The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 11th Ordinary (Day 3)
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 15-17
6 So we are always confident, because we know that while we are living in the body, we are away from our home with the Lord. 7 We live by faith and not by sight. 8 We are confident, and we would prefer to leave the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 So our goal is to be acceptable to him, whether we are at home or away from home. 10 We all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad. . .
15 He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised. 16 So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!
The death and resurrection of Jesus has changed everything. As Paul puts it (literally translated), “If anyone is in Christ – new creation!” A chief sign of this universal change wrought by Jesus is that we now live for him and not for ourselves (v.15). Paul makes our participation in this new creational reality concrete by documenting what it means for the way we see one another.
Few things are more decisive for our relations with others than the filter we use to evaluate them. Scientists tell us that the first few seconds of meeting someone are crucial in forming our perception of them. What shapes that initial and often lasting perception is then of obvious importance.
“Human standards” are not longer to be the filter that shapes our perceptions and consequent behavior toward others. Such standards do not accord with reality, which is that all are first and foremost, before and beyond all else, regardless of what they have done or who they have become, “all” are beloved by God and sought be him to become members of his family. This reality trumps everything else we can or should think of others.
No one has made this clearer than C. S. Lewis in his famous sermon “The Weight of Glory.” There he says:
Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point. That being so, it may be asked what practical use there is in the speculations which I have been indulging. I can think of at least one such use. It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest
and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations,
cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies
merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
This is that “new creation” of which Paul speaks and which we inhabit in Christ! This is the reality of the world we dwell in and those we share it with. This is our own reality – we too, you and I, at the deepest and most real level of our lives, we too, are beloved of God and called and welcomed into God’s family!
Imagine, just for a moment, what even one day might look like for you if you aligned your heart, mind, and will to this reality. Now take the journey from imagination to reality and live and love with everyone else beloved by God and called to be his family. What a world that would be!