One might expect that an Ash Wednesday reading (2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2) would appear in the Lectionary for Penance. And so we have a bit of overlap (5:20-21) with the final five verses of 2 Corinthians 5. Curious that this relatively large New Testament book contributes only this reading to the Rite of Penance. But there you have it:
Brothers and sisters:
Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God,
who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting their trespasses against them
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
*So 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.
Reconciliation is from God. Clear enough. But when Saint Paul writes, “God (has) given us the ministry of reconciliation,” is he speaking of himself? Of the apostolic band? Or may we interpret reconciliation as the act of every believer?
The apostolate of the laity lies in the world, and it is there that Christ needs ambassadors. If we hold to that, then the Catholic laity certainly have a share in the ministry of reconciliation. How else are non-believers to know this aspect of Jesus Christ, but for our own example.
Every ambassador has credentials. Perhaps this reading challenges the believer to develop those credentials sacramentally. God affirms the believer as made new in the Son. Our own transgressions are discounted. What more affirming message can we then pass on to those who do not believe, those who are skeptics, or those who have allowed their faith to go inactive?
God forgave me: can we make a convincing case for this in the world? I think we might need to do so.