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From: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

The Ministry of Reconciliation (Continuation)

[17] Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed
away, behold, the new has come. [18] All this is from God, who through Christ
reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] that is,
God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses
against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. [20] So we are
ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on
behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. [21] For our sake he made him to be sin
who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


16-17. “Even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view”: Paul
seems to be referring to knowledge based only on external appearances and on
human criteria. Paul’s Judaizing opponents do look on things from a human point
of view, as Paul himself did before his conversion. Nothing he says here can be
taken as implying that St Paul knew Jesus personally during his life on earth (he
goes on to say that now he does not know him personally); what he is saying is
that previously he judged Christ on the basis of his own Pharisee prejudices;
now, on the other hand, he knows him as God and Savior of men.

In v. 17 he elaborates on this contrast between before and after his conversion,
as happens to Christians through Baptism. For through the grace of Baptism a
person becomes a member of Christ’s body, he lives by and is “in Christ” (cf.,
e.g., Gal 6:15; Eph 2:10, 15f; Cor 3:9f); the Redemption brings about a new crea-
tion. Commenting on this passage St Thomas Aquinas reminds us that creation
is the step from non-being to being, and that in the supernatural order, after origi-
nal sin, “a new creation was necessary, whereby (creatures) would be made
with the life of grace; this truly is a creation from nothing, because those without
grace are nothing (cf. 1 Cor 13:2) [...]. St Augustine says, ‘for sin is nothingness,
and men become nothingness when they sin’” (”Commentary on 2 Cor, ad loc.”).

“The new has come”: St John Chrysostom points out the radical change which
the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ has brought about, and the consequent
difference between Judaism and Christianity: “Instead of the earthly Jerusalem,
we have received that Jerusalem which is above; and instead of a material tem-
ple we have seen a spiritual temple; instead of tablets of stone, holding the di-
vine Law, our own bodies have become the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit; instead
of circumcision, Baptism; instead of manna, the Lord’s body; instead of water
from a rock, blood from his side; instead of Moses’ or Aaron’s rod, the cross of
the Savior; instead of the promised land, the kingdom of heaven” (”Hom on 2
Cor”, 11).

18-21. The reconciliation of mankind with God—whose friendship we lost through
original sin—has been brought about by Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus, who
is like men in all things “yet without sinning” (Heb 4:14), bore the sins of men
(cf. s 53:4-12) and offered himself on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for all
those sins (cf. 1 Pet 2:22-25), thereby reconciling men to God; through this sa-
crifice we became the righteousness of God, that is, we are justified, made just
in God’s sight (cf. Rom 1:17; 3:24-26 and notes). The Church reminds us of this
in the rite of sacramental absolution: “God, the Father of mercies, through the
death and resurrection of his son has reconciled the world to himself [...].”

Our Lord entrusted the Apostles with this ministry of reconciliation (v. 18), this
“message of reconciliation” (v. 19), to pass it on to all men: elsewhere in the
New Testament it is described as the “message of salvation” (Acts 13:26), the
“word of grace” (Acts 14:3; 20:32), the “word of life” ( 1 Jn 1: 1). Thus, the Apos-
tles were our Lord’s ambassadors to men, to whom St Paul addresses a pres-
sing call: “be reconciled to God”, that is, apply to yourselves the reconciliation
obtained by Jesus Christ—which is done mainly through the sacraments of Bap-
tism and Penance. “The Lord Jesus instituted in his Church the sacrament of
Penance, so that those who have committed sins after Baptism might be recon-
ciled with God, whom they have offended, and with the Church itself whom they
have injured” (John Paul II, “Aperite Portas, 5).

21. “He made him to be sin”: obviously St Paul does not mean that Christ was
guilty of sin; he does not say “to be a sinner” but “to be sin”. “Christ had no sin,”
St Augustine says; “he bore sins, but he did not commit them” (”Enarrationes
in Psalmos”, 68, 1, 10).

According to the rite of atoning sacrifices (cf. Lev 4:24; 5:9; Num 19:9; Mic 6:7;
Ps 40:7) the word “sin”, corresponding to the Hebrew “asam”, refers to the ac-
tual act of sacrifice or to the victim being offered. Therefore, this phrase means
“he made him a victim for sin” or “a sacrifice for sin”. It should be remembered
that in the Old Testament nothing unclean or blemished could be offered to God;
the offering of an unblemished animal obtained God’s pardon for the transgres-
sion which one wanted to expiate. Since Jesus was the most perfect of victims
offered for us, he made full atonement for all sins. In the Letter to the Hebrews,
when comparing Christ’s sacrifice with that of the priests of the Old Testament,
it is expressly stated that “every priest stands daily at his service, offering re-
peatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ
had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand
of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. For
by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb

This concentrated sentence also echoes the Isaiah prophecy about the sacrifice
of the Servant of Yahweh; Christ, the head of the human race, makes men sha-
rers in the grace and glory he achieved through his sufferings: “upon him was the
chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5).

Jesus Christ, burdened with our sins and offering himself on the cross as a sacri-
fice for them, brought about the Redemption: the Redemption is the supreme ex-
ample both of God’s justice—which requires atonement befitting the offense — and
of his mercy, that mercy which makes him love the world so much that “he gave
his only Son” (Jn 3:16). “In the Passion and Death of Christ — in the fact that the
Father did not spare his own Son, but ‘for our sake made him sin’ — absolute jus-
tice is expressed, for Christ undergoes the Passion and Cross because of the
sins of humanity. This constitutes even a ‘superabundance’ of justice, for the sins
of man are ‘compensated for’ by the sacrifice of the Man-God. Nevertheless, this
justice, which is properly justice ‘to God’s measure’, springs completely from love,
from the love of the Father and of the Son, and completely bears fruit in love. Pre-
cisely for this reason the divine justice revealed in the Cross of Christ is to God’s
measure’, because it springs from love and is accomplished in love, producing
fruits of salvation. The divine dimension of redemption is put into effect not only
by bringing justice to bear upon sin, but also by restoring to love that creative po-
wer in man thanks to which he once more has access to the fullness of life and
holiness that come from God. In this way, redemption involves the revelation of
mercy in its fullness” (John Paul II, “Dives In Misercordia”, 7).

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

5 posted on 03/09/2013 8:54:46 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All

From: Luke 15:1-3; 11-32

Parables of God’s Mercy

[1] Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him (Jesus).
[2] And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives
sinners and eats with them.”

The Prodigal Son

[3] So He told them this parable: [11] “There was a man who had two sons; [12]
and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property
that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. [13] Not many days la-
ter, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country,
and there he squandered his property in loose living. [14] And when he had spent
everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. [15]
So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent
him into his fields to feed swine. [16] And he would gladly have fed on the pods
that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. [17] But when he came to him-
self he said, ‘How can many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and
to spare, but I perish here with hunger! [18] I will arise and go to my father, and I
will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you; [19] I am
no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.’”
[20] And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance,
his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed
him. [21] And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and be-
fore you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ [22] But the father said to
his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on
his hand, and shoes on his feet; [23] and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let
us eat and make merry; [24] for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he
was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.

[25] “Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the
house, he heard music and dancing. [26] And he called one of the servants and
asked what this meant. [27] And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and
your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and
sound.’ [28] But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and
entreated him, [29] but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have
served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid,
that I might make merry with my friends. [30] But when this son of yours came,
who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ [31]
And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
[32] It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and
is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”


1-32. Jesus’ actions manifest God’s mercy: He receives sinners in order to con-
vert them. The scribes and Pharisees, who despised sinners, just cannot under-
stand why Jesus acts like this; they grumble about Him; and Jesus uses the
opportunity to tell these Mercy parables. “The Gospel writer who particularly
treats of these themes in Christ’s teaching is Luke, whose Gospel has earned
the title of ‘the Gospel of mercy’” (Bl. John Paul II, “Dives In Misericordia”, 3).

In this chapter St. Luke reports three of these parables in which Jesus describes
the infinite, fatherly mercy of God and His joy at the conversion of the sinner.

The Gospel teaches that no one is excluded from forgiveness and that sinners
can become beloved children of God if they repent and are converted. So much
does God desire the conversion of sinners that each of these parables ends with
a refrain, as it were, telling of the great joy in Heaven over a sinner who repents.

1-2. This is not the first time that publicans and sinners approach Jesus (cf. Mat-
thew 9:10). They are attracted by the directness of the Lord’s preaching and by
His call to self-giving and love. The Pharisees in general were jealous of His in-
fluence over the people (cf. Matthew 26:2-5; John 11:47), a jealousy which can
also beset Christians; a severity of outlook which does not accept that, no mat-
ter how great his sins may have been, a sinner can change and become a saint;
a blindness which prevents a person from recognizing and rejoicing over the good
done by others. Our Lord criticized this attitude when He replied to His disciples’
complaints about others casting out devils in His name: “Do not forbid him; for
no one who does a mighty work in My name will be able soon after to speak evil
of Me” (Mark 9:39). And St. Paul rejoiced that others proclaimed Christ and even
overlooked the fact they did so out of self-interest, provided Christ was preached
(cf. Philippians 1:17-18).

11. This is one of Jesus’ most beautiful parables, which teaches us once more
that God is a kind and understanding Father (cf. Matthew 6:8; Romans 8:15; 2
Corinthians 1:3). The son who asks for his part of the inheritance is a symbol of
the person who cuts himself off from God through sin. “Although the word ‘mer-
cy’ does not appear, this parable nevertheless expresses the essence of the di-
vine mercy in a particularly clear way” (Bl. John Paul II, “Dives In Misericordia”,

12. “That son, who receives from the father the portion of the inheritance that is
due him and leaves home to squander it in a far country ‘in loose living’, in a cer-
tain sense is the man of every period, beginning with the one who was the first
to lose the inheritance of grace and original justice. The analogy at this point is
very wide-ranging. The parable indirectly touches upon every breach of the cove-
nant of love, every loss of grace, every sin” (”Dives In Misericordia”, 5).

14-15. At this point in the parable we are shown the unhappy effects of sin. The
young man’s hunger evokes the anxiety and emptiness a person feels when he
is far from God. The prodigal son’s predicament describes the enslavement which
sin involves (cf. Romans 1:25; 6:6; Galatians 5:1): by sinning one loses the free-
dom of the children of God (cf. Romans 8:21; Galatians 4:31; 5:13) and hands
oneself over the power of Satan.

17-21. His memory of home and his conviction that his father loves him cause
the prodigal son to reflect and to decide to set out on the right road. “Human life
is in some way a constant returning to our Father’s house. We return through
contrition, through the conversion of heart which means a desire to change, a
firm decision to improve our life and which, therefore, is expressed in sacrifice
and self-giving. We return to our Father’s house by means of that sacrament of
pardon in which, by confessing our sins, we put on Jesus Christ again and be-
come His brothers, members of God’s family” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ is Passing
By”, 64).

20-24. God always hopes for the return of the sinner; He wants him to repent.
When the young man arrives home his father does not greet him with reproaches
but with immense compassion, which causes him to embrace his son and cover
him with kisses.

20. “There is no doubt that in this simple but penetrating analogy the figure of the
father reveals to us God as Father. The conduct of the father in the parable and
his whole behavior, which manifests his internal attitude, enables us to rediscover
the individual threads of the Old Testament vision of mercy in a synthesis which
is totally new, full of simplicity and depth. The father of the prodigal son is faithful
to this fatherhood, faithful to the love that he had always lavished on his son. This
fidelity is expressed in the parable not only by his immediate readiness to wel-
come him home when he returns after having squandered his inheritance; it is ex-
pressed even more fully by that joy, that merrymaking for the squanderer after his
return, merrymaking which is so generous that it provokes the opposition and ha-
tred of the elder brother, who had never gone far away from his father and had ne-
ver abandoned the home.

“The father’s fidelity to himself [...] is at the same time expressed in a manner
particularly charged with affection. We read, in fact, that when the father saw
the prodigal son returning home ‘he had compassion, ran to meet him, threw his
arms around his neck and kissed him.’ He certainly does this under the influence
of a deep affection, and this also explains his generosity towards his son, that
generosity which so angers the elder son” (”Dives In Misericordia”, 6).

“When God runs towards us, we cannot keep silent, but with St. Paul we ex-
claim, “Abba Pater”: ‘Father, my Father!’ (Romans 8:15), for, though He is the
creator of the universe, He doesn’t mind our not using high-sounding titles, nor
worry about our not acknowledging His greatness. He wants us to call Him
Father; He wants us to savor that word, our souls filling with joy [...].

“God is waiting for us, like the father in the parable, with open arms, even though
we don’t deserve it. It doesn’t matter how great our debt is. Just like the prodigal
son, all we have to do is open our heart, to be homesick for our Father’s house,
to wonder at and rejoice in the gift which God makes us of being able to call our-
selves His children, of really being His children, even though our response to Him
has been so poor” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 64).

25-30. God’s mercy is so great that man cannot grasp it: as we can see in the
case of the elder son, who thinks his father loves the younger son excessively,
his jealousy prevents him from understanding how his father can do so much to
celebrate the recovery of the prodigal; it cuts him off from the joy that the whole
family feels. “It’s true that he was a sinner. But don’t pass so final a judgment
on him. Have pity in your heart, and don’t forget that he may yet be an Augus-
tine, while you remain just another mediocrity” (St. J. Escriva, “The Way”, 675).

We should also consider that if God has compassion towards sinners, He must
have much much more towards those who strive to be faithful to Him. St. The-
rese of Lisieux understood this very well: “What joy to remember that our Lord
is just; that He makes allowances for all our shortcomings, and knows full well
how weak we are. What have I to fear then? Surely the God of infinite justice
who pardons the prodigal son with such mercy will be just with me ‘who am al-
ways with Him’?” (”The Story of a Soul”, Chapter 8).

32. “Mercy, as Christ has presented it in the parable of the prodigal son, has the
interior form of the love that in the New Testament is called AGAPE. This love is
able to reach down to every prodigal son, to every human misery, and above all
to every form of moral misery, to sin. When this happens, the person who is the
object of mercy does not feel humiliated, but rather found again and ‘restored to
value’. The father first and foremost expresses to him his joy, that he has been
‘found again’ and that he has ‘returned to life’. This joy indicates a good that has
remained intact: even if he is a prodigal, a son does not cease to be truly his fa-
ther’s son; it also indicates a good that has been found again, which in the case
of the prodigal son was his return to the truth about himself” (”Dives In Misericor-
dia”, 6).

Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.

6 posted on 03/09/2013 8:55:46 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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