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JESUS ESTABLISHES RIGHTEOUSNESS UPON THE EARTH THROUGH OUR FAITH IN THE GOSPEL
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, of Holy Week, March 26, 2018
Isaiah 42:1-7, Psalm 26, John 12:1-11


Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

"Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law" (Isaiah 42:1-4).


As we begin Holy Week, the liturgy gives us the first Suffering Servant hymn of Isaiah as our first reading today. This is a prophetic figure of a future Savior who will bring justice and righteousness to the earth. He will be gentle, and he will suffer. Our sins will be placed upon him and he will be bruised and wounded for them (Isaiah 53:5-6). He will be punished for our sins instead of us. He will be our substitute. By his being punished for our sins as our representative and substitute, we who believe in him will be set free by God. God will declare us righteous, because our sins have been fully and justly dealt with in him; they have been fully punished in him, in his suffering.


So we who have faith in him have no more to suffer in punishment for our sins. This is how we are justified by our faith in him, not by our works. We are declared and made righteous by the Father, because of the Servant's substitutionary work of suffering for us the just punishment for our sins to make full and just reparation for them.


The Servant's mission is to bring justice and righteousness to the earth. He does so by making us just and righteous through our faith in him. Jesus is the fulfillment of this Suffering Servant figure of Isaiah. We celebrate his death for our sins and his resurrection for our justification (Romans 4:25) especially during Holy Week.


"He will bring forth justice to the nations" (Isaiah 42:1). "He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law" (Isaiah 42:3b-4).


This is what we rejoice in in Christ. He brings righteousness and God's peace to the earth, and he does so by being punished for our sins to atone for them as our substitute, just as the animal sacrifices did, the animal dying in substitutionary punishment for the sinner's sins so that the sinner could be acquitted and declared righteous by God, for his sins have been punished in his substitute, the lamb of sacrifice.


This is why Jesus is called "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He is like the lamb of sacrifice that suffers for our sins so that we might be acquitted and declared righteous by God. This is how Jesus will fulfill the prophecies that he will bring righteousness to the earth:


"Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore" (Isaiah 9:7). "Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins" (Isaiah 11:5). "He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth and the coastlands wait for his law" (Isaiah 42:3b-4).


St. Augustine says about Christ in today's office of readings, "He loved us so much that, sinless in himself, he suffered for us sinners the punishment we deserved for our sins ... He bore the punishment of sinners, though without sin himself." This is the meaning of Jesus' death on the cross. "He suffered for us sinners the punishment we deserved for our sins ... He bore the punishment of sinners, though without sin himself." Therefore God could justly set us free from our sins and from further punishment for them, for Christ has already suffered it for us. Through faith in him we are therefore declared acquitted and righteous by God.


But how can we put our faith in Christ and in his atoning death for our sins unless we have heard about him and about what God sent him to do for us? The message about all this is called the gospel. The gospel must be preached to all the peoples of the earth to give everyone the opportunity to know what God has done for our salvation in Jesus Christ so that they can believe in him and accept him as their Savior. That is why we preach the gospel. This is the mission of the Church and the reason for it.


There are also people who are Christians and Catholics who do not know or understand this gospel message. They too need to be more carefully evangelized. They know that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died on the cross and rose from the dead, and they believe in this; but they do not understand that our sins were placed upon Jesus by God so that he could make just reparation for them by suffering their just punishment for us that we owe God for our sins. They do not realize that Christ substituted for us on the cross. We should have been on the cross suffering the punishment of God for our sins, but Christ substituted for us and took our place. The message about this is the gospel, the good news of salvation that Christ sends us out to preach to the world.


Perhaps a good example to help them grasp this would be to tell them that it is like we were guilty of grave sins and were sentenced to death by lethal injection, but Christ said he would take our place and be lethally injected instead of us so that the law would be fulfilled for us by him and we could be set free.


This is the gospel, the good news that we preach to the world, especially during Holy Week. We preach that Jesus took our place and agreed to be executed instead of us so that we could be set free by God if we put our faith in him and agree to accept his work of substitutionary satisfaction for our sins.


"Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15) is what we preach. If you do, you will be justified, forgiven, and saved from your sins.


This is so important because there is no other way to be justified. We will never be able to be justified by our works. That was the error of those Jews that rejected Jesus because they thought that they could justify themselves by their own works and so did not need Jesus as their Savior.


About those Jews St. Paul says, "For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness" (Romans 10:3). "Israel who pursued the righteousness which is based on law did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works" (Romans 9:31-32).


The gospel is not something to be ashamed of, but rather is something to be boldly proclaimed to the ends of the earth. St. Paul says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live'" (Romans 1:16-17).


In the gospel the righteousness of God, whereby he makes us righteous, is revealed and made available to all that put their faith in Christ. The gospel is more than just a message. It is the power of God for salvation that we present to people when we preach the gospel to them. The gospel will make them righteous. It will establish righteousness upon the earth.

 

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