daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 2nd Sunday of Easter, April 07, 2013
Acts 5:12-16, Ps. 117, Rev. 1, 9-11, 12-13, 17-19, John 20:19-31

"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:30-31).

In Jesus Christ there is life. He came to give us life; that is, divine life, God's own life, so that we might be filled with his life. This life never dies, for it is eternal life that fills us with God and unites us to him. Those who receive this life never die, but rather after their bodily death continue to live with God in heaven. Jesus Christ came into the world for this reason, namely to give us his own life, which he shares with the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ is the source of this life, and he gives it to us through our faith in him. Everyone who believes in him has this life. Apart from Christ this life is not available. He alone is its source. "God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life" (1 John 5:11-12). It is for this reason that Jesus sent his disciples to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), namely that all might hear the gospel preached to them and believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life.

Eternal life does not just enable us to continue to exist after our death, for even those who go to hell continue to exist. Rather it enables us to continue to live in union with Christ in heaven with God in his splendor and love. Only the Son gives this life, and he gives it to us through our faith in him. It is the mission of the Church, given to her by Christ, to preach this gospel to all the peoples of the world so that all might believe in him and thus be able to enter into the fullness of God's revelation, life, and love in this life, and then after death continue to live in union with Christ in his loving relationship with the Father in the Holy Spirit. This is to have life in both this life and the next. It comes to us through our union with Jesus Christ through our faith in him. "He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life" (1 John 5:12). "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him" (John 3:36). "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24). In Jesus Christ we have already passed from death to life, and so we will not be condemned after death if we die in the state of grace. If we sin, we need to be justified again through our faith in Christ, especially by means of the sacrament of reconciliation, which Jesus institutes in today's gospel reading (John 20:22-23).

Jesus Christ himself is life, the source of our eternal life, and the assurance of our future resurrection. "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). "Truly, truly, I say to you if any one keeps my word he will never see death" (John 8:51). "This is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40). "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life" (John 6:47). "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). We cannot merit this eternal life by our works. The only work involved here is that of Christ. But we are to avoid sin and do good works to receive a higher place in the life to come. Yet we do not earn eternal life itself with our works. It comes to us only through the work of Christ on the cross, and is received by faith.

Christ is the source of eternal life because he died for us to make reparation for our sins, which bring us death. In fact, it was necessary for Christ to suffer and die in order to save us from death and give us eternal life. Only in this way could God forgive our sins, give us eternal life, and yet remain an all-just God. In order for God to forgive us and still remain all just, there had to be just reparation for our sins. Since God is as just as he is merciful and loving, it was necessary that his Son die for our sins. Only the penal suffering and death of the Son of God, punished as a criminal, would have the power to make reparation for the sins of the world and so propitiate divine justice and expiate our sins. It was necessary that he take our punishment upon himself to free us from it and from our sins. There was no other sacrifice capable of paying our just debt of punishment due for our sins in order to expiate them. Only Christ's sacrifice of himself could do that. And since he is one being with the Father and is God himself, his sacrifice also manifests the infinite mercy and love of God, for in his sacrifice God himself paid our debt of punishment due for our sins. Thus one and the same act enables God to forgive us and still remain true to his nature as all just, while at the same time revealing to us his infinite mercy and love.

Jesus himself tells us that his sacrificial death was necessary for our salvation and for the forgiveness of our sins. Only in this way could he redeem us. He said, "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised" (Luke 9:22). He had to be killed in order "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45) and in order that his blood be "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt. 26:28). The risen Christ spoke of the necessity of his sacrifice when he asked the disciples on the way to Emmaus, "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26). This was God's plan, a necessary one so that Christ could become the means for the forgiveness of sins for all who believe in him. So that all might believe in him, he sent his disciples to the ends of the earth to preach this good news to all nations. "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things" (Luke 24:46-48).

"In fact, man could have been saved in no other way ... It was necessary for Christ to suffer: his passion was absolutely unavoidable. He said so himself when he called his companions dull and slow to believe because they failed to recognize that he had to suffer and so enter into his glory ... This salvation ... could be achieved only by the suffering of the author of our life" (St. Anastasius of Antioch, Breviary, Easter Tuesday).

Therefore we now rejoice, "for Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Cor. 5:7). In him God himself paid our debt of punishment for our sins and so purchased for us eternal life. Our eternal life with God was bought for us by the blood of Christ, poured out in reparation for our sins. "By dying he destroyed our death, and by rising, restored our life" (Easter Preface I), which was lost by the sin of Adam. In Christ we have the fullness of life. For this reason Christ came into the world and died, so "that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

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