Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Lord Is Kind And Merciful

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ compels us, because we are convinced that since one died for all, therefore, all died. And He died for all, so that those who are alive should live no longer for themselves, but for him, who died for them, and was raised again.

So, from now on, we no longer regard anyone from a worldly viewpoint. Though we once looked at Christ this way, we no longer do so. For this reason, anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; the old has passed away, the new has come!

All this is from God, who has reconciled himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, God as reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their sins against them, and has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. We are ambassadors of Christ, as if God were making his appeal through us.

We implore you then, on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. For our sake, He made him who had no sin to be a sin offering in our place, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Psalm 103

R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.


He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.

R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you: Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 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 even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

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In today’s First Reading, Paul reminds his listeners, the Christians of Corinth, that they are a new creation in Christ. They did not know Jesus when he walked the earth; they were not able to see him or to listen to his preaching; it is by Christ’s death and resurrection that they have been reconciled with God. In this passage, Paul uses this word, in one form or another, five times, and my reflection will center on these questions: What does it mean to be re-created? How are we reconciled to God? How is the world reconciled with God?

One of the occasions when we most long to be re-created is when we have become painfully aware of the imperfection of our created selves. Our self-centeredness causes conflict with a family member; our preoccupation with our pet projects keeps us from nurturing our relationship with a friend. Some may be trapped in addictive behaviors, and feel that healing is beyond hope. Our fears prevent us from being honest with ourselves, and we become lost in a maze of behaviors that once brought us some sort of pleasure or of peace, but now leave us separated from our friends, our family, our selves, and from God. For awhile, we strive to be reconciled through our own efforts, but they eventually come to naught, and, feeling like failure, we stop trying.

Today, Paul reminds us that the great plan of reconciliation for all of creation with the Creator has already been accomplished in Christ! Everything that seems separated and disconnected has been, is being, and continues to be reconciled in Christ now and for all eternity. When we open our mind and our heart to this truth, we open our spirit to the spirit of the Redeemer, the Reconciler who is alive in the world and, although we have lost awareness of his presence, in each of us. We are made whole; harmony and friendship are restored with God, with others, and with ourselves. Then, by the same grace, we are sent forth as “ambassadors for Christ”, living reminders to others of this great gift of grace. Indeed, the Lord is kind and merciful!

In today’s gospel, Jesus gives a concrete teaching to his disciples on this very topic. How many times have we said, or heard others say, “I swear, it’s true!” or “That’s just the way it happened, I swear!” Why do we say this? Because we are aware that people tend not to trust what they hear. But, there’s a deeper question: Why do we not trust what others say? Because we know that we ourselves tend not to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth – not always blatant lies, but slants and shades of the truth, to protect our own self-interest.

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples – and we are his disciples—that all we need do is speak the truth; the truth that arises from our reconciled innermost self, and not from our fearful, divided self, so susceptible to “the evil one” – not always temptation from outside, but from our own self--interest.

What do we need to do, then? There is a message you may have heard in school, or at work, when completing a project: “Let go of the results”. We have some control of what we say and what we do, especially if we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of God. But we have no control over the outcome. For some, what they have said and done have won them a place in the ecclesiastical calendar – but for a few of those, their witness won them martyrdom.

You have heard it before, and it is time to say it again: Remember that only God is perfect. Don’t try to be perfect all at once. Try instead to do better tomorrow than you did yesterday. If you don’t do as well today as you did yesterday, then strive to do better tomorrow than today. And, from the rising to the setting of the sun – or from your own rising to your own setting, if you don’t live on a solar schedule: Be reconciled with God!
Diane Jorgenson, Creighton On-Line Ministries

A quotation from the Saint of the Day, Anthony of Lisbon, aka of Padua:

“The saints are like the stars. In his providence Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ."

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