Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ephesians 1:17-19 Part One

. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of (your) hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe . . . (vv 17-19).

Pope John Paul II warned in 1996, "Increasing religious indifference leads to the loss of the sense of God and of His holiness, which, in turn, is translated into a loss of a sense of the sacred, of mystery and of the capacity for wonder."

How terribly sad is the prospect -- loss of a sense of the sacred, of mystery and of wonder, all of which is rooted in our loss of the knowledge of God.

In my years as a Christian, I have come to recognize it is quite easy for nearly anyone to know about God. Libraries and the internet brim to near-overflowing with information about Him. We can hear about His love and justice, compassion and discipline in daily homilies, radio broadcasts, and religious journals. But knowing about God is entirely different from knowing God. The first is an intellectual pursuit. The second is rooted in the supernatural, as St. Paul writes here.

And knowing God is a process founded on certain criteria. Here are a few:

1. We can know only what God permits us to know through His grace. For example, the Lord Jesus said, ". . . no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matthew 11:27). And St. Paul wrote this to the Galatian church. And, speaking of the Church, read this comment in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In other words, everything God does for us, everything He teaches us, every time He moves closer to us, all things find their origin in His grace, mercy and love for us.

2. The psalmist understood, "If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear [me]" (Psalm 66:18). St. Peter warned Christian husbands -- but the application to all Christians should be clear --"live with your wives in an understanding way . . . so that your prayers will not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:7). Can we expect our holy God to reveal more of Himself to us when we refuse to repent and turn from our sins?

3. We also need to forgive others. There are many unnerving passages in the bible, and surely this one spoken by the Lord ranks up there with the most disturbing. And, as if to highlight the point, the Lord offers this parable to His disciples. We should not expect God to reveal Himself to us if we are unwilling to forgive as we have been forgiven.

4. If we hope to know God more intimately, we should seek God more passionately. St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Colossae, "if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:1-2). I like that phrase -- Keep Seeking. It's the same message the Lord spoke to His disciples here, in which the Greek tense carries the idea of continually asking, seeking and knocking.

Perhaps if we sought intimacy with Christ as some people seek wealth, power or popularity, we would know true wealth -- that being knowing Him and sensing His presence.

5. If we want to know Him, we ought to practice walking as He walked. St. Paul adds additional guidance: "Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3).

6. The Psalmist wrote here, here and here an admonition we would do well to heed if we hope to know God better. And St. Peter added: "like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2).

The Lord Jesus said, "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father." And so, if we want to know God, we must know the Son -- which, I am sure, is why St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."

In this lesson's Scripture passage, St. Paul speaks of the "hope that belongs to [God's] call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us."

Why do we settle for trinkets and toys, when the wealth of heaven is within our reach?

Questions for Reflection:

1. The Lord Jesus invites us, "Come." Obedience and faith can be yoke to those of us (I am high on that list) who would often rather do as we want to do. When have you found His yoke easy? Why was it easy? What resulted from wearing His yoke?

2. Might the lyrics of this song be a worthwhile prayer?


NC Sue said...

The retreat master at a retreat I recently attended recommended regularly reading the Gospels to get to know Christ better. His advice was to read Mark first, then Matthew, then Luke - one each year according to whether it's year A, B, or C of the lectionary - and after that, "you'll have the rest of your life for John". I've started to follow that advice, and (as always), I'm finding a whole bunch of stuff that somebody slid in there since the last time I read these passages.

Richard Maffeo said...

Frankly, I go one step further. I prefer to read the entire bible, Genesis through Revelation, each year. If you read two chapters in the OT and two in the NT each day, you will read the NT three times each year, and the OT once every 12-13 months :)

Great discipline.