Reflecting on 2 Corinthians for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

From Second Corinthians, by Thomas D. Stegman, SJ, commenting on II Corinthians 5:18-21:

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The Sacrament of Reconciliation. For Catholics, the ministry of reconciliation is enacted in a privileged and unsurpassed manner in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, the opening words of the prayer of absolution make the connection explicit: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself ” (employing words from 2 Cor 5:18–19). Because sin damages our relationship with God and others, it is necessary to seek reconciliation with God and the Church. Penitents confess their sins to a priest or bishop, who is an instrument of God’s merciful love and forgiveness.

The priest or bishop also represents the community, whose witness to Christ and fraternal bonds are weakened by the sin of its members. The words of absolution—which are prayed by the priest or bishop after the penitent’s confession of sins, act of contrition, and resolution to do penance—are extremely powerful, for by means of them God brings about what he intended through the sacrificial death of Christ.

Priests and bishops thus have the awesome privilege and responsibility of continuing the work of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Their demeanor and comportment in the confessional, especially when marked by patience and compassion, can have life-changing consequences. I have found that intimacy with Jesus’ Sacred Heart and recognition of my own sinfulness are essential aids to celebrating this beautiful sacrament.

Ambassadors of Messiah Jesus. Because Christ conferred the power to forgive sins on his apostles (Matt 16:19; John 20:21–23), bishops and priests represent and speak for him in a unique manner, as when celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Nevertheless, by virtue of their baptism and confirmation all Christians participate in the priesthood of Jesus (e.g., Lumen Gentium 30–31) and thereby in his mission. That is, every one of us is called to be an ambassador of Jesus, a person who bears witness to him by living out gospel values, by building up the community of faith, by advocating for justice, and by working for peace.

Christ “willed that . . . his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood” (Catechism, 1442). One way that Catholics can participate in the ministry of reconciliation is to frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is only when we appropriate God’s mercy and love in our own lives that we are able to be conduits of that mercy and love for others. Like all his gifts, God’s gift of reconciliation is bestowed on us in order to be shared.

© 2009 Thomas D. Stegman SJ, and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Reflecting on II Corinthians for The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

From Second Corinthians, by Thomas D. Stegman, SJ, commenting on II Corinthians 13:11-13

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At long last, Paul brings the letter to a formal conclusion as he offers a solemn benediction: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you.

This closing blessing is particularly striking when compared with Paul’s other concluding blessings. Typically, he ends his letters thus: “The grace of the (or our) Lord Jesus (Christ) be with you.” The additions to this typical benediction in verse 13 are important on the level of theology and the level of Christian life. In terms of theology, the additions serve to remind the Corinthians of the chief theological concerns of the letter. Central to this final blessing is “the love of God.” God’s love for us is such that he holds nothing back from us in order that we might have the fullness of life.

As we just saw at the end of verse 11, God’s love has been manifested in two supreme ways, both of which are signified here. First, God has sent his Son to save us from sin and death (5:18–21). Hence Paul refers to “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the same phrase he employed in 8:9 to signify Jesus’ self-giving love in becoming human and offering his life on the cross in obedience to the Father’s will. Second, God has bestowed in our hearts the gift of the Holy Spirit (1:22; 3:3) to purify and sanctify us, to make us his holy people (6:16). Hence Paul adds the reference to the Spirit.

In addition to its theological import, the solemn final blessing functions as a bulwark for life in the Church. The phrase “the fellowship (koinōnia) of the Holy Spirit” is, as one commentator aptly notes, “powerfully ambiguous.” It refers to the gift of the Spirit in us whereby each one of us is, literally, in close communion with God.

© 2009 Thomas D. Stegman SJ, and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Stegman’s “Second Corinthians” Ebook on Sale!

In October, Baker Academic is offering the ebook version of Second Corinthians by Thomas D. Stegman, SJ in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture for the sale price of $4.99 (75% off)!

The ebook is available through these online booksellers:

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Reflecting on Second Corinthians for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From Second Corinthians by Thomas Stegman, SJ, commenting on Second Corinthains 12:9:

We finally reach the pinnacle of Paul’s entire boast in the second half of verse 9. Having heard the risen Lord’s response to his prayer, Paul settles on a different course of action, indicated by the conjunction “consequently” (not translated by the NAB). As a consequence of the Lord’s word to him about divine grace in human weakness, rather than praying for the thorn’s removal, Paul resolves to boast most gladly of his weaknesses. Paul has shed the use of irony here. He is perfectly serious about this boast because it serves an essential purpose: in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. It is important to note that Paul is not saying that boasting of his weaknesses in and of itself activates the “power of Christ”; grace is a divine gift, not subject to human manipulation.

Instead, Paul’s wording here suggests two things. First, he chooses to draw attention to his weaknesses rather than to things like his religious heritage and apostolic accomplishments, because he wants others to recognize that it is Jesus who is working through him. Boasting about his weaknesses is, paradoxically, a way of boasting about the Lord (see 10:17). Second, Paul intimates that boasting of one’s weaknesses is valuable for one’s spiritual life. The more we are aware of our personal inadequacies, the more inclined we are to turn in prayer to the risen Lord and open ourselves to the grace he generously offers.

© 2009 Thomas Stegman and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Reflecting on Second Corinthians for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

From Second Corinthians by Thomas Stegman, SJ, commenting on Second Corinthains 5:10:

Finally, Paul offers a crucial reason why it is important to “walk by faith” and to seek constantly to “please” the Lord: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. The word for “judgment seat” (bēma) refers to a raised platform on which a magistrate was seated to hear cases and pronounce judgment. In fact, Paul himself had appeared before such a judgment seat during his first stay in Corinth. He had been charged with contravening Roman law, a charge that the proconsul Gallio summarily dismissed (Acts 18:12–17). In the present passage, Paul speaks of the heavenly judgment seat, where the exalted Christ is seated in judgment. He reveals that judgment has universal and particular aspects. It is universal in the sense that everyone will be judged; it is particular in the sense that each individual will be judged according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil. Observe that, once more, Paul emphasizes the importance of embodied human existence. Bodily human existence is the arena of all moral activity, and God’s judgment of each person will be based on what he or she has done in this arena.

© 2009 Thomas Stegman and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

CCSS Ebooks

Several folks have asked about getting Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture volumes as ebooks. All seven volumes in print are currently available for Kindle:

Gospel of Matthew

Gospel of Mark

First Corinthians

Second Corinthians

Ephesians

First and Second Timothy, Titus

First and Second Peter, Jude

The CCSS series is also currently on pre-publication sale for Logos Bible Software. Select volumes are also available for Nook, CBD, Sony, and Kobo.

We are working on getting all the volumes available on these latter platforms.

Please let us know in the comments below if you have any questions.

Reflecting on 2 Corinthians for The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

From Second Corinthians by Thomas J. Stegman, SJ, reflecting on 2 Cor.  13:11-13:

The doctrine of God as one and triune took hundreds of years to be fully formulated. What Paul’s writings reveal, at a remarkably early period—recall that he wrote 2 Corinthians only a quarter century after the death and resurrection of Christ—is an extraordinarily rich appreciation of what theologians call the “economic Trinity,” that is, God revealed in his activity in history through the sending of his Son and the outpouring of his Spirit. One prominent Pauline scholar refers to Paul’s benediction in 2 Cor 13:13 as “the most profound theological moment in the Pauline corpus” (Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presnce). The Apostle’s blessing here contains in embryonic form the rich understanding of the Trinity formulated in the Church’s great ecumenical councils.

© 2009 Thomas D. Stegman, SJ and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.