This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Ephesians 1:11-14
11 And it is in him that we have received our heritage, marked out beforehand as we were, under the plan of the One who guides all things as he decides by his own will,
12 chosen to be, for the praise of his glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.
13 Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the truth and the gospel of your salvation, and having put your trust in it you have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, 14 who is the pledge of our inheritance, for the freedom of the people whom God has taken for his own, for the praise of his glory.
Ephesians is a splendid letter but the author’s habit of piling up relative clauses and adverbial phrases, as here, annoys the reader. This passage emphasises that the church, as the peaceful union of all humanity, is part of God’s purpose from all eternity; it’s Plan A not Plan B. There are at least two questions about that claim.
- Does it mean a forceful assimilation of all other religions and philosophies into Christianity? I think not. It would be a mistake to identify the “People” of Ephesians with any existing church or with Christendom. Existing churches have to grow into the One People of God, just as much as anyone else, but they hold the precious blueprint for this transformation, the gospel.
- Does God’s eternal plan rule out human freewill? St. Augustine answers that God’s foreknowledge includes the free decisions of human beings. Indeed, as this passage states, being chosen by God’s love establishes the “freedom of the people he has taken for his own.”
Gospel, Luke 12:1-7
1 Meanwhile the people had gathered in their thousands so that they were treading on one another. And he began to speak, first of all to his disciples. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees — their hypocrisy.
2 Everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.
3 For this reason, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed from the housetops.
4 ‘To you my friends I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, he is the one to fear.
6 Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. 7 Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows.
Jesus warns against hypocrisy, which, like yeast, affects the whole batch of a person’s religion. His warning that all hidden actions words and thoughts will be revealed is not immediately attractive to those of us who are ashamed of our hidden motives and concealed deeds. Still, an end to concealment and an honest reckoning may be a relief even to us.
I don’t think Jesus is teaching us to be afraid of God. No he teaches fear of the devil who can throw us into hell, but trust in God, even in danger or persecution. The One who remembers the sparrows and counts the hairs of the head is to be trusted in all circumstances.
Jesus’ ministry was conducted in the threat of death. We must not underestimate the courage and tenderness of faith from which these words flow.