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THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL AND OF OUR EVANGELIZATION
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, 27th Week of the Year, October 11, 2012
Gal. 3:1-5, Luke 1, Luke 11:5-13


"Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" (Gal. 3:2).


Here St. Paul is preaching the very heart of the gospel, the good news of salvation, which we need to discover anew in our day and put into the center of our preaching and evangelization if we want to preach with effect. This message is the very heart and center of authentic evangelization, namely that we are justified-made truly righteous, holy, and resplendent before God-by the death of Christ on the cross, for his death made reparation and satisfaction for all the sins of the world. Since man could not justify himself through his own good actions according to the law of God, God sent us a Savior who saved us by his death and resurrection when we believe in him, confessing our sins.


The Galatians received the Holy Spirit by hearing with faith the preaching of the gospel, the preaching of Christ crucified for us. They did not receive the Spirit through their own good works according to the law of God. Justification comes by hearing the gospel with faith, not by our own works according to the law. This is fundamental in the theology and preaching of St. Paul. "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). "We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Rom. 3:28; cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Phil. 3:9; Rom. 10:9-10). "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal. 2:21).


This is justification, the salvific act whereby God makes us righteous before himself by the death of Christ, who took upon himself the sins of the world and suffered for them on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24), suffering himself their punishment. Thus he is the propitiation and expiation for our sins (1 John 2:2; 4:10). Christ is the one "whom God put forward as an expiation, by his blood, to be received by faith" (Rom. 3:25). Christ took upon himself the curse of the law against all sin to shield us from this curse. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13), and the curse of the law for sin is the death of the sinner (Rom. 6:23), which Jesus suffered for us, instead of us, on the cross. God "condemned sin in the flesh" of Christ on the cross "in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8:3-4). And the just requirement of the law is that the sinner die for his sins (Rom. 6:23). Christ did this for us on the cross, justifying all who believe in him.


After justification comes sanctification in which we grow in virtue and holiness by doing the works of the law and by living a virtuous and holy life. Justification is always without works; but sanctification is always with works. The saints are those who were justified by faith without works and then lived a heroically holy and virtuous life of good works according to the law of God.


When we sin, we need once again the justifying work of Jesus Christ on the cross to forgive us through the merits of his death. We experience this especially in the sacrament of reconciliation, whereby the merits of the death of Christ are personally applied to us.


All of this is the very heart of the gospel and of the evangelization of the Church, something which we need to discover anew with new energy in our day and put into practice in our evangelization and new evangelization. This message must be put at the very center of our preaching and evangelization if we want to preach with effect.

 

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