Saturday, February 14, 2009

An Introduction

Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ, wrote: “Nothing is more practical than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love, with what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you'll do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love (with God). Stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

I hope through this study of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, my fellow Catholics and Christians in other churches will grow more deeply in love with God, serve Him in increasing fruitfulness – and will make the cry of the Lord Jesus for unity (John 17) our cry as well.

After all, in light of the growing anti-Christian sentiment rising in many areas of America, Canada and Europe, if we do not stand together we face a very serious risk of falling separately. A house divided against itself still cannot stand, and it is prudent to remember the words of Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor during the Nazi years:

"In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me — and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Surely, it is “way” time for all of us to come together.

As we study Ephesians we will not limit ourselves to only Catholic sources. I like to think all baptized Christians can learn from each other, and so in our study we will certainly refer to the official teaching of the Catholic Church, but we will also look to the thoughts of Christians such as Oswald Chambers, Pope John Paul II, C. S. Lewis, St. Catherine of Siena, Pope Benedict XVI, Watchman Nee, Thomas a Kempis, Bishop Fulton Sheen, A. W. Tozer, Mother Teresa, St. Ignatius, St. Francis De Sales, and many others.

We will also use various translations of the Scriptures, such as the New American Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the Amplified Bible, and the Catholic Douay-Rheims version. I also will keep a lexicon of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic nearby.

So, let us press on to know the Lord, taking up the full armor of God that St. Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6, verses 10-20. All Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox, are engaged in a great spiritual battle for the souls of the lost, and we would do well to make Saint Terese of Avila’s prayer our own:

"Lord Christ,You have no body on earth but ours, No hands but ours, No feet but ours. Ours are the eyes through which your compassion must look out on the world. Ours are the feet by which you may still go about doing good. Ours are the hands with which You bless people now. Bless our minds and bodies, that we may be a blessing to others. Amen."

Questions for Reflection:

Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church here and here (click on your "back" arrow after each viewing). Compare these sections with 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and 13, along with St. John chapter 17.

1. What do you think unity in the Church looks like?
2. What do you think the Lord Jesus meant by His prayer for unity in John 17:23?
3. How does sanctifying oneself (compare John 17:17-19) move the Church toward unity?

1 comment:

M7healer said...

1. What do you think unity in the Church looks like?
A. At birth, we are literally born into the family of Man, really no different than the pagans not yet knowing the One Triune God. Next, our blessing with holy water (bathed in the water, if you will) at baptism, makes us members of the Church family. This is the “sacramental bond of unity” of which the Catechism speaks in 1271. Finally, at first communion, we are blessed with the Holy Eucharist, i.e., body and blood of Christ (bathed in His blood, if you will). We are more fully united with Christ in the Church, and with confirmation comes Baptism in the spirit: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is (H)Lord,’ except (I)by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) Moreover, with the sacrament of Marriage, or religious vows, one consummates the Holy relationship, either espoused to another in holy matrimony, or the Church, as in the religious orders. For it is written (1 Corinthians 12:5-12):
“5And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.
6There are varieties of effects, but the same (K)God who works all things in all persons.
7But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit (L)for the common good.
8For to one is given the word of (M)wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of (N)knowledge according to the same Spirit;
9to another (O)faith by the same Spirit, and to another (P)gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10and to another the effecting of (Q)miracles, and to another (R)prophecy, and to another the (S)distinguishing of spirits, to another various (T)kinds of tongues, and to another the (U)interpretation of tongues.
11But one and the same Spirit works all these things, (V)distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
12For even (W)as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, (X)so also is Christ.”
Now, just what is it that unites us in Christ? He is Love (1Cor13:1-8):
“ 1If I speak with the (A)tongues of men and of (B)angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a (C)clanging cymbal.
2If I have the gift of (D)prophecy, and know all (E)mysteries and all (F)knowledge; and if I have (G)all faith, so as to (H)remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3And if I (I)give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I (J)surrender my body [a]to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
4Love (K)is patient, love is kind and (L)is not jealous; love does not brag and is not (M)arrogant,
5does not act unbecomingly; it (N)does not seek its own, is not provoked, (O)does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6(P)does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but (Q)rejoices with the truth;
7(R)bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of (S)prophecy, they will be done away; if there are (T)tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
So, He loves me unconditionally, eternally, and graces me with His forgiveness continually, as I am wont to stray, separating myself from His endless Love. Therefore, it is one’s charge as His beloved child to learn to love one’s self as He loves each one. Then, and only then, will one be capable of loving Him, as he loves that one, and one’s neighbor as one’s self. And by drawing one another closer together in His Love and Grace, do we become fully united in Him. All the sacraments have this as their primary aim, roughly analogous to the legendary Cupid’s arrows, only much more fulfilling.
Compared to His love, the Cupid analogy is the child in the mirror: “...then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known [i.e,Loved]. But now faith, hope, and love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1Cor13:12-13).
His love is eternal: John 17:1-2.

2. What do you think the Lord Jesus meant by His prayer for unity in John 17:23?
A. In today’s Mass readings, 15 February 2009, the second reading seems apropos:

Reading II
1 Cor 10:31-11:1
Brothers and sisters,
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do everything for the glory of God.
Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or
the church of God,
just as I try to please everyone in every way,
not seeking my own benefit but that of the many,
that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Also, John 3:6-21:
16 For God so loved the world that he gave 7 his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn 8 the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 9 And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. 21 But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

We are unified in the body of Christ, His Church, with His unconditional, eternal Love.

3. How does sanctifying oneself (compare John 17:17-19) move the Church toward unity?
A. We see in John 17-19 the humanity of Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. He must be sanctified in God (the crucifixion), Who is Truth; the One; the Way. At our birth He sends us into the world. Yet, while we are in the world, we are not of the world. It is through the sacraments, beginning with our Baptism, that we learn the Truth, and become sanctified in the Truth: God=Love. Then, and only then, may we truly love ourselves for who we are, and our neighbors as ourselves. It is His eternal and unconditional love that graces and unites us.