satan, or law shall condemn us at the last day. We may lean back on the thought, that we have a Savior who has done all, paid all, accomplished all, performed all that is necessary for our salvation. We may take up the challenge of the Apostle, ‘Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died – yes, rather that is risen again – who is even at the right hand of God; who also makes intercession for us’ (Romans 8:34). When we look at our own works, we may well be ashamed of their imperfections. But when we look at the finished work of Christ, we may feel peace. We ‘are complete in Him,’ if we believe” (JC Ryle).

 

 

“It is finished” means that “the demands of the law, and of divine justice, are satisfied, and my sufferings are now at an end” (Joseph Benson, 1749-1821).

 

 

By this one righteous act Jesus Christ has potentially restored the human race to the intimacy and blessedness that it had with God before Original Sin. Now when we put our faith in Christ and reach the hour of our death, we can have confidence that death will not be a descent into the land of darkness and gloom, but rather the portal of entry into the fullness of eternal life with God in heaven. Furthermore, our life itself is freed from the depressing guilt of our sins by making an act of faith in Christ and sincerely confessing our sins and abandoning them. When we do this, God justifies us, because of the atoning death of his Son on the cross for our sins, for “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

 

 

God sent his Son as a propitiation for our sins to propitiate or satisfy God’s justice, which was violated and offended by our sins. We owed God the penalty prescribed by his law for our sins, namely eternal death, and Christ’s death on the cross is considered by God to be the payment of our debt for all that put their faith in Christ.

 

 

Therefore St. John says, “He Himself [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

 

 

We sinned and Christ died for our sins, and so we are saved from them, for we owed God eternal death in punishment for them, and God considers Christ’s death as paying that debt, when we put our faith in him and sincerely repent of our sins and intend to immediately abandon our grave sins.

 

 

This is how reconciliation with God and the restoration of what Adam and Eve lost by their sin come about. What they lost by sin Christ restored to us by his righteous act on the cross and made it available to all that put their faith in him.

 

 

This is what the disciples of Jesus and even the mother of Jesus herself discovered on Pentecost. How awe filled she must be! And how awe filled and thankful we should be; and so we should seek to spread this good news (gospel) to all whom we can reach. To do so is the mission of the Church in the world. This is the purpose of evangelization. It is not just to live a good life and attract non-Christians by our life and good example. It is also to make known what Christ did for us and what he can do for them too if only they put their trusting faith in him and genuinely repent of their sins. But this requires words and preaching in order to communicate this to nonbelievers. To do this, where it is possible, is the mission of the Church.

 

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