Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Jesus solves our real problem first--sin.

Thursday of 13th week in course 2015

Joy of the Gospel

At the birth of John the Baptist, his father–who had been speechless for nine months or so because of his lack of faith–broke out into song: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel. Toward the end of this prayer, he speaks to John–and to all his spiritual heirs. The Messiah will “give God’s people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” Now think about your worst problem. The paralytic in this Gospel probably would say, “I am paralyzed and cannot walk or work.” But suppose Jesus cured that, cured our worst problems, and left us in sin? That sin–even a venial one–affects our every waking moment and can even trouble our sleep. Ultimately, the mortal sins can deprive us forever of the vision of God, and bring us a forever of hurt. The venial ones will increase our need for scrubbing after death. If Jesus solved every other problem but not our sin, He would be like the repair man who plastered over a rotten wall. It might look good, but it hides a grave problem that would have later to be cured at a much higher cost.

So John, and Jesus, and you and I are given gifts that will help us to evangelize people we come into contact with. The Holy Father emphasizes this: ‘The Holy Spirit also enriches the entire evangelizing Church with different charisms. These gifts are meant to renew and build up the Church.[108] They are not an inheritance, safely secured and entrusted to a small group for safekeeping; rather they are gifts of the Spirit integrated into the body of the Church, drawn to the centre which is Christ and then channelled into an evangelizing impulse. A sure sign of the authenticity of a charism is its ecclesial character, its ability to be integrated harmoniously into the life of God’s holy and faithful people for the good of all. Something truly new brought about by the Spirit need not overshadow other gifts and spiritualities in making itself felt. To the extent that a charism is better directed to the heart of the Gospel, its exercise will be more ecclesial. It is in communion, even when this proves painful, that a charism is seen to be authentic and mysteriously fruitful. On the basis of her response to this challenge, the Church can be a model of peace in our world.

‘Differences between persons and communities can sometimes prove uncomfortable, but the Holy Spirit, who is the source of that diversity, can bring forth something good from all things and turn it into an attractive means of evangelization. Diversity must always be reconciled by the help of the Holy Spirit; he alone can raise up diversity, plurality and multiplicity while at the same time bringing about unity. When we, for our part, aspire to diversity, we become self-enclosed, exclusive and divisive; similarly, whenever we attempt to create unity on the basis of our human calculations, we end up imposing a monolithic uniformity. This is not helpful for the Church’s mission.’

I think of the way the world looks at Christian evangelism–a preacher standing on the corner and railing against sinners, imploring them to turn to Jesus, accept Him as personal savior, and “be saved.” I’m sure that sometimes that must work, or people wouldn’t keep doing it. But I also remember what I used to tell my life insurance salespeople: nobody is going to pay you money for making them feel bad. We attract people to Christ by acting in goodness and mercy and love, by witnessing cheerfully to the Truth, and by worshiping in beauty and integrity.

Last week I encountered a couple of parishioners who were depressed that the highest court in our land had made it the law of our land that two people of the same gender, who engage in abusive sexual acts with each other, can make that abuse the basis of marriage. I reminded them that over the next couple of years, as these attempted marriages fail and divorce proliferates, then the beauty of our own witness will shine more brightly. We cannot show a face of depression and despair to the world. They need a witness of hope. And they–especially those who are making a mockery of the marital covenant–need our prayers.

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