Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr





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.
But God, who is rich in mercy,
because of the great love he had for us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
brought us to life with Christ…

 
Scripture scholars insist that we should read every word of the bible in context. Who is saying what to whom, when, where and why? Just as reading a newspaper article, a historical novel or fantasy fiction without context would be baffling, so is reading the bible without knowing something about its context.
The first think we should know about the writings of Saint Paul is his great affection for his fellow Christians. If we fail to notice his joyous, personal love we may bring the attitudes of inferior preachers, writers and pious persons to the reading, along with their suspicions, fears and prejudices. When Saint Paul speaks of the Church, for instance, he is not thinking about Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, or the National Council of Catholic Bishops, or the quarrels of Roman Catholics and Protestants. He is thinking of the small group of people who will hear his letter read to them in someone’s living room.  He is feeling their presence and seeing their faces even as he writes.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians may be somewhat less personal than his letters to the Thessalonians, Corinthians and Philippians, but it is nonetheless warm with affection for his fellow Christians.
When he reminds them that “All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh, following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses…” he is not scolding them. Quite the contrary he is thanking God for the mercy He has shown to them. Saint Paul has no time for remorse; he does not wallow in regrets about his past; nor does he hold anyone’s past against them. If he remembers that “we were by nature children of wrath like the rest” it is to celebrate the Wonderful Works of God.
Aware of his joyous affection, I hear the Apostle declare that God has…
brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
I am one of those introverts who wants to know my place and the space around me. Invite me to dinner and I’ll ask, “Where do you want me to sit?”
In his letter to the Ephesians I hear that we will sit with him in the heavens; and not  because I have won the prize or deserved an award but because the Lord wants to show the immeasurable riches of his grace. The Father especially wants to show the world how Jesus, the Son of God, stands in his presence. The one who was despised, mocked, humiliated and crucified by men is now honored by the One God and Father of us all.
He shows the world Jesus not with the standard vision of the sky opening and one appearing like a son of man coming upon the clouds…, but in our works of mercy.
Not you or I or Paul would believe it if we had not seen it. The truth of the gospel is not demonstrated with reason, logic and analytical persuasion but with mighty works: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, welcoming the alien and so forth.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.