daily biblical sermons


THE GOSPEL MESSAGE HAS BEEN GIVEN TO US TO SHARE WITH OTHERS AND THE AMAZON SYNOD
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, 25th Week of the Year, September 23, 2019
Ezra 1:1-6, Psalm 125, Luke 8:16-18


 

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

 

 

 

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:16-18).

 

 

Today Jesus reminds us that the great light of the gospel about our salvation in Jesus Christ, through our faith with him, because of his atoning death for our sins on the cross, has been given to us not for our own consolation and salvation only but to share with others. We are not to put this light under a basket, but rather share it with others, for “no one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light” (Luke 8:16).

 

 

So important is it that we share the gospel with others that Jesus says in today’s gospel reading, “Take heed then to how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, but from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:18). If we have the gospel message shining and working richly in our life, illuminating us and showing us the way, and if we share this illumination with others, more illumination will be given to us, “for to him who has will more be given” (Luke 8:18a).

 

 

But if we just keep it with ourselves and do not share with others the word of salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ, because of his atoning death for our sins on the cross, we will not be living properly as Christians. We will not have the fullness of the gospel ourselves if we do not share it with others, and even the little that we think we have will be taken away from us, for “from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:18b).

 

 

So here we see the challenge of Christian mission. The word of life, the word of salvation in Jesus Christ that we have received, we must share with others or lose it ourselves, and even the little that we might still have left in us will be taken away from us. Christ warns us of this very clearly in today’s gospel reading, when he speaks of those that light a lamp and then cover it with a basket or put it under a bed. He says we must not do this, but rather put it on a lampstand so that everyone who enters may see the light.

 

 

Jesus spoke many things in a hidden way during his earthly life and could not clearly manifest the real essence of the gospel, because the key events had not yet taken place, namely his death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. So the deeper truths were for the most part hidden from the understanding of his apostles, and it was only after Pentecost that they were finally able to put it all together and understand what Jesus was really about and what their mission in the world was. All the things that were not yet clearly explained but were kept secret finally became manifest, “for nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).

 

 

But there seems to be a strange new spirit in some parts of the Church today that tells us the exact opposite of what Jesus is telling us in today’s gospel. There seems to be a new perplexity about what exactly the gospel message is, a new uncertainty as to what we should preach, and a new fear of even trying to explain and preach in a convincing way the saving truths of the Christian faith for fear of imposing ourselves on others or disturbing other people’s beliefs.  

 

 

So today we have the strange phenomenon in the Catholic Church of a vast synod that is about to begin in two weeks in Rome (the Amazon Synod, October 6-27, 2019) about the people living on the Amazon River in South America, and strangely enough the German bishop who has been placed in charge of this synod claims that in the thirty years of his working in the Amazon, he has not baptized a single Indian, nor does he ever intend to baptize one! Why would he say such a thing? Apparently he so respects and admires the culture and beliefs of the pagan Indians living deep in the rainforest in harmony with the animals, the trees, and the spirits in the trees, as he says, that he does not want to disturb them by preaching Christ to them, converting them to Christianity, and baptizing them. And he has been placed by the pope in charge of this synod on the Amazon!

 

 

So we might scratch our head and with a perplexed look on our face ask, What then is the purpose of this synod? Perhaps the purpose is to conserve the trees and the wildlife of the rain forests and protect the pagan Indians from contamination by Christianity and modern civilization so that they can continue to live in their natural state of harmony with the water, the soil, the trees, and the wildlife.

 

 

But isn’t this like lighting a lamp and putting it under a basket or under a bed rather than on a lampstand to illuminate the whole house? Isn’t this to refuse to make manifest the teaching of Jesus that was originally hidden from the disciples during his earthly life but then later manifested after his death and resurrection? “For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).

 

 

Yes, it is good to be concerned about the environment and the trees and respect the various peoples and their cultures, but it is not good to refuse to preach the gospel to people so that they might have a chance to hear it and respond to it for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ and faith in him, because of his atoning death on the cross for the forgiveness of the sins of the world.

 

 

In order to share the gospel with people who have never heard it, such as many of the tribes of the Amazon that have withdrawn deeper into the rainforest to avoid contact with the outside world – in order to share the gospel with such people, we have to know something about them. The first and most important thing that we need to know is their language, for how can you share the gospel with someone who does not understand the language you speak? Then it is also good to know something about their way of life and their beliefs to know how they might be best approached with the gospel message.

 

 

But let us not be ashamed of the gospel or confused about exactly what the gospel message is, as some Christians in certain areas of the Church seem to be today, so much so that they are afraid to preach it to non-Christians. Perhaps they sense that they really don’t have anything to preach, that they have lost faith in the basic core message of the gospel, and so they only know how to preach horizontal human values, such as social justice, human development, and preservation of the environment – not that these things are not important, for they are, but if one preaches that without preaching the real gospel message, he is like a person telling a story of which the main part is missing, only the introduction and a few side details or spoken of, but the main message of the story is missing, because the preacher no longer believes in it and so doesn’t know how to preach it.

 

 

Certainly we hope that something positive will come out of this synod that will give the Church new energy, new zeal, and new enthusiasm to preach the basic gospel message to new peoples in the Amazon rainforests, namely that God became man once in human history in Jesus Christ the Son of God in order to sacrifice his life unto death as our substitute and representative to suffer vicariously for us the punishment and death that we deserve for our sins so that the all-just God might mercifully forgive us without violating his justice, which he cannot do. We must spread this message and invite all that hear it to accept this gift from God with faith and put their trust in it for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life.

 

 

If we preach the gospel to others, our own appreciation of the gospel and of the Christian faith will grow, but if we do not, we will lose even what truth we think we have. “If we are faithful in sharing the truth with others, then God will reveal new and deeper truths to us. If, on the other hand, we do not have this spirit of evangelistic zeal, God will deprive us of the truth we think we possess” (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1989), page 1398).

 

 

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