Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ephesians 1:13-14

In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession, to the praise of his glory. (1:13-14)

For a moment, paint the picture in your mind of Golgotha's hill.

Our Blessed Lord and the two criminals hung for hours on their respective crosses, ravaged by thirst, and mocked by the mob. And for hours, the two watched the One in the middle. Nothing escaped their notice. They heard His groans, His agonized, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And they heard Him pray for those who hated Him: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Yet, despite what the two heard and saw, only one was changed. Only one believed.

Each time I read that crucifixion passage, I feel as if I am looking back through the lens of eternity at Christ, still hanging on Calvary’s cross, bloodied and dying to purchase our reconciliation with the Father. It is that image that makes Mass so meaningful for me. Each time the priest consecrates the bread and wine, I see eternity's fingers reach into our timeline and Christ literally steps into our presence. He is there when we receive Him in the Eucharist. He is at our side while we hear His voice in the Mass readings, the homily, hymns, and prayers.

One of my greatest fears is that after meeting Him, after hearing Him, I remain unchanged – or worse, I grow lukewarm toward Him; that I receive the Eucharist, recite the prayers – do all the expected things during the Mass, but become passionless about knowing my Savior, about loving Him, and imitating Him.

What could be worse than to see and hear the King of Glory during each Celebration, and not be continually changed? What could be worse than to witness His love and sacrifice, and remain satisfied with a tepid faith?

It’s not enough to hear -- or even to understand the truth of the gospel. We must believe it, which means to adjust our lives and lifestyles to God’s word and to the authentic teaching of His Church.

Part of that teaching, as we saw last week, has to do with evangelism . . . to move within and beyond our sphere and teach others about sin, forgiveness, righteousness and, yes, judgment. Indeed, the fervor for evangelism consumed the early Church. The Lord Jesus commanded it. The apostles preached it (for example, here, here, here, here and here). We cannot read the Book of Acts without seeing it fleshed out on every page. And neither can we acquaint ourselves with the lives of the Saints and not catch the passion for the salvation of souls.

Another part of that authentic teaching -- as we saw in the last study -- has to with living a sanctified life, a life separated to God. St. Paul said it well, and the Lord Jesus told us He separated Himself from worldly temptations to be an example to His disciples -- you and me -- to do the same for the sake of others

St. Paul reminded the Ephesian Christians -- and, by extention, us -- that they not only heard the gospel, but also believed the gospel. As a result, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit through their baptism, a down payment on their eternal dwelling, where neither moth nor rust corrupts, and thieves do not break in and steal.

Why, then, are we so satisfied with such trifles in this earthly life?

Questions for Reflection:

1. As you read this passage, pay special attention to the types of soil. How can you make your soil the most productive?

2. St. Paul writes often about the gifts, or charisms, God gives to members of the Church (for example, here and here). What are your gifts? Just as important, how can you use them more fruitfully for Christ? If you are not sure, seek guidance from your priest.

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