This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Ephesians 1:15-23
15 That is why I, having once heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and your love for all God’s holy people, 16 have never failed to thank God for you and to remember you in my prayers. 17 May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. 18 May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, how rich is the glory of the heritage he offers among his holy people, 19 and how extraordinarily great is the power that he has exercised for us believers; this accords with the strength of his power 20 at work in Christ, the power which he exercised in raising him from the dead and enthroning him at his right hand, in heaven, 21 far above every principality, ruling force, power or sovereignty, or any other name that can be named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 He has put all things under his feet, and made him, as he is above all things, the head of the Church; 23 which is his Body, the fullness of him who fills all things everywhere.
The resurrection and enthronement of Jesus means that God has placed Him above all earthly and heavenly powers, from the power of the world economic system to the power of the evil one. All things are under his pierced feet. But the Assembly (Church) of believers shares the identity of its Lord. Indeed the Assembly is the means by which the crucified Lord fills all things. This language points to the glory and humility of the church’s calling to be the universal presence of the crucified Christ. It has to challenge to powers of the world in the name of the true king. It has to share the suffering of the world in the name of the suffering servant of God. It has to cross the petty boundaries of the world in the name of the one who fills all things.
If all this seems a million miles away from the life of the church we know and love, maybe we need to re-assess our parochial modesty.
My grandfather, Alex Mair, who left school at fourteen years, in the tiny village of Portknockie on the Moray Firth, went to China in 1911 and became a famous teacher of missionaries, with a special gift for the Chinese language. Today he is remembered in the records of church communities there as a founding father. He was a profoundly courteous and modest man with a great ambition: to be part of a universal witness to God’s love.
Gospel, Luke 12:8-12
8 ‘I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, the Son of man will declare himself for him in the presence of God’s angels.
9 But anyone who disowns me in the presence of human beings will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.
10 ‘Everyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven, but no one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven.
11 ‘When they take you before synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, 12 because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say.’
I interpret the phrase, “Son of Man” as indicating the corporate identity of Jesus and his disciples. In this world, they serve and suffer; in the world to come, they reign. This is the same doctrine as taught by Ephesians, in different language. Taking sides for or against Jesus and his people in this world is decisive for one’s destiny in the next. We are not to imagine that this could be a mere choice of stated belief either way. It is rather a question of fundamental allegiance. Moslems and atheists who have demonstrated this allegiance may well be acknowledged by Jesus ahead of me.
But Jesus also says that in this world he and his followers share the ambiguity of all things earthly and may therefore attract criticism which is forgivable. The unforgivable sin is to “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit”. This refers to those who see all too clearly the just and loving character of God’s presence in Jesus, and reject it. They do not want this God’s forgiveness, and they won’t be forced to receive it. One of the first Christian theologians, St Irenaeus, says that God in his love never forces people to acknowledge him. “He will leave them in the darkness they have chosen.”