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CHRIST'S STRATEGIC MISSION PLAN
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 15th Sunday of the Year, July 12, 2015
Amos 7:12-15, Ps. 84, Eph. 1:3-14, Mark 6:7-13


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them" (Mark 6:12-13 NKJV).


This is the mission of the twelve apostles, sent out by Jesus. St. Matthew says, "And Jesus went to all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and infirmity" (Matt. 9:35). Jesus preached the kingdom of God, and his healings and exorcisms were demonstrations that he had the power to forgive sins and reconcile people with God. They were signs that in him the kingdom had arrived and that all things were being made new in him (Rev. 21:5; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). But Jesus wanted his apostles to help him in this preaching ministry, so he sends them out too, telling them, "Preach as you go, saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons" (Matt. 10:7-8). He also says, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest" (Matt. 9:37-38).


This ministry continues to the present day. It is the mission of the Church, given to her by the risen Lord, when he said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:16 NKJV), and "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20).


But what exactly is the good news that we are to preach? St. Paul tells us today. We are to preach: "In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he has lavished upon us" (Eph. 1:7-8). Christianity is first and foremost a religion of salvation. God saves us by sending us a Savior, who is himself God. This salvation consists in God himself taking upon himself our sins and suffering their full punishment for them to make full reparation for them in order to set us completely free from them, and to utterly cleanse and purify our conscience and make us new (2 Cor. 5:17) and righteous (Rom. 3:25-26; 1 John 2:2) in his sight, with no further debt to pay to God for our former sins. He is truly our Savior, our liberator.


This salvation renews our spirit and gives us a clean and happy conscience. This is the salvation that God wants to give us, and that he wants us to preach to others, to as many as we can reach. Too often too many think that the mission of the Church is primarily giving material aid to those in need. This, of course, is not excluded, but the primary focus of mission is preaching salvation in Jesus Christ and calling people to repent of their sinful and worldly ways and believe in Christ for their salvation, for the forgiveness of their sins, and the renewal of their life, for their transformation in Christ, that they might become a new creation, new men in Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:22-24), with a clean and happy conscience and a heart filled with light and peace.


Nothing in this world can give us this. And this, together with a sure hope of eternal life in heaven with God, is the most important thing in the world. Only God can give this to us, and he does so by becoming a man and dying on a cross in just reparation for our sins (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2), for our sins are precisely what destroy all this in us. Our sins destroy our clean and happy conscience and drive heavenly peace far from our heart. They separate and alienate us from God, putting us into darkness, sadness, and depression, filling us with guilt and fear for the future.


But this is not how God created man in the beginning. It is rather what happened to him because of Adam's sin and our sins. So God made a plan to save the human race through Jesus Christ, through our faith in him, because of his reparation-making death on the cross for our sins. In fact, as St. Paul says today, God "chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph. 1:4). This plan was a long time in coming in the mind of God. It is the focus of all his creative, redemptive work in the world. It is the center of his mission in the world; and it should also be the center of our mission in the world.


How could we ever achieve this salvation by ourselves? We might manage for a day or two, after he has forgiven us, to remain without any sin, but then we fall into new faults, thinking, saying, and doing things that we should not think, say, or do, and so again we lose this peace. But through faith, God restores us again, because of the merits of Christ's death, which made full and just reparation for all our faults and sins, when we repent, call out to him, and confess our sins. Indeed, God wants us to "be holy and blameless before him" (Eph. 1:4). Moreover, he wants us "to live for the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:12). St. Paul says, "We who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:12).


It is the mission of the Church to proclaim to the world this salvation, and this invitation to repentance and faith in order to receive it. This is what Christ himself wants us to do. This is why he sends us out to non-Christians and to parts of the world where most people have never heard the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ preached to them.


The gospel about our salvation through the death of Christ, by means of our faith in him, is something unknown to most people in the world. They have never heard it proclaimed that God has become a man and suffered to make reparation for our sins. This is news to them, good news, something they never heard of before, something they never even thought of or imagined before. But when they accept this message from God with faith in their heart, they are transformed by it, made a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), new men (Eph. 4:22-24), holy and blameless before God, forgiven, justified, made righteous, "to live for the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:12).


Then we should instruct people to take the narrow and hard way of life of the few; and leave the broad and easy way of the world, of the many, which is the way of destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). Christian growth is then growing in this way of holiness, letting the new man (Eph. 4:22-24) seep ever more into us, purifying and transforming us in Christ.

 

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