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THE CHRISTIAN'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORLD
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 7th Sunday of Easter, May 20, 2012
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26, Ps. 102, 1 John 4:11-16, John 17:11-19


"As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world" (John 17:18).


We are sent into the world, as Christ was sent into the world by his Father. "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21). We have a mission to the world. We are to preach Christ to the whole world. Those who receive our proclamation with faith receive Christ, and those who receive Christ receive the Father. This is our mission to the world as followers of Christ. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me" (John 13:20).


We do not go in mission to the world with our own word and message, but rather with the word and message of God, which is the proclamation of the salvation that God has sent to the world in his Son Jesus Christ. We go in the name and power of Christ, and Christ himself promises us, "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10:16). This mission to the world is of the greatest importance, for by preaching Christ in this way, we bring the world to the Father. "No one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:23). "Whoever confesses Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God" (1 John 4:15).


God gave us a mission of great importance when his Son sent us into the world. It is a mission of salvation. It is a mission to the world to save sinners. As Christ saved us from our sins, so now we in turn are sent to save other sinners. I participate in his mission to the world to save sinners, always remembering that he first of all saved me from my sins. We can say with St. Paul, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15).


We are sent into the world to preach the gospel to everyone and to try to convert and baptize them for their illumination, transformation, divinization, and salvation. This is the great commission that we received from Christ. It is our mission to the world. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). We are Christ's witnesses, sent out by him unto the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), to every people.


This is the correct orientation of the Christian to the world. He is to have missionary zeal toward the world to convert it and save it by preaching Christ to it. In going to the world we are to evangelize the world, not be corrupted by the world. We do not go to the world to arouse our passions and satisfy our worldly desires, or to entertain ourselves with the world's pleasures and delights, but rather we go to the world as missionaries to save the world; and we are never to forget that we are not of the world anymore than Christ was of the world (John 17:14). Indeed, the world will often hate and persecute us for preaching the gospel to it. This is what we hear in today's gospel: "I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14). We are not to let ourselves be corrupted by the world with its pleasures and entertainments that arouse our passions, divide our heart, and stain us with sin, causing us to forget God. Rather a Christian's goal is "to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27). We go in mission to the world to transform the world, not to be conformed to the world: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance" (1 Pet. 1:14).


It is clear that although as Christians we have a mission to the world to save the world, at the same time we are not of the world anymore than Christ was of the world (John 17:14). His call chose us out of the world (John 15:19), and we now renounce the worldliness of the world and do not follow its false ways and values and secularized lifestyle; and for this reason the world often persecutes and hates us. "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19). Therefore "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).


In fact, Jesus calls those who wish to be perfect to leave and renounce the world, as he called the rich young man (Matt. 19:21). In this way we can love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30) without any division of heart (1 Cor. 7:32-34). This is the contemplative life, the life that receives the hundredfold reward (Matt. 19:29; Luke 18:29). Yet even in the contemplative life we can still exercise a mission to the world-writing and publishing sermons on the internet, for example-but we do not participate in its entertainments and pleasures that divide the heart. We guard ourselves to remain "unstained from the world" (James 1:27). We crucify ourselves to the world (Gal. 6:14). We renounce the world's pleasures to obtain the pearl of great price and the buried treasure (Matt. 13:44-46). We cannot obtain this pearl and treasure except by renouncing the world and its delights to keep our heart totally undivided for God, just as the men in these two parables could only obtain their pearl and treasure by selling all they had. We therefore seek the things that are above, not those that are on earth in our quest for happiness (Col. 3:1-2). We want to avoid the thorns, which are the pleasures of life, which will choke us so that we do not bear fruit (Luke 8:14). In this way we live radically for one master only (Matt. 6:24) and have only one treasure (Matt. 6:19-21).


This is the Christian orientation to the world. He seeks to save the world by preaching Christ to the world, while at the same time keeping himself "unstained from the world" (James 1:27).

 

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