2Cor 8:1-9; Ps 146:2,5-9; Mt 5:43-48
If the LORD sets captives free, how are the People The Lord to treat captives? The Lord God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, gives sight to the blind, raises up those who were bowed down, loves the just, and protects strangers. The holy, holy, holy Lord is holy, compassionate, and perfect, and He keeps faith forever. His holiness is seen in the way He gives himself completely to all who need among his people and beyond his people. To this boundless love Saint Paul’s holds up the church in Macedonia as an outstanding witness. To such perfection the Lord Jesus summons those who hear his Sermon on the Mount. Those who were captives set those captive in any kind of slavery free. All boundaries to love, all categories that enable people to be slaves of prejudice and exclusivity, are smashed by the Word of God.
The Mother Church in Jerusalem was under a severe test of affliction. The generosity of the brothers and sisters in Macedonia overflowed spontaneously, even giving beyond their means, to respond to the needs of the Body of Christ. Such concern sparked by their new identity as members of Christ was an inspiration for Saint Paul and the entire church. These “Gentile Christians” were abounding in generosity for the “Jewish Christians.” Such violation of boundaries is exactly what the gospel demands. Such a vision of unity in the church universal is a convincing argument of the truth proclaimed by Saint Paul and all who preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Using typical Pauline rhetoric this letter does not command generosity from the Corinthians, but it tests the genuineness of their love. Such persuasion is effective even today, “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” Anyone who is rich and a faithful member of the church would find this argument nearly impossible to dismiss.
The Eternal Son of God, who shares the perfection and power of the Almighty from all eternity, became poor, powerless, so that by his poverty we might become rich, powerful lovers. Poverty, at the time of Saint Paul and of the Lord Jesus was a condition impossible for us to imagine. There were no social service networks in place, no benefits for the poor to claim. Anyone who lived on the fringe of society, anyone entitled poor, was seen as the victim of some enemy. The tax collectors and even the legitimate businessmen were seen as making it in society, as being successful, by somehow preventing others from being successful. The rich were the enemies of the poor and vice versa. The Gentiles were enemies of the Jews and vice versa. So it was expected that the Christians would be enemies of the non-Christians. This wisdom from the world in which the church grew up was confronted and defeated within the community’s all-inclusive love. This startling behavior still challenges every economic system and demands that we love as God has loved us. God reverses the expectations of every tribe and people and nation in loving us first, while we were still His enemies. At this Eucharist we learn this severe lesson of love and begin again to challenge the world in which we live out such an unexpected love.