Friday of Week 28 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Ephesians 1:11-14

Today we continue our reading of God’s plan of salvation at the beginning of the Letter. As Paul continues his panoramic vision of God’s plan for the whole human race and the whole of creation, he speaks today first of the Jews, his own people, and then of the Gentiles or “pagans” (that is, non-Jews) who had responded to God’s call.

“It is in Christ we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning.” In using the word “we” Paul indicates his fellow-Jews. He tells them that Christ is at the centre of God’s plan. Whether we speak of the whole of creation or the individual, it is only in relationship to Christ that there is a meaningful future destiny. Christ is the paradigm for all creation, the visible re-presentation of God himself among us. He is the Alpha and the Omega. However, Paul goes on now to speak, not of the whole of creation, but of those who have responded to God’s call in Jesus.

“We were claimed as God’s own” – that is, the Jewish people, who were called in a special way to be his witnesses to the coming of the Messiah. The completion of their call would only take place in Jesus, who, of course, was also a Jew, a descendant of David and a son of Abraham (cf. Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies).

The Jews “put their hopes in Christ before he came”. That is to say, it was among the Jews that God would become incarnate and it was they who gave witness over the centuries to the hope of a saviour Messiah. A number of Jews would recognise that hoped-for Messiah in the person of Jesus but many others would not. These latter still live in the hope of a Messiah yet to come.

“Now, you too, in him [i.e. Christ] have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation and have believed it.” Paul now turns to the Gentiles – very likely the majority of his readers – who have heard the message of the Gospel, have accepted it and become followers of Jesus.

They, like their Jewish brothers and sisters, have been “stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit”. Paul completes his trinitarian account of God’s plan with the Spirit, since the giving of the Spirit shows the plan has reached its final stage. The Gentiles, too, are called to share exactly the same salvation as the Jews. The proof of this is the clear evidence that the Spirit has come upon them and made them his own. They, too, share in that special kind of freedom that Christ gives to those who are truly his own and which puts an end to the moral slavery they experienced during their pre-Christian life.

Nevertheless, though this gift has already begun, it is only given in a hidden way while the unspiritual world lasts, and will only be given fully when the kingdom of God is complete and Christ comes in glory.

There is a great wealth of ideas in this magnificent presentation of what God has planned for his people through the saving work begun by his incarnate Son and carried out by the Spirit. These words are addressed as much to us as they were to the original readers of this letter. They can provide an endless source for prayer, reflection, praise and thanksgiving when we realise the kind of God we believe in.

Let us, too, ask him to help us live up to the calling which has come from him, a calling going back to long before we were even thought of.

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