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SENT OUT WITH THE MESSAGE OF ETERNAL LIFE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 4th Sunday of Lent, March 18, 2012
2 Chr. 36:14-16, 19-23, Ps. 136, Eph. 2:4-10, John 3:14-21


"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).


This is one of the most important verses of the Bible. It reveals to us that God sent his only Son into the world to give us eternal life. It says that "whoever believes in him" will have eternal life. Eternal life is a new kind of life that we receive now in this present life, when we believe in Jesus Christ. And this new life, which we receive now by believing in him, will not die but will continue forever and save us from death. It will enable us to survive death and continue living with Christ in heaven, in the kingdom of our Father, until Christ comes again in glory to give us our risen bodies (1 Thess. 4:16), and so we shall continue to live in the world of the resurrection, in the New Jerusalem, on the new earth (Rev. 21:1, 10). And there we shall live forever in glorified bodies, "where the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43).


In Jesus Christ, through faith in him, we have a sure and clear hope that if we believe in him, we will never die, but rather will live with him in glory forever. This is the great revelation that he gave us. Jesus was sent into the world by the Father to reveal this good news to us, and not only to reveal it but to himself be the way and the means given to us by God to live forever. Jesus Christ is, in fact, himself this life. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). He is our eternal life. "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). See how important it is to believe in him. He saves us from death when we believe in him.


And what is eternal life? It is to know the one true God and Jesus Christ. To know Jesus Christ and to believe in him is to have eternal life. "This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Jesus' mission was to give eternal life to all who believe in him. "For 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). Christ has this power from the Father, namely to give life to all who believe in him. This is why he came into the world.


Moreover Jesus Christ is the bread of life, and if we eat him in the Eucharist, we will have this new divine life in us and will never die. Those who do not eat him do not have his life in them in the way he wants to give it to us. Holy Communion is very important, for by it the divine person of Jesus Christ, incarnate and sacramentalized as eucharistic bread, enters into us and renews us, illuminating us from within and filling us with divine love and a light not of this world. "Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you'" (John 6:53). This sacrament is most important. God knows what we need as human beings with a body and soul, and therefore he gave us the Eucharist. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54).


In Jesus we have a sure and clear hope for the future beyond death, but we also already begin in this present life to enjoy the delights of that future life, for in believing in him we already pass from death to life. "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). This is why Christ tells us that we already have this life if we believe in him. He says that he must be lifted up, "that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:15). Therefore "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). "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).


Christ came for this reason, to give us divine life, the life of God, eternal life, the life that does not die. This was his mission. "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). He sent his apostles, his Church, to continue his mission to the world, his mission to save the world, to preach the gospel to the world, the good news about Jesus Christ, so that all who believe in him may not perish but have eternal life. It is the mission of the Church to preach this good news to all the peoples of the world to give all the opportunity to have this life by knowing the only Son of God in his only incarnate form and believing in him. All should have this opportunity to believe in him for eternal life so that they can die with him to their past life and to sin, and rise with him in the glory of his resurrection, and so walk in the newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4), illuminated by his resurrection. His death saved us from our sins, paying for us our debt of punishment for them, and his resurrection illuminates and justifies us (Rom. 4:25).


We who have this new life in Christ now have a mission to spread this life in the world. We want to give to all the clarity and assurance of this hope so that they do not continue to walk in darkness, doubt, and fear. We bear a message of hope for both this life and the next. We give to all a new opportunity. We are sent out by God himself and given a mission by the Son of God to preach this good news to the ends of the earth for the salvation of all who accept it with faith (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15).

 

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