Thursday of week 10 of Ordinary Time – First Reading


Commentary on 2 Cor 3:15

We continue the point that Paul was making yesterday. We have a passage rich in meaning and full of allusions to the experience at Mount Sinai. He continues telling the Corinthians that observance of the Law by itself can only bring death while the Spirit brings life. 
“To this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts.” Paul now switches from the time of the covenant at Mount Sinai to the present time. He is saying that the Israelites in the time of Moses typify the Jews of the present time and he may also be referring to some Christians of Jewish origin, who still do not recognise the temporary nature of the glory that was seen in Moses. As a result, when the writings of Moses are read in the synagogue, a veil still prevents them recognising the temporary nature of Moses’ glory. There is, as it were, a veil preventing their full understanding. 
When Moses read the Law to the people he had to veil his face because the people could not stand its brightness. But now, Paul says, the veil is not on the face of Moses but over the minds of the hearers who cannot see that the message of Moses has been overtaken by the Word of Christ. 
However, “whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away”. In Exodus, Moses appeared before God without the veil and gazed on God’s face unprotected. Paul applies that passage to converts to Christianity: when they turn to the Lord fully and authentically, the impediment to their understanding is removed. They can look God in the face. 
“The Lord is the Spirit, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” The “Lord” to whom the Christian turns is the Spirit of whom Paul has been speaking, the life-giving Spirit of the living God, the inaugurator of the new covenant and ministry. He is also the Spirit of Christ. And the Spirit of Jesus is a spirit of real freedom, which enables one to follow God’s truth and love creatively and to become more alive every day. This is in contrast to the smothering effect of the ‘ministry of death’ from the old Law which brought so much condemnation. 
“We, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter, as we turn into the image that we reflect.” Here we have the veil image being used again. Christians (Israelites from whom the veil has been removed) are like Moses, standing in God’s presence, beholding and reflecting his glory. 
Through our “gazing” at the Lord we become trans-formed, con-formed more and more to the likeness of Jesus, who is himself the very Image of God. “Who sees me, sees the Father… The Father and I are one.” The life-giving Spirit of God, who is also in Jesus, is already present in the community where the trans-formation is already taking place. The community is the Spirit-filled Body of Christ. 
“Therefore, since we have this ministry through the mercy shown us, we are not discouraged.” A ministry of this sort generates confidence and forthrightness, even when Paul – as at present – meets with criticism and opposition. He is confident that the Spirit of God is with him and the work he is doing for the Gospel. 
He now deals briefly with some of the criticism that is aimed at him. “Even though our gospel is veiled, it is veiled for those who are perishing…” Here is the final application of the veil image. It seems Paul is being criticised either for obscurity in his preaching or for the way in which he presents the Gospel (perhaps for his criticism of the Jewish tradition, which is particularly resented by some who see Paul himself as a once zealous Jew). He confidently asserts, however, that there is no veil over his gospel. If some fail to perceive its light, that is because of their lack of belief. 
For “the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they may not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The veil lies over their own eyes, a blindness induced by Satan, “the god of this world”, and a sign that they are headed for destruction. 
Their criticism of Paul is misdirected “for we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus”. The light that is revealed in Paul’s preaching comes, not from him, but from the glory of Christ of which he is the messenger. Far from preaching himself, the preacher should always be a transparent medium through whom Jesus is perceived. The preacher is a “slave” of Jesus and not someone who just uses the name of Jesus to draw attention to himself. As John the Baptist said of Jesus: “He must increase; I must decrease.” 
“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness‘, has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.” Paul alludes to his own dramatic calling when the light shone from heaven on him as he went to Damascus to attack the Christians there. That was the beginning of Paul’s call to serve the Gospel of Jesus. Perhaps the quotation is also is an echo of the creation of light at the beginning of the Book of Genesis (1:3) and that Paul is presenting his apostolic ministry as a new creation. There may also be an allusion to Is 9:1 (“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”), thus suggesting his prophetic calling as servant of the Lord and a light to the nations. And the purpose of his mission is to reveal to others the glory of God visible on the face of Jesus Christ through his life, death and resurrection. 
On the one hand we too, like Moses and Paul, are called to reflect the brightness of God and, at the same time, we ourselves become brighter and brighter as we grow more and more into the image of God. And our light is not, as Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, meant to dazzle or turn people’s gaze away but rather to help them realise the brightness of God himself and lead them on to him. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your heavenly Father” (Matt 5:16).

 

 

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