daily biblical sermons

The gospel must be preached to all nations so that all that trust in Jesus' death to atone for their sins might be saved
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, the 29th Sunday of the Year (World Mission Sunday), October 18, 2020
Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 97, Romans 10:9-18, Matthew 28:16-20 The readings for World Mission Sunday are taken from the Mass for the Evangelization of Peoples (as approved by the Ordo for today)

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’” (Matthew 28:16-20).



Today is World Mission Sunday and the Ordo permits us to use the readings from the Mass for the Evangelization of Peoples, which I have done. The Church is a fundamentally missionary group, founded by Jesus Christ himself in order to bring the good news of salvation in him to the ends of the earth so that people of every language, nation, religion, and culture might hear it and have the opportunity to believe in it so that they might be saved and have eternal life.



Mission is necessary because man has fallen through Original Sin and become alienated from God. God therefore made a plan to restore man once again to unity with him by overcoming his alienation from him, caused by the Original Sin of the first man and woman, compounded by our own personal actual sins. For our sins we owe God everlasting punishment, and, as should be obvious, anyone who serves his just punishment for his sins is not and cannot be saved, for he is serving his sentence for his sins for all eternity. This shows the justice of God. But God is also merciful. Yet he cannot exercise his mercy in a way that violates and contradicts his justice.



Therefore, God’s plan to save us was to send his only Son into the world as a man to suffer our just sentence for our sins for us, which he did by suffering and dying on the cross. But one might object that his death only took a few hours, and we are sentenced to eternal death; so how does his brief death pay our eternal death sentence for us? The answer is that Jesus is no ordinary man, but the divine Son of God and therefore even his few hours of suffering and dying in a most painful and shameful way is equivalent in the eyes of God to the eternal death of the entire human race from Adam to the last man for all their sins.



But then you might ask what do we have to do to be saved? The answer is that in order for Jesus’ suffering and death to be counted by God as though it were our own eternal suffering and death in punishment for our sins we must know about Jesus and his universally atoning death, and we must accept it, believe in it, and put our trusting faith in it for our salvation. When we do this, God justifies us. That is, God counts Christ’s suffering and death on the cross as paying our debt of suffering and death that we have with God in punishment for our sins; and so, seeing that our sins no longer need any further punishment, since they have already been punished in Christ’s flesh on the cross (Romans 8:3-4), when we put our faith in Christ, God credits our personal account with Christ’s death on the cross as paying our debt of suffering and death that we owe him for our sins and declares us ungodly sinners righteous.



We are not made righteous by our own merits or good works, but simply by a declaration of God on the basis of our trusting faith in Christ and his atoning death for our sins. So, our part in being justified is to put our faith in Jesus Christ and trust in his atoning death to overcome our alienation from God and reconcile us with him.



But for all of this to take place, people have to know about Jesus Christ. They have to know that God became incarnate as a man on earth in Jesus of Nazareth who lived two thousand years ago in Palestine and was put to death on a cross by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, at the instigation of the Jews.



And how are people to know this? They are to know this by people who preach the gospel either by word-of-mouth or in writing or both, as St. Paul did. People who have never heard of Christ can’t call upon him and his atoning death, because they have never heard of him and don’t believe in him. Therefore, missionaries are needed to preach the gospel to people of every culture, language, religion, and nation on earth, for “How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15 NRSV).



So, we see that the idea of Christian mission is not universalism, that is, that all people everywhere will automatically be saved whether they have faith or not. Universalism is the death of Christian mission, because it makes it irrelevant and unnecessary and therefore a waste of time and a waste of one’s life spent in preaching the gospel to people of other countries. St. Paul does not believe that pagans can call upon their own gods and that that will be sufficient for them to be saved, for he asks, how can people call on the Lord if they have never heard of him?



When St. Paul says, “The Lord,” he means here the Lord Jesus Christ. And what he says is true. You cannot call upon the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation if you have never heard of him and don’t know who he is or what he has done to save us. It simply can’t be done. You can call on your pagan divinities, but St. Paul clearly sees that that is totally inadequate for salvation.



So, the whole motivation for St. Paul to traverse the then known world and preach Christ in its major cities and hope that from there the gospel would trickle down to the villages and fields and ordinary people – his whole motivation for doing this is based on his conviction that salvation is only available in Jesus Christ and that one must know what he has done for us and call upon him with faith to be saved. So, in order that people might know about Jesus Christ and have the opportunity to call upon him with faith, St. Paul spent his life preaching the gospel throughout the Roman Empire.



St. Paul spent his life making Christ and his gospel known so that as many people as possible might hear about Jesus Christ and have the opportunity to believe in him and call upon him with faith for their salvation. Indeed, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the only one that made reparation for our sins and therefore it is only by faith in him that our sins are justly punished in his flesh (Romans 8:3-4), for he is our substitute whom God sent to us to suffer our punishment for our sins for us. Therefore, only those that put their faith in him are declared righteous by God, and if they then remain faithful to him and follow God’s normative biblically revealed moral law, they will ultimately be saved.



So, Jesus tells his disciples today, “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” (Matthew 28:19-20). So, what do missionaries do? They go out into the whole world, into foreign countries, and make disciples of all nations. How do you make disciples of people of all nations? You have to preach to them and teach them about Christianity, and if they believe and are converted and submit to baptism they become disciples.



So, a missionary basically goes out with the purpose of converting people from their own indigenous or native religion to Christ by his preaching and teaching. But simply converting someone is not enough. For a missionary must also be “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). This means that a missionary must teach people all that we know about Jesus from the Scriptures, together with important teachings of the Church.



This is a lot of material that we have to teach people. We can go through the gospels and the parables and read them to the people and explain them in detail and discuss them with them over a period of time, perhaps a year or more – that is how we make disciples. So, conversion really is the goal of mission. Jesus also says that we are to baptize them in the name of the Trinity. That is also fundamental to mission.



However, we note that the good thief on the cross was promised salvation by Jesus in the last moments of his life and he went to heaven unbaptized. So it is possible that pagans in remote areas of the world who have still not heard about Jesus Christ and are not baptized may through the preaching of a missionary or today through the Internet, through reading the gospels and sermons on websites and through watching and listening to sermons and presentations of Christianity on YouTube a person may believe in his heart the gospel that he hears or that he reads on the Internet and come to saving faith in Christ. This will be sufficient for salvation if there is no Church around where he can be baptized.



So, this gives us great hope in the importance and power of preaching the gospel and teaching people either in person or virtually online all that Jesus has taught us. We see that this kind of work has great meaning and importance for the salvation of the world. It is part of the missionary work of the Church. But, of course, in-person teaching by missionaries who have their boots on the ground in many foreign countries and establish Churches that people can go to and be baptized and receive the sacraments and participate in the sacrifice of the Mass, which is the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the honor and glory of God and the salvation of the world, is of the greatest importance.




Let us pray today for missionaries and for the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ by word-of-mouth, by written sermons on websites and spoken sermons on YouTube so that people all over the world might be blessed and saved by hearing and believing in the gospel.


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