Second Reading: Colossians 1:12-20

The Christ We Worship

How are you inspired when you worship on Sunday?

Popular Translation

11c-12 Thank God our Father with great joy! He made you good enough to share part of the reward the saints in light will have. 13 God saved us from the dark power and put us into the Kingdom of his Son. 14 We are saved with Jesus, and we have our sins forgiven.

15 Jesus is the visible image of the God we cannot see.
He is the first to be raised from the dead,
so he is the most important person in the new creation.
16 God used Jesus to make everything in the universe,
everything in heaven and on earth,
everything we can see and can’t see,
all power and images of power,
every ruler and person with authority.
Everything was created by him and for him.
17 He is in front of everything
and, with him, the entire universe is held together.
18 He is in charge of the Church, which is his Body.
He is the first one to rise from the dead,
so he could be in charge of all creation.
19 God was happy to have all the power he has to live in Jesus,
20 and to bring everything back to him through Jesus.
God made peace with everything on earth and in heaven
through the blood Jesus shed on the cross.

Literal Translation

11c With joy, 12 (you should be) giving thanks to the Father, the One having made you (worthy) enough (to have) a portion of the lot of the saints in light. 13 (God is the one) who delivered us from the authority of darkness and transferred (us) into the Kingdom of his beloved SON, 14 in whom we have redemption, the pardon of sins. 15 (Jesus is the one) who is the image of the unseen God, firstborn of all creation, 16 because in HIM everything was created, (all) in heaven and on the earth, seen and unseen, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; everything was created through HIM and in HIM. 17 HE is before everything and everything stands together in HIM, 18 and HE is the head of the Body, the Church. (HE is the one) who is the firstborn from the dead, so that HE might be in everything, being first, 19 because in HIM, all fullness is pleased to reside, 20 and through HIM, to reconcile everything in HIM, having made peace through the blood of HIS cross, [through HIM] whether on the earth or in heaven.

11c-20 Grammatically, this is one continuous sentence. However, textual scholars have divided into sub-sentences for clarity.

1:15 “(Jesus is the one) who is the image of the unseen God” The image of God reflected the language of Genesis 1:26 when people were created. But, rising from the dead, Jesus became the new image for God.

1:18 “(HE is the one) who is the firstborn from the dead, so that HE might be in everything, being first.” Because Christ is the first to rise from the dead, he is the preeminent One in the order of the new creation, the Kingdom.

1:19 “because in HIM, all fullness is pleased to reside” The term “fullness” makes this clause opaque. The fullness could be all creation, the presence of the divine, or divine activity. In context, fullness seems to mean presence (please to reside) and activity (please to reconcile) of God.

In these verses from Colossians, the author (Paul or a follower writing just after the death of the apostle) used liturgical language to describe the Messiah and his mission. First, as part of the epistle’s intercession, the author encouraged the assembly at Colossae to give thanks (“eucharisteo” in Greek) that they share in the lot given to the saint in light (opposed to the darkness of Satan). He reminded them they were “transferred” from darkness into the Kingdom (through baptism) with the forgiveness of their sins.

Next, the author wove a hymn of the Christ into the letter. This hymn honored the Messiah as the image of the new creation (hence the new Adam) and as the instrument of creation. As the instrument, he stood over all other heavenly powers. Indeed, he was the reason for creation; all things were made for the Christ. Since sin broke the relationship between God and creation, the Christ would restore all things in himself for his Father. In other words, his sacrifice on the cross (the shedding of his Blood that was shared in worship) would reconcile creation back with God. How could this happen? The opaque “because in HIM, all fullness is pleased to reside” gives us the answer. As the note above states, the fullness was the divine presence and activity. The Christ reconciled all to the Father, because he was divine and human.

The flow of the verses sealed the tone as liturgical. The assembly praised the Christ who was the instrument of creation and salvation. They celebrated his mission in their initiation rites (baptism) and worship (Eucharist). When they joined the assembly of believers, they were taken from the dark into the light. When they gave thanks, they joined the holy ones who were in the presence of that divine light. In other words, they partook in the mystery that the Christ hymn described. They were one with He who created and reconciled the cosmos to God the Father.

Do we realize the overwhelming relationship we have with Christ when we meet on Sundays? In worship, do we reflect on the grace we share with others? The author of Colossians reminds us of the vision we should have at Mass. We are part of something much greater than ourselves!

Reflect on Christ and your relationship to you. How is he King of your life? How is he King of the cosmos?