daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, 28th Week of the Year, October 16, 2017
Romans 1:1-7, Psalm 97, Luke 11:29-32

Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.


"The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Luke 11:32).

Today the crowds asked Jesus for a sign to prove his authority, and Jesus refuses their request, for he has already given them innumerable signs in all his miraculous healings and exorcisms. Their continued request for an authenticating sign is nothing other than a refusal to believe in him, a sign of their lack of faith. And so he rebukes them for their faithless request, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah" (Luke 11:29).

Jonah was a sign for the Ninevites in his preaching that in forty days God would destroy them for their wicked lives. The Ninevites believed Jonah because they recognized the truth of what he was saying. Jonah opens their eyes to the wickedness of their lives, and his words put the fear of God in them. He awakens their conscience, which then starts to accuse and shame them, and they immediately sense the truth of his words, that God would punish and destroy them for their evil lives. So the whole city repents, turns aside from its wickedness, and calls upon God to forgive them. Everyone wears sackcloth and sits in ashes and fasts from all food and drink, crying out to God for mercy and forgiveness, which he grants them, when he sees their genuine heartfelt repentance.

Jesus then holds up Nineveh as an example to the Jewish leaders of his own time that totally reject him. The pagan Ninevites put the Jews, God's chosen people, to shame. They are not the covenant people of God, and yet they genuinely repent at the preaching of the Hebrew prophet Jonah. If they could repent at the preaching of Jonah, why can't the Jews repent at the preaching of the Messiah and divine Son of God himself in their midst? Certainly Jesus is far greater than Jonah. Therefore he tells them, "The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Luke 11:32).

Now what might these words of Jesus mean for us today? How might the men of Nineveh "arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it" (Luke 11:32). How might they condemn us for not repenting at the preaching of Jesus, "for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Luke 11:32)?

God has sent us Jesus Christ as a Savior and Redeemer. He has come to make full reparation for all our sins if only we genuinely repent and abandon them and put our faith in him and his atoning death on the cross to pay our price for our sins, to suffer our punishment for them for us, to serve our death sentence for them for us so that we might be fully acquitted by God and declared and made righteous and holy in his sight.

But how weak the faith of many today seems to be in this fundamental doctrine of our faith, revealed to us by God. So instead of preaching this basic gospel message, many water it down and avoid ever speaking, teaching, or preaching this basic New Testament good news that we have been sent into the world by Christ to proclaim to the nations.

Instead many simply preach Jesus as a good example of God's love that should inspire us to imitate him in our love for others. This, of course, is true, but to reduce the gospel to merely this is a crude reductionism that greatly impoverishes Christianity and ourselves who are left with such a pitiful residue of true Christian faith.

Too many Christians have lost the mystery of redemption. They have lost a proper understanding of how Christ saves us. They have reduced the gospel to a mere human philosophy that anyone anywhere could figure out for himself without any need of special revelation or missionary preaching.

Christian mission is then reduced to merely helping the poor and dialoguing with other religions, with the goal of conversion pretty much abandoned. Why bother to convert non-Christians, since we have no saving message to give them that they themselves don't already know, namely be loving like God and imitate the lives of good men and women everywhere that have lived selfless, self-giving, loving lives, helping others.

Unfortunately, many Christians have watered down their faith to this pitiful residue. We give lip service to our belief in Christ, but what a reduced Christ it is that we still believe in and claim allegiance to. How will we be judged by our Maker on Judgment Day for how we have sadly reduced - denied actually - and failed to transmit and preach the faith in Christ that was revealed and handed down to us?

This effective loss of faith in Christ as our Savior and Redeemer has other serious consequences that we will also be judged for. If you don't have a real Savior and Redeemer who really saves and redeems you from your sins, then sin and guilt become unbearable burdens. So instead of telling people to confess their sins, genuinely repent of them, and abandon them, and put their faith in Christ and his atoning death, what are watered-down preachers, who no longer really believe in Christ as their Savior and Redeemer, now telling their people to do?

If you don't really believe in a Savior, you try to help guilt-ridden people by telling them that their sins are not really counted by God as sins, due to the mitigating circumstances of their life. You tell them that God's moral law doesn't really apply to them, because it would be too hard for them to follow, and so they should consider themselves dispensed from it.

You then tell them that they should stop feeling guilty about their gravely sinful life, because for them God does not consider it really seriously sinful due to the extenuating circumstances of their life. Then you tell them that they therefore really have nothing serious to confess, nothing that God wants them to repent of and abandon.

You then tell them that they are doing all that God himself is now asking of them, all that he expects of them, given the mitigating circumstances of their life.

Then you tell them that God himself is actually calling them to live a sinful life and that he doesn't count it as sinful for them, and that they are actually in fact doing his will by living in this sinful way that he doesn't count against them.

So these guilt-ridden people will now feel better about themselves. You then encourage them to receive the Eucharist regularly, even though, according to God's law, they are living in grave, habitual, unrepented sin that would deprive them of eternal life if they were to die in such a state.

And lest they worry about going to hell when they die for dying in a state of mortal sin, you tell them, "Don't let old-fashioned ideas about hell frighten you, for no one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the gospel!"

Do we not see this kind of preaching, teaching, and pastoral care going on all around us in the Church today?

What would you call this kind of preaching and pastoral care? I would call it deception. Such preachers and teachers are leading people into sin and down the path that ends in eternal damnation.

I can only say that this new kind of preaching, teaching, and pastoral care is a long way from biblical Christianity. I think it has come about as a result of a loss of faith in Christ as a genuine Savior and Redeemer. Belief in a genuine Redeemer greatly relieves people from the guilt of their sins by calling them to abandon their sins and receive God's justification of them that declares and makes them righteous, holy, and resplendent in his sight, a new creature and a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The correct approach is to tell people to genuinely repent of their sins, especially their serious sins, abandon them, and trust in the merits of Christ's atoning death on the cross to make full reparation for them so that God may justly acquit them of them and declare and make them righteous, new, and holy in his sight. Then we should tell people that this repentance, conversion, and justification should normally take place within the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23).

If we do this, the Ninevites will not arise on Judgment Day and condemn us for not genuinely repenting and abandoning our sins and believing in Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer, as they genuinely repented at the preaching of Jonah.


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