The Church presents excerpts from St. Paul’s magnificent letter to the Ephesians as our first scripture for holy Mass this week.
On Monday, the Apostle Paul testified that Christ revealed himself for the purpose of forgiving our sins and through this forgiveness, he granted us a new way of life in which we would live in communion with him, and in sharing communion with him, we would share communion with God.
On Tuesday, the Apostle Paul spoke about the fulfillment of the Temple in Christ, assuring us that the Temple, did not simply cease to exist with Christ’s revelation, but was renewed and transformed in Christ. The new Temple is Christ’s Body and we enter into the sanctuary of Christ’s Body through the Mass.
Yesterday, Saint Paul testified that he had been given a mission to preach to the Gentiles, and through his ministry, bring the Gentiles into communion with Christ. Remember, the great revelation of the Church as the New Israel, is that God in Christ has transformed Israel, and in this transformation, invites all people to know and serve the one, true God. Paul has a mission to extend this invitation to those who were not physical descendents of the ancient family of Abraham- those people that the Israelites called the Gentiles.
And now today, the Apostle Paul reminds us that his Faith, the Faith of the Church, is not merely a matter of ideas, opinions, values, emotions, habits, ethnicity, culture, sociology, ideology- or any of the categories we impose on ourselves, Christ or the Church in order to make our religion palatable and easy. What the Church’s Faith is all about is a relationship, a relationship with Christ himself, who offers his life to us through the Sacraments of the Church. So, rather than being imbued or filled up with worldly powers- the powers of economics, politics, or ideology, we are filled with the power of Christ.
And this, for St. Paul, is what real power is all about- Christ’s power that is a love that gives itself to us even though we can’t earn it, a power of God’s love that is willing forgive us even when we don’t deserve forgiveness, a power of divine love that is greater than even the greatest of worldly powers- the power of death.
This power comes to us through our relationship with Christ, and without that relationship we just languish under the thrall of worldly powers, never knowing the freedom, the joy, the peace that comes from knowing and accepting Christ as Lord and Savior and sharing communion with his divine life through the Sacraments of the Church.
Faith in Christ is about a relationship with him. The Church is not simply an institution or faith based entertainment group. The Church is a relationship with Christ.
Finally, Christ in his Gospel, insists that he is fire on the earth and his followers will be the same.
Fire provides heat and light. It has both creative and destructive potential. It creates the conditions for the possibility of so many good things, but it can also unleash devastating destruction. The Gospel is not a self-help manual or a greeting card, it is a force to be reckoned with- and Christ, through his Church unleashes this force for the sake of the transformation of the world.
And further, Christ reminds us that the force of his Gospel will not mean that everyone will just get along, but it will also provoke divisions- some will accept the Gospel, others will refuse it, and those who accept it, will know opposition.
In other words, Christ’s way of life is not about getting easy comforts or being delivered from difficulty. Christ’s way of life is a mission that involves risk, and more often than not, saves and redeems us through a passage through difficulties, rather than in exemption from the real, raw facts of life.
This is the way that God in Christ went through and it is the way that all his disciples must be prepared to follow.