Sunday Sermon for April 22, 2012, the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B
Readings: Acts: 3:13-15,17-19; 1Jn 2:1-5a, Lk 24:35-48
In the first two readings today we hear Jesus called the Holy and Righteous One, the Author of Life, the Advocate and the Expiation for our sins. When we put these against their opposites we have one who is unholy and not righteous, one who is the author of death, one who tries to do things on his own and one who is left in his sin. It would seem fairly clear that these qualities describe the enemy of our souls, but they also describe us when we choose mortal sin and refuse to repent.
While it is true that we are not the author of death per se, we certainly have chosen death over life for our own selves when we choose sin. Death came into the world through the envy of the devil, but when we sin we have make the choice to reach out to death. This is why we need an Advocate; we cannot do it ourselves.
Jesus offered Himself for our sins; in so doing He is essentially pledging to give us everything else we need to grow in holiness. St. Paul asks the Roman if they thought that God, Who gave His only Son for us, would withhold anything else from us. Since the greater always contains the lesser, and since nothing is or can be greater than Jesus, then God has already given us everything in Jesus and will certainly not deny us whatever we truly need.
Sometimes we think that we are too sinful, too rotten or too evil to approach Him. After all, He is the Holy and Righteous One. However, He is also the expiation for our sins; there is nothing too big for Him to remove, the only stipulation is that we have to want it removed. He will not force anything upon us, even if it is good. In the face of our sinfulness, God has given us One Who would not only remove our sins, but would infuse His Own righteousness into us. Therefore, we should not be afraid to approach Him because the reason He came into this world was to transfer us from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light.
This being the case, He did not come to us because we were good, righteous and holy. In fact, He even said that He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. He knows how sinful we are, but He came to us, loved us, and died for us because we were sinful. If we refuse to come to Him, no matter how pious sounding the reason may be, it is really just an act of pride on our part. Perhaps it is because we do not really want to get rid of sin in our lives, perhaps it is because we really think ourselves unworthy of Him or, perhaps, it is because we think we need to earn or deserve His gifts.
It is true that we are unworthy of Him and, by our own strength and ability, we will never be worthy. But this goes with the last point of thinking that we have to earn or deserve His gifts. First of all, if we earned or deserved them, they would be a reward, not a gift. Second, It is He Who makes us righteous and worthy; we simply cannot do this on our own. This is precisely why we need an Advocate, a Mediator with the Father. The only thing we can show to God that we have done by ourselves is sin; there is nothing righteous that was done without the grace that comes from Jesus.
Once we are convinced of this point, then we can recognize the freedom we have in depending upon the Lord. This does not sound like freedom if it requires dependence, but this is not a dependence that constrains us; instead, it will fulfill us. It is freedom because it requires our free will and it fulfills us because it is what is truly best for us.
The only question remaining is whether or not we really want to get rid of sin in our lives. Jesus told His disciples in the Gospel today that repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name was to be preached. This is exactly what the Apostles preached and what the Church has taught ever since. In His mercy our Lord opened the minds of the Apostles to understand the Scriptures. Maybe we need to ask Him to open our minds to see how much our sins offend Him. Once we have this knowledge, we will certainly repent, turn to Jesus as our Advocate, pray to Him for the expiation of our sins, receive the life of grace from the Author of life and become sharers in His holiness and righteousness.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.