Monday, April 13, 2009

Ephesians 1:7-14

In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions . . . In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth. In him we were also chosen . . . so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ. 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 . . . to the praise of his glory. (1:7-14)

I don’t usually include large passages of text in these studies because the eye tends to gloss over long paragraphs. In this case, though, I made an exception because this section is one of the more succinct and yet expansive testaments to the gospel message.

And that message? Our life, hope, salvation and eternal destiny are tied to, and intricately woven in and with, Jesus.

It is in Jesus we have forgiveness. In Jesus the Father made known the mystery of our redemption. In Jesus God summed up all the important things of life, death and beyond. In Jesus alone the Father brings praise to Himself. And it is through our faith in Jesus the Holy Spirit sealed us to Himself.

Yes, it's all about Jesus. Always has been. Always will be.

We will look more closely at each of these wonderful promises in later lessons, but for now, let’s look at the first one:

In Him we have . . . forgiveness.

Oh! How I needed -- and still need -- forgiveness. St. Paul called himself the foremost of sinners because he persecuted Christians. But my life also qualifies as deserving the most severe of judgments. And my life also qualifies as a demonstration of God's great and merciful patience.

St. Paul murdered Christians because he thought they were blasphemers. But I murdered my baby because I didn’t want to be bothered with the responsibility of taking care of a child. If you’ve read my story in either of my books, you know what I'm talking about it. St. Paul lived as a Pharisee, a life wholly and holy devoted to God as best he knew how. My life, in contrast, degenerated year by year into deeper immorality, depravity, selfishness and deception. No one who came into close contact with me during my teen and young adult years left without some of my stain on their own souls. How I rue those days.

And then, in the midst of it all, stinking with the filth of my life -- I met Jesus. To say those words quickly makes the encounter seem so unnoteworthy, almost like saying I visited a great restaurant last evening.

But I remember that moment in December 1972 as clearly now as I have ever remembered it. And that moment changed my life literally overnight. I discovered my savior wanted to lavish His love on me, to give me -- as incomprehensible as it seemed -- His forgiveness, despite all, all, ALL that I’d done to deserve His wrath.

I only needed to turn away from my sins, ask His forgiveness, and strive to obey Him the rest of my days.

And when I turned toward Christ, His mercy and grace and compassion fell over me as it fell over the woman caught in adultery, or the harlot of Samaria, or over the likes of St. Francis or St. Augustine before their conversions, or as it has fallen over every other person in history who experienced what the Church teaches is a personal encounter with the living, loving, and merciful Savior.

No wonder the gospel seems a mystery to many– for who would believe that the almighty, holy, pure and undefiled God would love defiled sinners such as we!

Oh, how I thank God for His amazing grace, and His amazing forgiveness! And what He did for me, He does for anyone who turns to Him. That surely is why we read here, and here, here and here of Christ's continual invitation to us for repentance and a changed heart, and why we have from Christ the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Questions for Reflection:

1. The Lord Jesus said, “He who is forgiven much, love much. He who is forgiven little, loves little.” Now ask the Holy Spirit to unveil to your mind your deepest sins, especially those you have hidden from yourself. And then consider how much deeper is Christ’s love for you.

2. A personal encounter implies a personal relationship. How do you nurture relationships with others . . . spouse, child, friends? How can you apply those principles of relationship nurturing with your relationship with God?

3. Listen to this song by Hillsong. Wouldn't the lyrics make a good prayer?

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