Sunday, April 1, 2012

Passion Sunday Vespers Homily

Reading: Acts 13:26-20

Do you recognize Jesus Christ? Do acknowledge Him as Messiah and Lord? Do you believe that He died for your sins? Do you believe He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and now reigns at the Father’s right hand? If you say that you believe, Do you proclaim Him as Lord and Messiah, King and Savior, by your manner of life?

Our reading from the Acts of the Apostles this afternoon, taken from a sermon given by St. Paul in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch at the beginning of his first missionary journey, is part of what is known as the original, or apostolic, Christian kerygma. The word kerygma is a Greek word that can be translated simply as “preaching,” but, being a bit more precise, means something like “to proclaim as a herald.” In the Christian context, the adjective “kerygmatic” is most often applied to straightforward proclamations of Jesus’ life and ministry not aimed at theoretical reason, thus seeking to lay out a theology, and certainly not a well-thought out soteriology, but is a simple and matter-of-fact re-telling of the salvific event of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

St. Paul Preaching in the Synagogue

In his Sabbath sermon Paul recounts to his fellow Israelites in Asia Minor how their brethren in Jerusalem, along with the chief priests, scribes, and elders, failed to recognize Jesus and so, unwittingly, fulfilled the words of the prophets with which they were all so familiar, like “the reading of the law and the prophets” (Acts 13:15) the congregation Paul was addressing heard proclaimed that very day. So, the apostle tells them, after their Jerusalem brethren fulfilled everything that had been prophesied about Jesus and crucified Him, God raised Him from the dead.

In like manner, in addition to confessing the Church as one, holy, and catholic, we confess it to be apostolic. The Church is apostolic in a two-fold way. First, apostolic refers to the fact that we belong to the Church of Jesus Christ established by the apostles, who responded to the immediate and powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the first Christian Pentecost. The Church’s apostolicity is safeguarded by unbroken apostolic succession. As Catholics, this is what we tend to think about when we discuss the meaning of “apostolic”. The second and equally important sense that the Church is apostolic is closely linked to kerygma, as well as to the first sense. An apostle is yet another Greek word that literally means “one who is sent out.” We, too, are sent out to proclaim the death of the Lord Jesus and to profess His resurrection until He comes again, which is nothing less than the apostolic kerygma, or mysterium fidei (i.e., mystery of faith). So, let us enter into this Holy Week in gratitude for our faith, the realization that “Christus resurrexit quia Deus caritas est”- "Christ is risen because God is love"- and be heralds this Good News!

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