Friday, July 10, 2009

Ephesians 2:3 (part one)

All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh, following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest (Ephesians 2:3).

From our vantage point, we understand why Paul included himself in the “All of us.” The one-time Pharisee made it his personal mission to destroy the fledgling Church. He dragged disciples from homes, killing some, imprisoning others. However, what is often overlooked about the Pharisee Paul is that he became a saint.

That’s an important point, because what God did with Paul, He wants to also do with you and me.

What was it that God did with Paul? First, He captured Paul’s attention. I don’t think God preferred to do it the way He did – knock him to the ground and blind him for three days. I like to think God would have rather come to the Pharisee gently in the night, revealed Himself to Paul, and sent the new apostle on his way. But I believe God knew Paul would more likely pay attention to -- shall we say -- the direct approach.

What does that point have to do with us? It should behoove us, then, to listen when God calls us gently in the night – lest He exercise His other options.

Second, God forgave Paul’s murderous sins.

I made that a stand-alone paragraph because I don’t want us to miss that. Even for murder (remember St. Stephen in Acts 7 and 8:1?), God is willing to forgive the penitent – to cast such sins as far from us as east is from west (Psalm 103:12). And the application for us, then, should be clear – regardless of what we have done or how often we’ve done it – God is willing to forgive the penitent (1 John 1:9).

Third, God brought someone to Paul to teach him the gospel of Christ (Acts 9). But the important thing here is Paul had to be teachable. Remember, Paul was very knowledgeable of his Jewish faith -- far more than most of his colleagues. (Phil 3:4-7 and Galatians 1). Therefore, Paul had to be humble enough to accept the words of a non-Pharisee (Ananias) who brought him the gospel message.

The application for us? No matter who we are, what our age, rank or position in the Church, we must be teachable. Jesus said even children could lead us to a closer relationship with God (Matthew 21:16). On the other hand, pride will often blind us to Truth Himself in our midst.

And finally, God sent Paul to others. And that application should also be clear for us. God wishes to use us – you and me – to tell others of His love, mercy, and offer of forgiveness in Christ. That’s one reason St. Paul wrote this to the Romans (10:14-17). But if God is going to use us, we must be prepared for service by exercising things we have covered several times in this study already: living a holy life, studying God’s word, being a person of prayer, participating faithfully in the Sacraments.

That’s what God did with the murderous Pharisee who became the foremost apostle of Jesus Christ. Think of what God can do with any of us who pay attention to Him, repent, are teachable about the Gospel, and are willing to tell others the wonderful news of Jesus.

Questions for Reflection:

1. St. John Cassian wrote: No structure of virtue can possibly be raised in our soul unless, first, the foundations of true humility are laid in our heart.

Are you teachable? Do you think so highly of your works of mercy, or your knowledge, that you cannot hear God speak through the mouths of others?

2. Are you engaged in activities that prepare you tell others of Jesus? (Remember the 3 Ss – Sacraments, Scripture and Supplication (prayer). If not, will you begin? If so, shall you persevere?

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