Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Augustine was becoming more interested in Ambrose’s teachings, especially with his interpretations of biblical texts. While listening to Ambrose’s explanations, he was surprised how clearly those same words spoke to his heart and enlightened his mind.
"Another thing that brought me joy was that the ancient writings of the law and the prophets were now being offered to me under quite a different aspect from that under which they had seemed to me absurd when I believed that your holy people held such crude opinions; for the fact was that they did not. I delighted to hear Ambrose often asserting in his sermons to the people, as an emphatic principle: The letter is death-dealing, but the spirit gives life. This he would tell them as he drew aside the veil of mystery and opened to them the spiritual meaning of passages which, taken literally, would seem to mislead. He said nothing which offended me."
Ambrose pointed to some scholars of the Scriptures and how they were unable to open their hearts and minds to the meaning that had been hidden behind those words. Jesus identified same fault in the Jews who did not discover the message of the Old Testament, but focused solely on the literal word and consequently rejected the Messiah sent to them. "The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’" (John 10:31-32). Scholars in Jesus’ day spent a lot of time reading and contemplating the Scriptures. They tried unreasonably hard to understand and explain single words and expressions and show their specific and literal meaning while neglecting the hidden implications significant to spiritual life.
"In plain words and very humble modes of speech it offered itself to everyone, yet stretched the understanding of those who were not shallow-minded. It welcomed all comers to its hospitable embrace, yet through narrow openings attracted a few to you.”
Lord, help us to open our minds and hearts to your word so that we may too get close to you through the "narrow gate. Amen