The readings are from the Catholic lectionary for daily mass while the headlines keep my thinking real:
Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.
Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. Among you there must be not even a mention of fornication or impurity in any of its forms, or promiscuity: this would hardly become the saints! There must be no coarseness, or salacious talk and jokes-all this is wrong for you; raise your voices in thanksgiving instead. For you can be quite certain that nobody who actually indulges in fornication or impurity or promiscuity-which is worshipping a false god-can inherit anything of the kingdom of God. Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is for this loose living that God’s anger comes down on those who rebel against him. Make sure that you are not included with them. You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light.
Paul describes Jesus’ life as a sweet sacrifice to God meaning that he offered his whole self, his truth and beauty, in obedience to God. He identified himself in word and action with God’s cause. In his human love for God he became God’s love for humanity.
But how does Jesus’ offering become ours? By our love for him. It’s not a mystical exchange, but proceeds from our unity with Jesus. How do we unite with him? By our obedience to his way, in the practical holiness that Paul advocates here. Doubtless we will not be fully obedient to him, nor completely united with him, but God accepts our genuine small offerng as it were the full shilling; he gives us an advance of trust and accepts us along with Jesus. But God’s not daft, for where there is genuine love for Jesus, however imperfect, there is also genuine transformation. People begin to shine.
I attended the funeral today of a man I knew in my youth fifty years ago, with the the odd contact over the intervening years. Clearly from the witness of those attending and of his minister, his life shone with humour, energy and compassion, in his private life, in the church and in his city. Surely such a life is a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.
We are poor, passing, creatures, but our short lives can be magnificent. For Christian believers the model of magnificence is Jesus.