17 June, 2017. Saturday, Week 10

1st Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

The old order gives place to the new. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation

From now on, brethren, 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

Swear no oaths, but use a simple “Yes” or “No”

Jesus said to his disciples,

“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.”


Growing up in Christ

Spiritually, we may still be in our adolescent stage, old enough to be responsible but young enough to blunder and fall; far enough along to glimpse the new heavens and the new earth (Rev 21:1, Isa 65:17) and to share in the “new creation,” announced today by Paul, and yet at the same time still looking backward and in need of God’s forgiveness and patience.

Some statements in today’s readings project forward into the kingdom of God as a present reality on this earth. We read in our first reading: : “Since one died for all, all have died.” “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation. The old order has passed away; now all is new.” Bible scholars like to call this sort of statement “proleptic” or looking forward to an ideal not yet fully realised; or trying to express what God wants our world to become.

The kingdom of God is, of course, a wonderful ideal and glorious dream. But we can’t help asking whether Jesus’ directives in the Sermon on the Mount are literally possible in this world of ours, in our present state of imperfection? Some Christian groups try to follow them literally, keeping their speech simple and exact, as honest as the blue sky on a spring morning. Most people, however, feel they need to express themselves with more than a crisp “Yes” or an absolute “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 yet fully there, in kingdom mode!

Earlier this week the Bible assured us 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 towards our neighbour, who is just as imperfect as we ourselves.

What’s wrong with oaths?

Jesus opposes the kind of oath taking that seeks to control God for one’s own purposes, swearing by heaven, God’s throne, or by earth, God’s footstool, or by Jerusalem, the city of God. The temptation to control God for one’s own purpose has been deeply rooted in the human spirit. Ancient magic was an attempt to control the spirit world for one’s own purpose, and, indeed, the same could be said of certain forms of contemporary magic. However, in the Lord’s Prayer, the only prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, Jesus calls on us to begin by surrendering ourselves to God’s purpose, “your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done.” Jesus whole life teaches us that God’s purpose for our lives is ultimately life-giving. In trust we can invite God to have God’s way in our lives because that way is one that will lead to authentic life. It is not a case of manipulating God to serve our purposes but of giving ourselves over to serve God’s purpose for our lives and for his creation, after the example of Jesus, who in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed, “Father.. not my will but yours be done,” and after the example of Mary whose response to God’s messenger was, “Let it be to me according to your word.”


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