Ash Wednesday 2018


We are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.


Saint Paul speaks of himself and his companions as "ambassadors for Christ," reminding us that our mission is not simply "to be saved," but to participate in Salvation, the work of Jesus Christ.
An ambassador speaks for his government with full authority. That person may have private reservations about his king, president or dictator; he may regret the message he must deliver; but neither his government nor the nation to which he is sent should be concerned about those reservations, opinions or private concerns. They're simply not important as these two powers address one another through his person. His only duty is faithful representation of his government's policies.
Saint Paul offers himself as an ambassador but he can't quite keep himself out of the conversation. He must implore you on behalf of Christ. In that sense he more than fulfills his duty as an ambassador, since his personal affection for the Corinthians should sway them toward reconciliation to God.
I don't suppose he would say, "Do this for my sake if nothing else!" but clearly he feels an urgent longing that his fractious Corinthian disciples should set aside their differences and be reunited in their sacred communion.
Then he goes beyond himself when he appeals to the example of Jesus, "For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin...."
The Incarnation is most astonishing mystery; it floats in that narrow margin between wonder and horror. It is scandalous and edifying. How can the Most High God -- Holy, Beautiful, Sacred, Good -- who is greeted by the seraphic angels as Holy, Holy, Holy -- be born of a woman, live in poverty and exile, and die on a cross?
To gaze on this mystery is to go blind. And yet we must gaze on it -- "that we might become the righteousness of God in him." This is God's will for us, a destiny which must be fulfilled, which we dare not frustrate.
The Season of Lent invites us to go in two directions at once: to go more deeply into contemplation of the Mystery; and to go outward into reconciliation with one another. The Church must be healed, reconciled and sanctified by our Communion.
We begin with an amazing gesture, with ashes on our heads. Ashes speak of our guilt, remorse and shame; they also indicate our standing before God as his Chosen People. If the world notices anything about us, they should see our unity, our deep reverence for the greatest and the least among us, from the Pope to the perverse. We belong to one another in the one who did not know sin and was made sin for us.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.