daily biblical sermons


A CHRISTIAN SHARES IN CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS BY PREACHING THE GOSPEL
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Friday, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15, 2017
1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14, Psalm 15, John 19:25-27


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted

 

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (John 19:25-27).


This memorial focuses on Mary's sharing in Jesus' suffering at his crucifixion. Here she now is standing at the foot of Jesus' cross, faithfully watching her beloved son die a slow, painful, and shameful death as a condemned criminal being publicly executed by crucifixion.


As Jesus' followers, we will also suffer as he did. Jesus saves us by his death on the cross. But the cross is also the sign of our own suffering with him for our faith in him. Jesus prepared us for this when he said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25 NKJV). For Christ's sake, we who believe in Jesus are to live a life of self-denial, carry our cross, and follow him. We are to lose our life for his sake in order to find it.


The cross both redeems us and is the pattern of our life as Christians. We believe in Jesus and so the reparation he made for our sins by suffering and dying for them on the cross is credited to our account, and God declares us acquitted from our sins and righteous, when we put our faith in Christ.


But then we are expected to enter a process of gradual sanctification, which is a life lived according to the pattern of the cross. We are to live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us. "And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:15). To live for Christ and not for ourselves means living a life of self-denial, seeking not our own pleasure in worldly things, but rather seeking our delight in the Lord. This is to live according to the pattern of the cross.


If we are justified through our faith in Christ, because of his atoning death that made full reparation for our sins, we will begin to live a new life and we will find that we too are persecuted by the world, as Christ was. This will be part of our new life as Christians, namely to share in the same kind of suffering that Christ suffered on this earth for preaching the truth. So living as a Christian means suffering the same kind of persecution that Christ suffered.


Jesus prepared us to share in his suffering when he said, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you" (John 15:18-20).


The world will quickly sense that we Christians are not of the world, that we do not share its false worldly values, and it will therefore hate and despise, reject and persecute us for what we believe and preach and for the very different way we now live because of Christ. We will want to find our delight in the Lord, not in worldly things that dilute and diminish the joy we find in God. And so we will find ourselves persecuted for Christ's sake.


But Jesus prepared us for this when he said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV). This is the life that we are to expect as Christians. It will be a share in Christ's own suffering. We, like Mary, will share in Christ's suffering for living and preaching as he did.


We will preach salvation through faith in Christ, because of his blood shed in reparation for our sins on the cross, but not all will accept our preaching. Not all accepted the preaching of Jesus, and they crucified him. Not all accepted the preaching of St. Paul, and we all know what great persecutions he suffered wherever he went. He describes the apostolic life that he led and that we also are called to live:


"I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things" (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).


The world and the worldly rejected St. Paul and the message of salvation that he preached. If we preach the same message, we will also be rejected by many. We must be ready for this and preach it anyway. As Mary suffered beneath the cross of her dying beloved son, so will we suffer for following Christ and preaching the gospel.


Will we live up to the example of St. Paul and be able to say with him, "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)?


So it is clear that as Christians we are to share in the cross of Christ both by living a life of self-denial and by being persecuted for our witness and our proclamation of the gospel. This should not surprise or scandalize us. This is the life we are called to live.


But it is a blessed life, for no one will really harm us if we are living for Christ and preaching his gospel wherever we find ourselves, for "who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? But even if you do suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled" (1 Peter 3:13-14). It is a glorious call and task to preach the genuine gospel of Jesus Christ, to speak, write, and preach the truth of God to all we can reach. In doing so we are calling people to life, justification, and salvation.


We are calling people to genuinely repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. If people believe what we preach, God will then free them from their depression of guilt for their sins and reconcile them with himself, proclaiming them righteous and friends of God, dead because of the death of Christ to their former sins, which weighed them down, and now raised with Christ to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).


What greater thing could anyone do to his fellow man than minister the gospel of life to him? By preaching the gospel we call people to new life through faith in Christ, which is precisely what Christ wants us to do. He wants people to hear and receive this call to faith in him, for this is how God will be able to personally credit Christ's death for their sins to their account and declare them fully acquitted and righteous.


If we are rejected by some, as was St. Paul, for preaching this good news from God, we will be greatly blessed by God for dedicating our life to and even suffering persecution for so noble a task and mission.


So "beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God" (1 Peter 4:12-16).


It is a mistake to contradict the Scriptures and think that people do not need to hear the gospel because they are already saved. Christ tells us to preach the gospel to all nations, to make disciples of all peoples. He sends us out to do this because this is his plan for the salvation of the world, namely that all people have the opportunity to hear how Christ saved us from our sins by the reparation he made for them by his death on the cross, so that they might believe in him in order that God might credit Christ's atoning work on the cross personally to their account and therefore acquit them of their sins and declare them righteous.


If we suffer something for proclaiming this truth, this gospel, we will be blessed, for "if you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (1 Peter 4:14). Any such persecution will make us like Mary and St. Paul in their suffering with Christ, and like St. Paul we will be able to say, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Colossians 1:24). Christ's sufferings are, of course, sufficient in themselves for the salvation of the whole world, but, like St. Paul, we will join our sufferings to Christ's suffering in preaching and witnessing to the truth of the gospel before all we can reach.

 

 

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