Sunday’s reading from II Corinthians (6:1-13) may be familiar to you, because much of it is read each year on Ash Wednesday (5:20b–6:10).

St Paul begins the reading for Sunday by exhorting the Corinthians “not to accept the grace of God in vain” (6:1). The context suggests that St Paul means for the Corinthians not to fail to conform to God’s gift of justification and being a new creation. Concretely, he means the Corinthians to become God’s righteousness (5:21), not to live for oneself (5:15), and to be reconciled to Paul (6:11-13 and 7:2-3). If the Corinthians do these things, no fault will be found in them at the last judgment (I Cor 4:2-5).

The Corinthians should undertake these concrete actions, because Paul has put “no obstacle in anyone’s way” (6:3). And in the highly rhetorical section, St Paul lists all the impediments he has endured beginning with “afflictions” (6:4) that commend his ministry to them. He goes on to say that he has been treated as an impostor, unknown, dying, punished, sorrowful, poor, and having nothing. None of these, he says, is true. In fact, their opposites are true. He ends by saying that his heart is open wide to them, and he says they should open wide their heart to him.

Shining through St Paul’s approach to his thorny relationship to the Corinthians is the Christian ideal of living up to the image of God in us that means, in our Catechism, “that we are free to make choices: to love, to create, to reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 845). The help we have to reach this ideal is God’s ministry to each of us by each Person of the Holy Trinity.

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