The two readings, again, like the two complementary wings of an altar. On the left, we can see the hazardous journey of faith, with its failures. We can witness to the disintegration of faith: part of the people become, literally, pagans. Through deportation, or through violence of war, they disappear from the scene of faith-history. On the right, we see Saint Paul’s life shared with the communities he visits. ‘Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us… We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.’
In our churches and communities, whenever we read the apostle’s letter, we have Paul as our guest. The same applies to all the sacred writers of the New Testament. Through the words we read aloud, we have the apostles, the evangelists, and the first Christians as our guests. In this welcome, they bring us life and strengthen our identity.
This exchange of words is also the way for us to live in real time, outside the time of idols. Actually, these encounters through the words of the Gospel help us to define ‘idols’ in the following way. Idols, idolatry stands for something that is attempting to remove us from salvation-history. Idols (try to find out what are those of our own age!) aim at severing us from that sacred history, which has a purpose (its telos) as ‘the Lord Almighty’. It seems that idols can be impersonal forces too, ‘trends’ in the natural flow of time in our culture. Thus, idols can affect us passively - however, with the same outcome. Forgetting of our sacred origin, and sacred destination.
‘And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with and an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.’ In one word: my guests.
Just as Saint Paul - and the Gospel with its focal point, Christ - is now our guest through reading him in faith.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..