2 Corinthians

 Chapter 3

4-11

 

Jesus explained to those who accused him of wishing to change the Mosaic Laws. He reassured them, saying “I have come not to abolish but to fulfil”. For the law, “is a fruit of the Covenant. It is impossible to understand the law without the Covenant. The law is more or less the way to enter the Covenant”, which began with a promise on that afternoon in the earthly paradise, then continued with Noah’s Ark, with Moses in the desert and then continued as the law of Israel in order to do God’s will”.

This law “is sacred”, because it brought the people to God. Therefore “it cannot be touched”. Some said that Jesus “was changing this law”. Instead he was seeking to explain clearly that there was a path that would lead “to the growth”, to “the full maturity of the law”.

The law that sets us free is the law of the Spirit.

However, it is a freedom which in a certain sense is frightening. Because, it can be confused with some other forms of human freedom. Then “the law of the Spirit leads us to the road of continuous discernment in order to do God’s will”. This too is somewhat frightening to us”. However, when we are assailed by this fear we risk of succumbing to two temptations. The first is “to turn back because we are uncertain. But this interrupts the journey”. It is “the temptation of the fear of freedom, of fear of the
Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit frightens us”.

In the1930s a diligent superior of a religious congregation was spending many years collecting all the rules of his congregation: what the religious were permitted to do and what they were not permitted to do. Then, once he had finished his task, he went to an important Benedictine Abbot who was in Rome, to show him his work. The Abbot looked at it and said: Father, with this you have killed the charism of your congregation! He had killed freedom. For the charism gives fruits of freedom and he had blocked the charism. This is not life. That congregation was unable to go on living. What happened? Twenty-five years after that masterpiece, no one looked at it and it ended on a library shelf.

The second temptation is “adolescent progressivism”. But it is not real progress: it is a culture that moves ahead from which we are unable to detach ourselves and from which we take the laws and values we like best, just as teenagers do. In the end we run the risk of slipping, “just as a car skids on an icy road and ends up in the ditch”.

For the Church in our day this is a recurrent temptation. We cannot turn back, and skid off the road. The road on which to continue is this: “The law is full, always in continuity, without being cut: just as the seed culminates in the flower, in the fruit. The road is that of freedom in the Holy Spirit who sets us free in a continuous discernment of God’s will, to make progress on this road without turning back”, and without skidding.

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us life, to lead us onwards, to bring the law to full maturity, that law which sets us free.

 Chapter 4

7-15

 

Christians are like clay vases because they are weak, since they are sinners. Nevertheless between us poor, earthen vessels and the power of Jesus Christ is a dialogue; it is the dialogue of salvation. When this dialogue assumes the tone of self- justification, it means that something is not working and that there is no salvation. The humility of a Christian is that of one who follows the path pointed out by the Apostle. “We must really recognize our sins, and not present ourselves with a false image”.

Brothers, we have a treasure: the Saviour Jesus Christ, the Cross of Jesus Christ is the treasure in which we rejoice, but let us not forget to also confess our sins for it is only in this way the dialogue is Christian, Catholic, and concrete. Jesus Christ did not save us with an idea, or an intellectual programme. He saved us with his flesh, with the concreteness of the flesh. He lowered himself, became man, and was made flesh until the end. You can only understand a treasure like this if you are transformed into clay vases.
  
  

  Chapter 5

14-21

 

Christ’s love possesses us, impels us, drives us on. This speed is Paul in fourth gear: when he sees Christ’s love he cannot stand still.

In this passage the word
‘reconciliation’, is repeated five times, like a refrain, to say clearly: God reconciled us to him in Christ. St Paul also speaks with both force and tenderness when he says: I am an ambassador for Christ. Paul seems to fall to his knees to implore: We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God, as if he had said lower your guard to let yourselves be reconciled to God.

Paul’s hurrying reminds me of Mary setting out with haste to help her cousin. This is the haste of the Christian message.... Here the message is, precisely, reconciliation. True reconciliation is that in Christ God took our sins upon his own shoulders and for our sake made himself sin.

This is the mystery that motivated Paul with apostolic zeal, for it is such a marvellous thing: the love of God who, for me, handed his Son over to be killed. When Paul is confronted by this truth he says: but he loved me, he died for my sake. This is the mystery of reconciliation!

Christian peace is a restive not a torpid peace. Christian peace impels us and this is the beginning, the root of
apostolic zeal. The love of Christ possesses us, impels us, urges us on with the emotion we feel when we see that God loves us.
  

 Chapter 5

20-21

Chapter 6

1-2

 

Pope Francis    10.02.16   Holy Mass, Ash Wednesday  Vatican Basilica        2 Corinthians 5: 20 - 6: 2,  Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

Pope Francis 10.02.16 Ash Wednesday


The Word of God, at the start of the Lenten journey, addresses two invitations to the Church and to each of us.

The first is that of St Paul: “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). It is not simply good fatherly advice, neither is it just a suggestion; it is a bona fide supplication on Christ’s behalf: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God” (ibid.). Why does he make such a solemn and earnest appeal? Because Christ knows how fragile and sinful we are, he knows the weakness of our heart. He immediately sees it wounded by the evil we have committed. He knows how much we need forgiveness, he knows that it is important for us to feel loved in order to do good. We cannot do it alone: this is why the Apostle does not tell us to do something but to allow ourselves to be reconciled with God, to let him forgive us, with trust, because “God is greater than our hearts” (1 Jn 3:20). He conquers sin and lifts us out of misery, if we let him. It is up to us to acknowledge that we need mercy. This is the first step on the Christian path; it entails entering through the open door which is Christ, where he, the Saviour, awaits us and offers us a new and joyful life.

There may be a few obstacles, which close the door of the heart. There is the temptation to lock the doors, or to live with our sin, minimizing it, always justifying it, thinking we are no worse than others; this, however, is how the locks of the soul are closed and we remain shut inside, prisoners of evil. Another obstacle is the shame of opening the secret door of the heart. Shame, in reality, is a good symptom, because it shows that we want to break away from evil; however, it must never be transformed into apprehension or fear. There is a third pitfall, that of distancing ourselves from the door: it happens when we hide in our misery, when we ruminate constantly, connecting it to negative things, until sinking into the darkest repositories of the soul. Then we even become kindred with the sorrow that we do not want, we become discouraged and we are weaker in the face of temptations. This happens because we bide alone with ourselves, closing ourselves off and avoiding the light; while the Lord’s grace alone frees us. Therefore let us be reconciled, let us listen to Jesus who says to those who are weary and oppressed: “Come to me” (Mt 11:28). Not to dwell within themselves, but to go to him! Comfort and peace are there.

At this celebration the Missionaries of Mercy are present, to receive the mandate to be signs and instruments of God’s forgiveness. Dear brothers, may you help to open the doors of hearts, to overcome shame, not to avoid the light. May your hands bless and lift up brothers and sisters with paternity; through you may the gaze and the hands of God rest on his children and heal them of their wounds!

There is a second invitation of God, who says, through the prophet Joel: “return to me with all your heart” (2:12). If we need to return it is because we have distanced ourselves. It is the mystery of sin: we have distanced ourselves from God, from others, from ourselves. It is not difficult to realize this: we all see how we struggle to truly trust in God, to entrust ourselves to him as Father, without fear; as it is challenging to love others, rather than thinking badly of them; how it costs us to do our true good, while we are attracted and seduced by so many material realities, which disappear and in the end leave us impoverished. Alongside this history of sin, Jesus inaugurated a history of salvation. The Gospel which opens Lent calls us to be protagonists, embracing three remedies, three medicines which heal us from sin (cf. Mt 6:1-6, 16-18).

In the first place is
prayer, an expression of openness and trust in the Lord: it is the personal encounter with him, which shortens the distances created by sin. Praying means saying: “I am not self-sufficient, I need You, You are my life and my salvation”. In the second place is charity, in order to overcome our lack of involvement with regard to others. True love, in fact, is not an outward act, it is not giving something in a paternalistic way in order to assuage the conscience, but to accept those who are in need of our time, our friendship, our help. It means living to serve, overcoming the temptation to satisfy ourselves. In the third place is fasting, penance, in order to free ourselves from dependencies regarding what is passing, and to train ourselves to be more sensitive and merciful. It is an invitation to simplicity and to sharing: to take something from our table and from our assets in order to once again find the true benefit of freedom.

“Return to me” — says the Lord — “return with all your heart”: not only with a few outward deeds, but from the depths of our selves. Indeed, Jesus calls us to live prayer, charity and penance with consistency and authenticity, overcoming hypocrisy. May Lent be a beneficial time to “prune” falseness, worldliness, indifference: so as not to think that everything is fine if I am fine; so as to understand that what counts is not approval, the search for success or consensus, but the cleansing of the heart and of life; so as to find again our Christian identity
, namely, the love that serves, not the selfishness that serves us. Let us embark on the journey together, as Church, by receiving Ashes — we too will become ashes — and keeping our gaze fixed on the Crucifix. He, loving us, invites us to be reconciled with God and to return to him, in order to find ourselves again.

  

 Chapter 6

1-10

 

This is something that goes against the world's logic. Such a logic responds to an offence with an equal and adverse reaction, because we must defend ourselves, we must fight, we have to defend our ground. And if someone strikes us once, we will strike them twice and so defend ourselves. That is the thinking, it's normal, right?

Yet, Jesus goes beyond this and says that after we have been struck, one ought to pause for a while together with the other person, to dedicate some time to the person. And if he asks for something, we ought to give him even more. This is Jesus' law: the justice that delivers is another justice, totally different from 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth'.

Paul gives us an expression that may help us to understand the meaning of the blow to the cheek and other such things. In fact, he ends with these words: 'as [people] having nothing, and yet possessing everything'. 

  
 

 Chapter 8

1-9

 

Pope Francis     18.06.13 Holy Mass Santa Marta      Matthew 5:43-48,      2 Corinthians 8:1-9

Even we, all of us, have
enemies — all of us. Some are weak enemies, some strong. So often we too become the enemies of others; we do not love them. Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies.

This is no easy matter, and in general, we think that Jesus is asking too much of us. We think: ‘Let's leave this to the cloistered sisters who are holy, a few holy souls!’. But this is not the right attitude. Jesus says that you must do this, otherwise you are like the Publicans, like the pagans, and you are not Christians. In fact, how can we love those who decide to bomb and kill so many people? How can we love who for love of money do not allow medicines to get to those who are in need, to the elderly and let them die?. And once again: How can we love people who seek only their interests and power and do so much evil?.

This is the mystery of
salvation: with forgiveness, with love for our enemy, we become poorer. But this poverty is a seed bearing fruit for others, as Jesus' poverty became grace for us all, salvation.

  

 Chapter 9

6-11

 

The Lord talks of hypocrisy on many occasions and condemns hypocrites. The Pharisees, wishing to put Jesus to the text, asked him if it were licit to pay taxes to Caesar. The Sadducees put to him the case of the woman widowed seven times. When Christ addressed the scribes: “hypocrites, you who do not enter the kingdom of heaven and do not let others enter it; hypocrites, you who make your phylacteries large and your fringes long”. These are the hypocrites who take the road of precepts that passes through “so many precepts that God’s word does not seem fertile”. They choose “the road of vanity”, with their phylacteries and fringes. “They grow vain and end by making themselves ridiculous”.

“The former are the hypocrites of casuistry, intellectuals of casuistry”, but they do not have the intelligence to find or explain God. They are stuck in casuistry. The latter are the hypocrites of precepts who “lead the People of God down a dead end road. They are ethicists without goodness. They do not know what goodness is.... this, that and the other must all be done. They pile on precepts”, but “without goodness”. They adorn themselves with drapery, with so many things... yet they have no sense of beauty. They can only manage a museum display type of beauty”.

The Lord mentions another class of hypocrites, those concerned with the sacred. This form of hypocrisy, is the most serious one, for it touches on sin against the Holy Spirit. The Lord, speaks of fasting, prayer and alms-giving, the three pillars of Christian piety. There are hypocrites in this area who strut about, making a show of doing all these things. “They no nothing of beauty, they know nothing of love, they no nothing of truth; they are petty, they are cowardly”.

We are all, without exception, tempted by hypocrisy, but Paul offers us help to resist it (2 Cor 9:6-11). The Apostle “talks to us of
broadmindedness, of joy”; for “we all also have grace, the grace that comes from Jesus Christ, the grace of joy, the grace of magnanimity”.

Let us ask the Lord to save us from every form of hypocrisy and give us the grace of
love, broadmindedness, magnanimity and joy.