Saturday of week 10 of Ordinary Time – First Reading


Commentary on 2 Cor 5:14-21

Paul continues in his own defence. If his behaviour seemed objectionable it was simply because he was acting in and through the Lord. But he speaks in a spirit not of antagonism but of reconciliation.

He tells the Corinthians of the force that is behind everything he does and says. “For the love of Christ impels us (caritas Christi urget nos), once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Christ’s love for us was so great that he gave his life so that we might have life. “This is the greatest love… to give one’s life for one’s friends.” But our response to that is for each one of us to die to all self-seeking and, like Christ and with Christ, give our lives in love for others. This is precisely what Paul is trying to do.

“Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.” The death of the man Jesus has produced a whole new way of seeing other people. A natural or spontaneous way of seeing people is replaced by a new way according to the Spirit. In another context, Paul speaks of how Jesus was seen by Jews and Gentiles as someone who was weak, powerless, foolish and mortal but, to those with the eyes of faith, we see the wisdom, the power and the life of God. The paradox can be seen in himself. He is filled with the glory of Christ and yet appears so weak and vulnerable.

“So, whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” Rabbis used to speak of a ‘new creation’ to describe the effect of a proselyte or convert entering the Jewish faith or of the remission of sins on the Day of Atonement. The “new things” that have come are the new covenant which Jesus has inaugurated. The person baptised into the Christian faith and who lives according to the Gospel becomes, in a real sense, a new person, driven by a new vision of life.

“And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation…

…namely God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” God does not count our wrongdoings. By responding to him in love we are seen as justified in God’s sight; this contrasts with the covenant that condemned.

This is Paul’s way of expressing the mission Jesus gave to his disciples after the Resurrection – “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven” (John 20:23) and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”. The mission of the Kingdom is bring the people of the world together in truth, love, justice and peace. It is not just a question of ‘converting’ people to our ‘religion’ but ultimately of bringing them back into the loving arms of God. That is what life is about.

“So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us; we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Paul sees himself as an ambassador of God’s reconciliation and, as God’s emissary, he begs the Corinthians to become reconciled to God.

“For our sake he made him to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” A very striking phrase not to be taken literally. But in dying as a criminal on the cross and among sinners, he seemed to be one of them but in fact it was he who liberated us from sin, especially our own, and numbered us among God’s own people. Similarly, in Galatians we read: “Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Gal 3:13). And in Romans: “By sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the sake of sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3).

Paul does not deny that he has perhaps behaved in ways which angered some of the Corinthian Christians, perhaps the Jews among them most of all, but he sees no point in carrying on a vendetta. In the spirit of Christ, the only way forward is for peace and reconciliation.

Perhaps we could see if we are in a similar situation right now and how we can go about bringing healing to strained relationships. And, in general, our mission as Christians is to be agents of reconciliation wherever we find ourselves. “Blessed are the peacemakers; they will called children of God.”

 

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