Saturday of Week 28 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Ephesians 1:15-23

Immediately following his great picture of God’s plan for all of his creation, Paul now makes a beautiful prayer for the Christians to whom he is writing. Let us see, phrase by phrase, what he says.

He begins by saying, “I, too, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus…” The letter is purportedly being written from Paul’s place of imprisonment in Rome. Clearly he has been getting reports from the various churches by Christians who have been visiting him. He has been deeply gratified by what he has been hearing about the faith of the Christians and the loving support they show towards each other and he remembers them constantly, with gratitude, in his prayers.

In two lovely petitions he prays that God and Jesus may give them an ever deeper understanding of their faith:

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.

Each one of us could reword that prayer and ask that God give each one of us, too, the spirit of wisdom and insight which will lead us to an ever deeper understanding of Jesus and his Gospel. Without that we cannot grow in loving and serving him.

He continues:

May he enlighten the eyes of your heart,
so that you can see
what hope his call holds for you,
what rich glories he has promised
the saints will inherit
and how infinitely great is the power
that he has exercised for us believers.

“The eyes of your heart” – the heart is used in the Scripture as the seat of knowledge and also of love. We need to be strengthened in both knowledge, understanding and love.

“The hope his call holds for you” – hope here expresses a confidence in a future that is not yet here but is guaranteed. It is a form of faith.

“The saints” – indicates all the baptised and not just a special minority.

Seeing as a sense of understanding is a concept that goes right through the Gospel. Many blind people are healed and, when they can see, they praise and follow Jesus. Jesus is the Light of the world, a light that can only be enjoyed and benefited by those who can see. We, too, are called in imitation of Jesus to be, in our own way, a light to the world (cf. Matt 5:14).

Here we are asked to pray that we may see just what God’s call in Christ means for us. We ask to understand the nature of Christian hope, which is not just some wishful but a certainty that promises will be kept. It is the promise of a future glory that is waiting for us and to have a deeper understanding of the power that God exercises on our behalf.

And to know “the surpassing greatness of his power”. Paul piles term upon term to emphasise that the extraordinary divine force by which Jesus Christ was raised is the same power at work in and through believers. Paul is saying that the Christians already have some notion of all this from the power of God that was made evident in the life of Jesus. Jesus was raised from the dead and put sitting at the Father’s right hand, in effect, a position of sharing in the nature, power and authority of God. This places him above all the hierarchies of ministering angels around God’s throne and all other powerful spirits now and forever.

Summing up, Paul says that God has put “all things under [Christ’s] feet”; he is Lord of all creation. As such, he has also been made the “head of the Church, which is his Body”. The psalmist had already expressed it:

What is man that you should be mindful of him,
Or the son of man that you should care for him?
You have made him little less than the angels
And crowned him with glory and honour”
(Ps 8:5-6)

The psalm emphasises the destiny of man in general. The Letter to the Hebrews, using the same text, adds the words “subjecting all things under his feet” and applies them to Jesus as the Son of Man and Ruler of all. (Heb 2:6-9).

The Church,then, as the Body of the Risen Christ is the visible manifestation of his ongoing presence in the world just as my body is the means by which I am made sensibly present to those around me. And that Body, together with its Head, is the “fullness of him who fills the whole creation”.

“The Church, as the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:12ff), can be called the fullness (pleroma) in so far as it includes the whole new creation that shares (since it forms the setting of the human race) in the cosmic rebirth under Christ its ruler and head.” (Jerusalem Bible). In other words, the Church shares in the fullness of Christ by his being its Head, while, of course, in many other respects it reveals the shortcomings of its other members.

So we have here an awesome vision of the overwhelming greatness of Jesus now in glory with the Father while, at the same time, intimately part of our Christian communities. It is a frightening responsibility that we are the visible re-present-ation of Christ to the world and it is a responsibility of which we need to be constantly aware. The rest of this Letter will spell out what that union between Christ and his Church entails.

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