Second Reading: Colossians 3:12-17

What We Bring To the Lord's Table

Popular Translation

12 God chose you. After all, he made you holy. And he loves you very much. So, act with compassion. Be kind, gentle, and humble. Be patient with others. 13 Take time to understand each other. Forgive each other, even if someone complains about another Christian. Remember, the Lord forgave you. You should do the same. 14 Above all, love others the way you would like to be loved. This kind of love will completely bind you together.

15 Let the peace Christ gave you rule your hearts. That peace brings us together, like we were a single body. Always thank God. 16 Let Christ's words live in you, like gold that overflows a bank vault. Use all your wisdom when you teach others or give them advice. And sing to God with all your heart in psalms and other church songs, as you thank him through his Son. 17 Whatever you say or do, do it all in the name of our Lord Jesus.

Literal Translation

12 So, as chosen of God, holy and beloved, clothe (yourselves) with feelings of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 willingly listen to each other and act graciously among yourselves, if someone might have a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has treated you graciously, thus you (should) also (do). 14 But, upon all these, (clothe yourselves) with) love, which is the bind of perfection. 15 Let the peace of CHRIST preside in your hearts, in which you call into one body. Become a thank-filled (people). 16 Let the word of Christ live in you richly, teaching and admonishing yourselves with all wisdom, singing with (all) your heart psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in gratitude to God. 17 And everything, whatever you might do in word or deed, (do) all in the name of the LORD JESUS, giving thanks to God through him.

3:13 "act graciously...treat you graciously" The Greek verb for "act graciously" is literally "give grace." Clearly, there is a difference between the gift of God's life and the acts that result from that life. In other words, Christians should act as graced-filled people. Because conflict and controversy were implied, the verb can be translated as "forgive." So, the translation would be: "Forgive each other, if someone fights with another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, you should also forgive."

The letter to the Colossians has some controversy. Who wrote the letter to this once glorious, but declining city? Some biblical scholars have argued against Paul's authorship, based upon theological concepts, writing styles, and vocabulary that were different from main body of his letters. Nevertheless, people and events noted in the letter clearly placed authorship in the later part of Paul's life or in the years after his death (65-70 AD).

Colossae and its outlying region had a sizable Jewish population. An unnamed cult within Judaism exerted some influence in the community. The author (whether Paul or a contemporary) urged the faithful at Colossae to resist the teachings of this cult. Three teachings stand out. First, the faithful should be circumcised (2:11). Second, they should observe Jewish holidays and dietary laws (2:16, 21). But, there was a third and strange teaching this cult promoted: the worship of "angels" (2:18). While Judaism recognized the power of spiritual beings (2:8, 20) as forces in the universe, it never insisted upon "self abasement or angel worship." This evidence pointed to a group within Judaism that held a heavenly hierarchy not unlike the Gnostics, who claimed salvation based upon secret wisdom handed down through such a hierarchy. The author clearly stated that salvation came through Christ. His death and resurrection made practices of the Law and the worship heavenly powers irrelevant (2:14-15).

How should Christians respond to the gift God offered us in Christ Jesus? First, the author listed Christian virtues and lifestyle (in opposition to the vices listed in 3:5-9). But, note the author seemed to address the community as a whole. The compassion and forgiveness in 3:12-14 expressed how the church at Colossae should act. It should have the reputation as a community filled with love.

Next, the author seemed to address the community in worship. Christ called them into one body (assembly). So, the church should be a eucharistic ("thank-filled" in English) people [3:15]. 3:16a-b listed the proclamation of the word and homily. The community's response was song [3:16c]. 3:17 summed up the worship attitude of the assembly: give thanks to God through Christ ("offer eucharist") for everything said or done.

Have you ever questioned the reputation of the church where you worship? What do outsiders think of your community? Beyond the quality of church leadership lays a deeper question. What do we, the faithful, bring to the table of the Lord? The author of Colossians gave a clear outline how the community should answer the question: virtues and attitudes to be found in worship. How we measure up indicates how the church is seen by others.

What do you bring to Mass on Sunday? Baggage and a fighting spirit? Or a thankful heart? Honestly reflect on the quality of your worship. Ask God to heal the hurt. Place all burdens in his hands. And thank him for his grace.