daily biblical sermons

A disciple should preach the gospel with words, live simply, and serve others
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, 26th Week of the Year, October 01, 2020
Job 19:21-27, Psalm 26, Luke 10:1-12

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




“After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town’” (Luke 10:1-12).



In today’s gospel Jesus sends out seventy disciples to prepare the way for himself by preaching that the kingdom of God has come near. This will be an advance preparation for Jesus’ own preaching in those same towns and villages, for they are raising the expectations of the people for his own message. Jesus sends them out to preach with words and gives them the message they are to preach, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9).



They most likely were expected to say more than simply this one sentence, because it would require some explanation. Since the disciples were still very limited in their own understanding of Jesus and his mission to save the world, their ability to preach a message to prepare the people for Jesus’ arrival would also be a rather rudimentary message at this point in their life. Nonetheless it is as verbal proclaimers of the word of God, the gospel, that he sends them. They are to evangelize with words; that is, they are to proclaim the good news of God’s salvation that is about to appear, the good news that their long-awaited Messiah is about to arrive, and that the kingdom of God and the messianic age of salvation is at hand.



So surely once they begin to say this to the family they are lodging with and to their neighbors that gather around to listen, they will have to give some further explanation and tell them that they should repent of their sins and be ready for a new life through God’s power and salvation that was about to dawn upon them. “So, they went out and preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12 NKJV).



They were also to do good works that would verify the truth of the gospel. They were to heal the sick by Jesus’ miraculous power that had been given to them. “Heal the sick in it [the village] and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” (Luke 10:9). Once people saw these miraculous cures, the disciples’ words would gain credibility in the eyes of an open-minded person.



Sometimes today we hear people say: “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary.” This is a saying that is falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, who spent his whole life preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in words. In fact, the gospel can be preached in no other way but by words. We can do good works and can show the love of God by helping people, but that is insufficient to communicate the message that God’s salvation has now come into the world in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and it is accomplished by his death on the cross to make reparation for our sins and atone for them if only we put their faith in him.



This somewhat complicated message is not something that people can figure out for themselves. Even if someone had the intelligence of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all combined in one, he could still not come up with the gospel message on his own, for the gospel is an announcement of an historical fact that can only be known by a revelation from God and then announced by disciples and apostles to other people.



The gospel can only be preached with words, although a kind disposition and friendly way of speaking and doing good deeds for people can smooth the way for them to find the preacher acceptable and therefore be open to his message. But it is the message that they are sent out to preach. And this message is not understandable by people who only see a kind and friendly person that does good things for them. That can never communicate the essence of the gospel message that they are sent to proclaim.



Unfortunately, many people have been misled by this spurious saying, falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary.” So, the idea has become popular in our day that all that preaching the gospel really means is to be a nice guy who is charitable and loving to people. This is unfortunate, because it vitiates the whole vocation of missionary preachers if they think that that’s all they have to do or that that is the real essence of what they are supposed to be doing. So, people that have been misled by this spurious saying have literally gone off the rails in terms of evangelization. They have secularized evangelization so that they can now explain it in purely secular terms that any educated, well-intentioned atheist could understand, agree with, and support.



But this is not the meaning of preaching the gospel according to the New Testament; and St. Paul is the greatest example of true New Testament evangelization, going from city to city throughout the Roman Empire, even planning to go as far as Spain, preaching the gospel in words; and we have his sermons written down in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and his theology and the ideas that he preached are in his epistles. St. Paul is the model of the Christian missionary and preacher in every age, not this spurious saying of St. Francis that is confusing many people nowadays.



It is of the greatest importance that the gospel be actually preached so that people that have not heard it may know the way of salvation that God has given to us in his Son Jesus Christ, whom he sent as a substitute to suffer our death penalty for our sins for us if only we put our faith in him and sincerely repent. If we put our faith in Christ, God will justify us, that is, he will declare and thereby make us ungodly sinners righteous and reckon to us his own righteousness (Romans 4:5). But to come to this saving faith in Christ one has to hear the gospel proclaimed in words, hopefully by a preacher who is also a nice guy, friendly, loving, and charitable, helping those in need, according to his means.



But what about people who hear these disciples preach and reject them and their message? And what about people today who hear the gospel and reject it? Jesus tells us today that if people do not accept you, go out into their streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 10:11).



That is a pretty strong sign that they give, shaking the dust off their feet and leaving for another town, but Jesus says, “I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day [judgment day] for Sodom than for that town” (Luke 10:12). If such a town does not eventually repent and believe in the gospel that they rejected, they “shall be brought down to Hades” (Luke 10:15).



And how many are there today that reject the gospel or reject the whole basis of Christian morality, namely that certain things are intrinsically evil, always wrong, and never to be done, like fornication, adultery, homosexual sexual relations, gay “marriage,” euthanasia (killing your elderly parents), assisted suicide, suicide, and abortion.



What about those that have heard the gospel and have even proclaimed themselves to be Christians or Catholics, yet accept most or all of these abominations condemned by Scripture and the unbroken Tradition of the Catholic Church? They are people who have rejected basic Christian moral teaching and have in their minds advanced beyond simple Christian morality so that they are now post-Christian, anti-Christian, and neopagan in their “morality.” They have heard the word of revelation and the preaching of the gospel, but have rejected its message. They “shall be brought down to Hades” (Luke 10:15) if they do not repent before the end of their life.



Jesus also teaches us today that an evangelizer (with words, of course) must live a simple, humble life. He says to his seventy disciples, “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals” (Luke 10:4). This means that this group of disciples, who are on a brief, temporary missionary tour, should not carry money to buy food or a bag with food in it, but should depend on the hospitality of the people in the village to feed them in return for the benefit they receive by hearing the gospel preached to them.



But this has a deeper meaning for us also who may not be temporary missionaries but rather permanent missionaries working for years in a foreign country or perhaps now retired after spending much of our life doing that. This tells us that we should live a simple life. Yes, we need food, and money to buy it if we are permanently doing missionary work, and are not just on a short tour. But we should be simple in our way of life.



And why should we live a simple life? It is because we totally dedicate ourselves to Christ, not to worldly pleasures. A genuine Christian renounces unnecessary worldly pleasures – some do it more than others – but all should live lives of simplicity and self-denial, serving one master only, not worldly pleasures and God at the same time, for this is impossible, because you are pulled in two opposite directions at the same time. You are pulled toward self-denial for the love of God to serve him with an undivided heart. And you are pulled in the opposite direction of filling yourself with all sorts of unnecessary worldly pleasures, fine dining, and fun and games most of the time (Matthew 6:24).



We should love God with all our heart, with as undivided a heart as possible, not divided by unnecessary worldly pleasures. So, we give testimony to the gospel we preach in words by the type of life that we live in actions and deeds. If we live a luxurious, pleasure-filled, pleasure-centered life, our preaching will lack credibility in the eyes of those we preach to, when they see that we do not really live in deeds according to the message that we preach. It will appear to them that we don’t really believe the gospel that we are preaching in words. They will see that we are not crucified to the world, as St. Paul says (Galatians 6:14) and that we have not taken the narrow and difficult path of life of the few, but rather the easy and broad way of the many that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).

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