SUNDAY’S READINGS | March 27, 2022
The following paragraph is an exercise in thinking strictly from a human point of view regarding the appointed Gospel reading.
Tax collectors, sinners, and all reprobates may expect to receive, if there be any justice, exactly what they deserve, if not in this life, then in a proportionate punishment to come on some other shore. The younger son in the parable, the one who asked for his inheritance early, who “squandered his property in dissolute living,” who fell into ruin and poverty, finally coming to himself, considered begging for his father’s mercy and asking to be placed among the servants. He does not expect to be restored as a son; he does not expect compassion and forgiveness. At most, he hopes for pity, demotion, and food enough to survive. The older son, if we imagine him seeing his younger brother’s petition accepted, would likely still be embittered, though also touched by a doleful pleasure in his brother’s humiliation. A human point of view is often a world at war, a cold justice in which persons count for little or nothing, a world in which forgiveness is forbidden.
In the Gospel story, evil is not ignored. God is not mocked. Justice is served, though in a way we would never have imagined. “For our sake,” says St. Paul, “he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
In his suffering and death, Jesus stands where the sinner is, under the judgment of sin, and he bears the full cost of our rebellion against God. This would mean nothing if not for the corresponding role of Jesus as the “righteousness of God,” the righteous one who knew no sin. We are adopted or grafted into the sinless one, and thus our forgiveness is absolute and complete. Jesus stands with us amid human evil, which he conquers; we stand with him in his deathless life. Because of this, “we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way” (2 Cor. 5:16). We regard Jesus as the Savior and ourselves as the saved. We regard Jesus as the one who forgives, and ourselves as the forgiven.
We have entered a new world! “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new” (2 Cor. 5:17)!
“Happy are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Ps. 32:1-2). “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Cor. 5:19).
The unbearable beauty of Nina Simone’s voice is, I believe, an invitation to this new world.
It’s a new dawn,
it’s a new day,
it’s a new life for me,
and I’m feeling good. …
And this old world
is a new world
and a bold world for me.
(“I’m Feeling Good”)
Nina Simone is music and hip-dancing. She wears the best robe and a royal ring. She eats choice food and celebrates because she is utterly alive, found, and freed. Even if, unknowingly, she stands in persona Christi, and she invites us with the allure of divine beauty, divine joy, and divine celebration.
No longer thinking from a human point of view, we see on all sides “the produce of the land,” not bread falling from heaven, but the bread that is already here. We see the whole creation as an outward and visible sign.
Look It Up: Genesis 1:1
Think About It: The first new day.