(Reproduced from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish Bulletin for January 10, 2016)
One could meditate on each verse of today’s Epistle from Colossians 3 for several minutes, for it is so rich in godly counsel. As we read, we should also be challenged, and even convicted of sin. It may be a healthy spur for us to go to confession. One could take passages like this one, and turn them into an examination of conscience: “Have I been merciful, kind, humble, modest, patient, etc?” The point is not to dwell on our faults, but to be aware of and to admit these failures, offering them to Christ in the confessional. There, the Lord forgives us, and bestows sacramental grace to help us in our battle against sin.
Indeed, God’s forgiveness is the crucial reality in today’s passage: “even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also” (v. 13). Fr. Joseph Briody, of St. John’s Seminary helps us to understand more clearly St. Paul’s teaching here and in similar ethical passages in his Epistles. In his book, Marriage and Family in Sacred Scripture (the text of our Advent parish book study), he says the following on p. 37: “Paul’s major concern was the saving effects of Christ’s death and resurrection….What is sometimes described as Christian ‘ethics’ is in fact the appropriate response to the mystery of Christ….For Paul, ethics or morality flow from Christology- Christ Himself is the measure of how we should live.”
This is essentially the teaching of St. John in his first Epistle: “We love because He first loved us” (cf. 1 Jn. 4:19). God’s prior forgiveness generates within us that “charity, which is the bond of perfection” (v. 14). Receiving His forgiveness gradually opens us up to be more charitable with others. Knowing in a very personal way the tenderness of Jesus with us and our faults should be a daily summons for us to live more perfectly in His tender charity for others. Being forgiven is what “let[s] the peace of Christ rejoice in [our] hearts,” and is also among the chief reasons for “be[ing] thankful” (v. 15). The RSV accurately renders the original Greek as “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”
In other words, peace with God should be the root of all subsequent charity for our neighbor. This is Fr. Briody’s point above, namely, that Christology flows into morality. St. Jerome’s Vulgate translation is not be discounted, however. The peace of being forgiven and living in communion with Jesus is also the optimum cause for rejoicing and giving thanks through devout assistance at Mass (the word Eucharist literally means thanksgiving, and the Liturgy is the highest form of thanksgiving).
The peace of Christ is likewise a driving motivation for being saturated with the scriptures, that is, for letting “the word of Christ dwell in [us] abundantly” (v. 16). This is confirmed by what we find in Psalm 130 (129), the De Profundis. Overwhelmed by God’s infinite mercy, the Psalmist prays, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope” (cf. Ps. 130:3-5, RSV). Peace with God engenders greater hope in and love for His great promises, which are found in His inspired Word. Such a foundation gives us the grace and the strength to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (v. 17, RSV)