2 Cor 5: 17 – 21 Luke 15: 1 – 3, 11 – 32
On the Second Sunday of Lent we heard a passage from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians in which he wrote about our citizenship in Heaven. In this passage from Second Corinthians that we hear on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Paul writes that we are “ambassadors for Christ.” With this image we are reminded that we are not merely citizens passively enjoying the benefits of citizenship, we are active members of the Kingdom, and have been appointed as “ambassadors for Christ.” This gives us a new sense of our importance in the eyes of Christ and the role we have in the Kingdom.
Paul puts this teaching in the context of a letter that Scripture Scholars believe was written to address problems in Corinth that developed after Paul’s first Letter. Among them was Paul’s relationship with them that seemed to have been strained for some reason, and the authority of his ministry. In smoothing things over with them, not only explains his ministry, in a sense his identity as an Apostle, he also give the Corinthians a refresher of who they are. He reminds them that in Christ they became new creations, and have been reconciled to God through Christ, and they now have been entrusted with the mission of proclaiming the message of reconciliation. It is this mission that makes the Corinthians Ambassadors of Christ, for they are called to act on his behalf.
The beauty of this teaching is that it applies to us just as it did to the Corinthians. Part of the Baptismal Rite is the phrase said after the actual Baptism is, “You have become a new creation in Christ…” We are “new creations” and experience the reconciliation with God. Through this we have become “ambassadors for Christ,” with the call to proclaim the message of reconciliation by word and/or action. This is a great gift of God’s love for us, and a serious mission he has given us. There are the experiences when we can see Christ using us as faithful ambassadors. Experiences like sharing our good experiences with family, friends and even co-workers; taking seriously the invitation to be a God Parent at Baptism, or sponsor at confirmation, and even a member of a friends bridal party, bring us a sense that we are good ambassadors. However, we continue to struggle with our weaknesses and sins, and might wonder what affect that has on our standing with God.
The Gospel responds to these musings by teaching us the greatness of God’s love and mercy. The image of the Father embracing the Prodigal Son is the one chosen to illustrate this Holy Year of Mercy. When we struggle and our weaknesses seems to win out over our best intentions, when we sin, and even when we abandon God as the Prodigal Son did to His Father, God awaits our return. And when we returned, we are not given a half-hearted welcome and a conditional forgiveness, the Father restores us to the fullness of His Family. We still not only have our Citizenship, we are still ambassadors for Christ.
These readings show us the greatness and the depth of God’s unconditional love for us. This love is not just for others, but for each of us. These readings and this Holy year of Mercy call on us to renew our experience of God’s love for us, and to extend this love and mercy to others. This is how we are called to live our mission as citizens of heaven, and ambassadors for Christ.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.