The first Christians believed that the death and resurrection of Jesus began a new age with startlingly new possibilities. And they were absolutely right. In today’s first reading—a compelling, uplifting, but also unquestionably challenging passage—Paul articulates the momentous and irreversible change that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus brought to the world. He jubilantly proclaims that anyone who has been baptized into Christ is a “new creation,” an image that suggests not only new life, but also a completely new and liberating way of being. He says that because of Christ “the old things have passed away” and “new things have come.” The “old things” are all the unpromising, lifeless, and ultimately self-destructive ways of living and acting that we embrace when because of fear, selfishness, pride, anxiety or animosity, we turn away from others and begin to live only for ourselves.
By contrast, the “new things” that have come refer not only to what God has made possible for us in Christ, but also to what we are blessed and summoned to continue. Baptism makes us “ambassadors for Christ,” Paul writes, and our mission is to carry on the ministry of reconciliation begun by Christ. What would this mean in our families? In our workplaces? In all of our relationships? In our churches? Where are we called to be ministers of God’s merciful and reconciling love right now? Where are we summoned to bring God’s healing and peace?
In a world that is no stranger to breakdowns in love and broken relationships, in a world that knows the endless sorrow that flows from unhealed hurts and unforgiven transgressions, there is no more urgent calling than to continue Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation. It is every Christian’s task for it is the only sure path to peace and the only way to witness our belief that God’s love is the power that rules the world.
Paul J. Wadell is Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the extended Passionist family.