15 June, 2013. Saturday of the Tenth Week
2 Cor 5:14ff. God has reconciled us and given us the ministry of reconciliation.
Matt 5:33ff. Swear no oaths, but speak with a simple “Yes” or “No.”
First Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Gospel: Matthew 5:33-37
“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
Living in a New Creation
The kingdom of God is an ideal and a glorious dream – but are Jesus’ directives in the Sermon on the Mount literally possible in this world? Some Christian groups follow them literally, and keep their speech simple and exact, as honest as the blue sky on a spring morning. Most people, however, feel the need to say more than a crisp “Yes” or a brief “No.” We consider it fair to have our ID card checked out, our driver’s license verified, and are willing in court to swear on the Bible that our words are true. We and our world are not fully there yet, in kingdom mode!
Paul recognizes this anomaly. He tells us that “Christ became sin for our sake,” and adds that “God made him to be sin, so that in him we might become the holiness of God.” By this reference to an ongoing process, Paul seeks to bridge the chasm between the future and the now, the new creation and our old selves, the pure “Yes” or “No” and the hesitant, provisional “Maybe” in which we live. Paul speaks of an ongoing process of reconciliation: God, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, and now he has entrusted the message of reconciliation to us.
Recently, since Pentecost, we have been assured of being sealed and anointed by the Spirit who is the pledge and first payment of eternal life. We are, incipiently, part of that new creation, but God is patient and forgiving as we stumble forward. Meanwhile, we too should be reconciling as well as truthful and honest with our neighbour.