daily biblical sermons


CHRIST'S KINGDOM IS A KINGDOM OF LIGHT
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, 22nd Week of the Year, September 07, 2017
Colossians 1:9-14, Psalm 97, Luke 5:1-11


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted

 

"The Father ... has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:11-14).


Christ is our light. Here St. Paul rejoices in the great gift of God which he has given us in Christ, who has called us out of the darkness of sin, ignorance, and guilt to have a share in the inheritance of the saints in light. God in Christ has actually delivered us from the power of darkness and put us into the kingdom of his beloved Son; and being in Christ we have redemption by his blood, which makes reparation for our sins so that God forgives them when we put our faith in Christ.


The redemption that God gives us in Christ redeems us from our debt with God, because of our sins - a debt of punishment for them - which God held against us, causing us to be alienated from him, making us his enemies. We were therefore in a fearful state, dreading God's righteous judgment against us for our sins and unable to reconcile ourselves with him, unable to free ourselves from our guilt and our fear of God's righteous judgment against us.


But God himself in Christ has overcome all these obstacles by providing for us a ransom from our hopeless plight. He has sent Christ to assuage his own wounded justice, caused by our unjust sins against him. These sins cried out to God for punishment, and God sent his own Son to take the rap for us and endure our just punishment on the cross so that God's wounded justice might be satisfied, and we might go free.


Since justice has been done for our sins by Christ's death on the cross, God can now set us free from our sins, when we repent of them and put our faith in Christ's work for us on the cross.


This is the reality that St. Paul glories in today in our first reading. He says a great deal here. First of all he gives "thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12). We have not qualified ourselves for this, but God in Christ has made us fit to share the lot of the saints in light.


Of ourselves we were sinners, unworthy of any of this, incapable of attaining it. We had lost God's grace by Adam's sin, a grace that was only fully restored by Christ's death on the cross to make just reparation for it and for all our own sins. Hence "as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life" (Romans 5:18 NKJV). This is the "inheritance of the saints in light," in which we now share, because of Christ's one righteous act on the cross. We have been declared and made righteous by God, because of what Christ did for us on the cross, when we put our faith in him.


We are justified by Christ's one righteous act on the cross, through our faith in him. Being justified means that God pronounces us righteous and acquitted of all our sins that had blocked us from being reconciled with God. A just God can justly declare us sinners righteous, because Christ paid our debt of punishment that we owed God for our sins. So there was nothing unjust in his declaration.


Our faith in Christ enables God to apply this declaration to us personally, and since it is a divine declaration, it effects what it declares and actually makes us righteous and holy in God's sight, resplendent with Christ's own righteousness shining in us. So we have been made righteous by Christ, through our faith in him. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:19).


To be clothed with righteousness is a great gift, which only God can give, and he only gives it to us because of the death of Christ on the cross, which earned it for us, and he only gives it to those who put their faith in Christ. This is what "has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12). This is what has made us resplendent with Christ's own righteousness. We shine with his righteousness. This is what gives us light.


Then St. Paul says, God "has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13). His kingdom is a kingdom of light. If we put our faith in Christ and walk in his ways, we will shine with his own light in us.


This is the fulfillment of what Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). He also said, "I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness" (John 12:46). We will not remain in darkness if we believe in Christ, because we will shine with the righteousness of Christ himself.


St. Paul says, "For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). We are now light because of Christ. It is his righteousness that shines in us, an alien righteousness, not our own righteousness, so that we now shine because of the light of Christ's righteousness in us. Our light has come in him. But his righteousness then makes us righteous, and this is worked out in us gradually through a process of progressive sanctification.


The following prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled in us, because of Christ's work on the cross, through our faith in him:


"Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising" (Isaiah 60:1-3).


Then St. Paul says that it is in Christ "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14). What is this redemption that he is speaking of? It is the same redemption that St. Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1:7: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace." It is the redemption or the ransom that Christ paid to the Father with his blood, which results in the forgiveness of our sins. Christ's blood shed on the cross to atone for our sins by making full reparation for them is his redemption that he worked for us who have faith in him. This redemption is his one righteous act that brought us acquittal, life, and justification, enabling us to stand righteous before God and shine with Christ's own righteousness.


The Benedictus hymn that we sing or say every morning at lauds beautifully expresses the wonder that St. Paul is celebrating today. Zechariah praises God in this hymn for the redeemer that God is sending to his people through Mary, a redeemer whose way, Zechariah's son, John the Baptist, would prepare for him:


"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David" (Luke 1:68-69). This Savior will fulfill "the oath which he [God] swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life" (Luke 1:73-75).


Our enemies are sin, fear, guilt, and alienation from God. This Savior will free us from these enemies so that we might live and serve God "without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life" (Luke 1:74-75).


It is with the gift of Christ's own righteousness that we shall serve God in righteousness. God himself clothes us with Christ's own righteousness, because of Christ's work on the cross, when we repent of our sins and put our faith in him. All this will be fulfilled when the rising sun from on high shall visit us to shine upon those who are sitting in darkness.


This shall happen "through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:78-79). We are living in these times now, when we who once sat in darkness because of our sins and guilt have now been visited by the light from on high.


St. Paul speaks of this great enlightenment when he recounts the words of the risen Jesus to him at his conversion on the road to Damascus, telling him that it is to the Gentiles - "to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:17-18). We have received this gift by being called from darkness into light; and we are now to share it with others by preaching this good news of Christ to them.


This is the gift of salvation that we have received in Christ and are called to share with others.

 

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