“This means that if anyone is in Christ,” Paul tells the Christian community at Corinth, they are “a new creation.” Those words, spoken nearly two thousand years ago, resonate with us today. They touch our hearts and rouse our imaginations. “A new creation” suggests new beginnings and fresh starts; it hints of being healed and made whole, renewed and liberated. It is such a vibrant, captivating image that even if we are not sure what it means, we want to be part of it. Paul continues his exultant proclamation by saying: “The old order has passed away; now all is new!”
How do we move from the “old order” to the “new”? The rest of this passage from second Corinthians lets us know. Paul says this “new age” and “new creation” are all the work of a gracious and merciful God who, “in Christ, was reconciling the world to himself.” Paul wants his early Christian community to know that they have been given new life and never-ending hope because through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the “old order” of sin and death has been overcome.
But what God began in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus is to be continued by us. God “has entrusted the message of reconciliation to us.” Paul means this quite literally. To be a Christian, Paul says, is to be “ambassadors for Christ” by carrying on Christ’s work in the world. The most important way to do so is for Christians to commit to being agents of forgiveness and reconciliation, emissaries of Christ’s peace, every day of their lives in their homes, their workplaces, their churches, and their communities. Isn’t this what we commit to each time we offer one another the “peace of Christ” at the Eucharist?
In a world where there is so much estrangement, so much anger and bitterness, so many broken relationships, so many unhealed hurts, accumulated resentments, and hardened hearts, there is nothing more life-giving than to carry on Christ’s ministry of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. Whenever we do we fulfill our calling to contribute to God’s “new creation.”
Paul J. Wadell is Professor Emeritus of Theology and Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the Passionist Family of Holy Cross Province.