daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 32nd Sunday of the year, November 06, 2011
Wis. 6:12-16, Ps. 62, 1 Thess. 4:13-18, Matt. 25:1-13

"For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

As Christians, we are to live in vigilance. We do not want the Lord to come and catch us off guard, unprepared, asleep, or lost in the desires of the flesh, but rather watchful and prepared, awaiting his coming in purity of heart, prayer, and with eager expectation. "Watch therefore-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow or in the morning-lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch" (Mark 13:35-37). The life of a Christian should be a life of keeping vigil and watching. The desires of the flesh-concupiscence-are always with us, even when dormant, and can be easily awakened given the right stimulus, and so we can never relax our vigilance. "Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming" (Matt. 24:42).

We depend on God's justification through our faith by the merits of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross to save us from our sins and give us a new life in the light of his resurrection with the gift of the Holy Spirit illuminating and renewing us from within, rejoicing us in the Lord. This new life is his gift, unmerited by us by our actions or works, but comes to us only through his grace (Eph. 2:8-9).

Christ suffered the just punishment necessary for our sins to be justly forgiven when he died on the cross, expiating all human sin. Punished by the Father instead of us (Isa. 53:5), Jesus Christ substituted on the cross for us to justify us if only we believe in him. By Christ's death, the Father declares us righteous and makes us truly righteous and holy, renewing and transforming us interiorly from sinners into righteous and holy people before him, a new creation in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), resplendent in his eyes. Christ is in us through our faith, working this transformation in us when we receive him with faith, especially in the sacrament of penance and in the Eucharist.

All this comes to us from the work of Christ on the cross and from the illumination of his resurrection, not from our own works. We only receive it through faith. We "know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law because by works of the law shall no one be justified" (Gal. 2:16). "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God-not because of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Rom. 3:28). "He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy" (Titus 3:5).

From then on, we have to cooperate with this grace by our good works, by being vigilant, for we can fall out of this grace and diminish its splendor in us by sinning, by falling into the desires of the flesh. Therefore a Christian always has to be vigilant, living in hope of the Lord's coming, prepared and ready for his coming, living wholly for him with all his heart. Thus do we sanctify ourselves, that is, grow in holiness, in sanctification. Thus does God's righteousness shine ever more brightly in us, making us beacons in the night for others (Phil. 2:15), that they too may leave the darkness of sin and sadness and walk with us in the new light that streams from the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We want Christ to catch us on guard, not off guard, awaiting him in the light, not asleep in the darkness of sin. "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour" (Matt. 25:13). We do not want to be like the foolish virgins who were not present when the bridegroom came, and when they returned, the door was shut, and the groom said to them, "Truly, I say to you, I do not know you" (Matt. 25:12). This might happen to us if we are not always vigilant and prepared. A Christian should therefore live in a constant state of preparedness and vigilance for the coming of the Lord.

We must wake up. It is already late. "Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed" (Rom. 13:11). "So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober" (1 Thess. 5:6). "I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short" (1 Cor. 7:29). Therefore, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light" (Eph. 5:14). "For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:8). "The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining" (1 John 2:8).

Guard yourselves in a state of constant preparedness for the coming of the Lord. May God "establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thess. 3:13). We are now awaiting his coming in glory on the clouds of heaven to consummate all things. May we live in holiness, always growing in sanctification by living a virtuous life of good works, the fruit of our justification and the means by which we grow in holiness. Let us live as sons of light. "So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober" (1 Thess. 5:6).


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