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GOD'S MISSION IN THE WORLD
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 3rd Sunday of the Year, January 27, 2013
Neh. 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10, Ps. 18, 1 Cor. 12:12-30, Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21


"And he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing'" (Luke 4:21).


With these words Jesus begins his public ministry, according to St. Luke. His is a message of fulfillment. Jesus begins his mission to the world proclaiming that he fulfills the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah that he has just read: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Isa. 61:1-2; cf. Luke 4:18-19).


This is a message of salvation. Jesus proclaims that he is the one anointed by the Spirit and sent into the world to do these things, that the kingdom of God has entered the world in his own coming. Now, therefore, is the time of salvation. Jesus therefore "came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15). In Jesus the great hope for the salvation of the world has arrived. He is the beginning of saved humanity, whose mission is to renew the human race. This renewal of humanity that will extend to all parts of the world begins in him. From him it extends to the ends of the earth. This expanding movement of renewed humanity is the mission of the Church.


God's mission in the world is to renew the face of the earth. The preparation for this mission began in the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messianic age. In the fullness of time these prophecies were fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. It is in him that God's mission in the world will be carried out. In him the salvation of the world has arrived.


Those who are regenerated through their faith in him carry out God's mission to renew the face of the earth in all parts of the world, in all human languages, among all peoples, so that all may have the opportunity to hear this liberating message, this good news, this gospel, and be born anew in him for their salvation. They will be clothed with the very righteousness of God himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. So God's mission in the world has become the Son's mission. The Son carries out God's mission. God works his mission in the world through the Son. And the Son sent out his apostles in the power of the Holy Spirit to extend this mission, saying, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The successors of the apostles and all who are born again in Jesus Christ carry out God's mission to transform the face of the earth.


What is God's mission in the world like, which the followers of Jesus, that is, his Church, carry out? Jesus tells us today by citing Isaiah sixty-one, which he says he fulfills. It is a mission of proclaiming good news to the afflicted. To those who are depressed because of their sins and weighed down with guilt, walking in sadness and darkness, unable to get out of this pit, he proclaims liberation. He justifies them, forgives them, and makes them righteous through the merits of his cross, where he made just reparation and satisfaction for all the sins of the world. The announcement of this salvation is good news, it is the gospel that saves the afflicted of spirit and the depressed. This mission of God in the world through Jesus Christ and his Church in the power of the Holy Spirit binds up the brokenhearted. It is a proclamation of liberty to captives. The followers of Christ, who carry out God's mission in the world, "proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound" (Isa. 61:1).


The mission of the Church, which carries out God's mission in the world, gives relief to consciences afflicted by guilt for having sinned-even in very small things that nonetheless trouble us. The Church exercises this ministry especially in the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:23), which brings true peace to our conscience and gives us a ministry to proclaim this forgiveness of God through the cross of Jesus Christ to all who are ready to believe in him and confess their sins with repentance. Indeed, the mission of the Church, which is the fundamental and primary locus of God's mission in the world, proclaims "the year of the Lord's favor" (Isa. 61:2), a true jubilee, a year of release, blessing, forgiveness, and salvation.


Christ came to bring God's righteousness to the earth. He came to renew us by his righteousness, to renew the entire human race by his righteousness. He came to clothe us in his own righteousness: "He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10). This is Christ's mission, to bring his righteousness to the earth: "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 fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth" (Isa. 42:1, 4).


Those whom he saves shall be "called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified" (Isa. 61:3). He will remake us as trees of righteousness for his glory, clothed in his own righteousness (Isa. 61:10). He makes us truly righteous through his death, where he suffered in all justice our punishment for our sins to free us from them and from their punishment, namely this depression, this pain of guilt, this sadness of spirit that we feel when we sin, even in small things. Instead of this "he has covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Isa. 61:10). He clothes me in the very righteousness of Jesus Christ himself. It is his righteousness that now shines within me. His death forgave me, and his resurrection justifies me (Rom. 4:25). For Christ is now risen and dwells in my heart, shining in me with his own righteousness. Thus he makes me truly righteous through his dwelling within me, once I have been justly forgiven for my sins by his death in my place on the cross. Indeed his very kingdom is within me, "for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you (entos hymon)" (Luke 17:21 KJV).


In Christ God gives us "a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit" (Isa. 61:3). It is the mission of the Church, our mission, to proclaim this justification, forgiveness, and salvation to all parts of the world, to all we can reach, for this is none other than God's own mission in the world to renew the face of the earth and regenerate the human race. For the sake of this mission the Father sends the Son, and the Son sends his followers in the power of the Holy Spirit to work this renewal. This is the primary locus of God's work, of God's mission, in the world. Those who have been renewed and saved by Christ are now sent to the rest of humanity for their regeneration, to bring them this good news of salvation, to tell them that the kingdom of God has entered the world for the salvation of all who receive this good news with faith.

 

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