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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Romans Series #1 - Paul's "Gospel"

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          Romans - intro? "Gospel" or "the Gospel" as news of a victory that establishes peace and order as it should be.
Today’s passage: Adam is faced with a choice, he chose poorly.  Jesus heals that wound by choosing rightly.  And coupled with the Gospel, we see that we are faced every day with a choice in our lives as well, and it won’t always be easy.
For any of us it can seem that life stinks at times. Life is tough. Life's not fair. Etc. these are all common sayings we know and they bounce off of us so easily.
For the Christian it can be even more difficult since we can often suffer for our faith, precisely for doing what is right - like Jeremiah the prophet had to endure. 
But if we have a big enough perspective, life is always good. Life is great. If we live it properly - and I'm not talking about $ or stuff or power or prestige or pleasure, but about holiness - If we live it properly, life is a bit of heaven already. 
It's all about perspective. Saint John of the Cross was unjustly imprisoned by the fellow religious brothers he professed his life to be a member of, starved, beaten regularly, alone, and still he found a happiness and peace the world cannot give. Jeremiah Denton did the same in a Vietnam POW camp. Suffering, which is there for all of us, doesn't have to mean life is without joy and peace.
Did Jesus solve all the little problems of our lives? The answer is no and yes. No because, as we all know, the world is full of the mess of sin, the same sin that Jeremiah had to endure and that we have to endure. But yes because at the deeper level of things, the world is changed, restores to the way things were meant to be. This is why the Lord tells us not to be afraid even when we face those who truly do have the power to destroy the body. 
          If we reduce Jesus to a mere nice guy or social worker or political revolutionary, the Gospel isn't powerful anymore.  The Gospel is much bigger than that, even if it operates on a level deeper than the human eye.  Jesus himself emphasizes this point in today's Gospel: be afraid of those who can kill body and soul – this is something bigger than human beings we are talking about here!
         
"Second death" (Revelation and Saint Francis)

Spiritual warfare is real, and is one of the things that makes the Gospel truly to be Good News that makes an impact on my life. The other is that Jesus isn't just some guy, but that He is the Son of God.  "Some man died 2,000 years ago because he loved you" is not the most amazing news, even if it might be touching. Odds are that won't be enough to change my life.  Julius Caesar dying for you would be one thing. God dying for you is something totally different.

But Paul knows that those reductions of Jesus to a simple nice guy or socialist or politician are simply too small for what God actually did in Christ Jesus.  Rather than just offer a social critique or a positive example, Jesus shook the foundations of the universe, fighting at the deepest and most important level of reality.  And where Adam lost, Jesus won.  That is the point.  That is our Gospel.  Let us not be afraid, for the victory is Christ’s, and we are united with Him in Baptism.