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IT WAS NECESSARY FOR THE CHRIST TO SUFFER
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, Easter Thursday, April 04, 2013
Acts 3:11-26, Ps. 8, Luke 24:35-48


"What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:18-19).


Here St. Peter proclaims the gospel of the salvation of God now available in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, through faith in him. Part of this gospel is that is was necessary that Christ suffer, and that, as St. Peter says, his sufferings were "foretold by the mouth of all the prophets" (Acts 3:18). Christ's suffering is the means that God uses for our salvation. Moreover it was necessary that he should suffer, for only in this way could he undergo the punishment due for our sins instead of us, thus expiating them in all justice, as is proper for an all-just as well as all-merciful God. Thus Christ's suffering propitiated divine justice by making reparation and satisfaction for our sins. It was this expiatory suffering that was announced ahead of time by the prophets. Isaiah said: "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). "He shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:11). God punished him for our sins. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5).


This is God's plan for our salvation. It was necessary that Christ should suffer, and this was announced beforehand by the prophets. God had to do it in this way in order to maintain his justice in forgiving our sins. There had to be effective and just reparation for our sins. Only Jesus Christ's sacrifice of himself was able to do this. And when we put our faith and trust in him and in his work for us on the cross, we are saved and transformed, with all our sins forgiven. It is his work alone that does this, not ours. We only receive it by faith. The result is that we have a good, happy, and clean conscience; and there is no happiness like that of a clean conscience; as there is no sadness like that of a guilty conscience. Our faith in Christ's work on the cross is what cleanses our conscience. This is called salvation. It consists in the forgiveness of our sins and being filled with the Holy Spirit and the very righteousness of Christ himself.


In today's gospel the risen Christ tells us the same thing, the same basic proclamation (kerygma) about the necessity of Christ's sufferings and the good results they bring us. "Everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled ... 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" (Luke 24:44, 46-47). In other words, what happened to Christ was necessary for our salvation, and the prophets foretold that it would happen.


Since this is the necessary means God uses for the salvation of all who are saved, he therefore gives the Church the mission to preach this way of salvation through the sufferings of Christ to all the peoples of the earth, so that all might be converted to him for their salvation and in order to enter into the fullness of God's revelation and life.


St. Paul has the same message. In Thessalonica "for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead" (Acts 17:2-3). Before King Agrippa St. Paul said, "I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass; that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:22-23).


We rejoice today in the necessary suffering of Christ on the cross, through which we have a new life in God with all our sins forgiven through our faith in him.

 

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