October 28, 2016
Reading 1 Eph 2:19-22
Brothers and sisters:
You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.
Through him the whole structure is held together
and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
in him you also are being built together
into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Dear fellow pilgrims,
As I read the first reading, I was struck by all of the different roles and analogies St. Paul uses to describe our role as Christians within a Christian community. As always, the more we understand who Jesus is, the more we understand who we are and who we are meant to be.
The first sentence implies that once we were “strangers and sojourners” - what does that mean? These two words touch on both a former dynamic between humans to God characterized by distance: relational and emotion distance as "strangers," as well as an inner attitude of aimlessness and distance from a resting place or home as "sojourners." It is also telling that these two descriptors are spoken within the same breath, showing how there is a fundamental similarity between these two conditions; this tells us that when we are emotionally and relationally close to God, we feel securely at home, with no reason or desire to wander from His Presence, no reason to sojourn.
So, if we are no longer strangers and sojourners, who are we now? We are “fellow citizens with the holy ones.” What does this mean? This transition points out that we are no longer on our own, sojourning. Rather, we have been assimilated into a group of people now claim their allegiance to their eternal residence in Heaven, as “fellow citizens with the holy ones,” who have been divinely set apart for a divine purpose.
So… what is the point here? (I think we'd have to read all of Ephesians to really get it... but...) St. Paul is pointing out how the reality of Jesus’ Life, Death, and Resurrection changes our fundamental identities by giving humans the directions and home for their restless, homeless, wanting hearts in His own Heart. In other words, Jesus IS the way, the truth, and the life; He is WHERE we are going, HOW we are getting there, and WHY we are going there in the first place.
Jesus in His Incarnation created a new covenant, a new means of relationship between humans and God, by sanctifying, completely offering His Human Body to manifest His Divine Purpose. And because He did this… our bodies, our human lives can also manifest God’s unique purposes for each of us that contribute to the collective purpose of eventual union between humankind and God in the heart of the Trinity, in Heaven.
St. Paul also emphasizes this simultaneous “Jesus-as-Maker” and “Jesus-as-Destination” description of this new covenant when he says that this new temple is built through Him and in Him. This is because the temple in Jewish law is the symbol of the old covenant, where Man fulfills his duties and obligations to the Lord through the priest, who is totally consecrated to the Divine. Through Jesus, the ultimate Priest between Man and God, the human body becomes the new temple because in Jesus, the Divine has fully consecrated humanity to Himself.
St. Paul goes even farther to say that we are meant to be the collective dwelling place of the Lord, we are “being built together.” His people on earth are meant to be united to each other, not just focusing on building our own relationship with Jesus. There is no real, fruitful relationship with Jesus that is built within one person. It just doesn’t add up. The history of salvation attests to this: St. Paul focuses on how even Jesus followed the blueprint plans shouted out by the prophets and apostles of old, and now acts as the foundation upon which we build this new temple in all of our hearts, lives, motivations, wills.
So, this weekend, let us rest in His Heart. Let us let Him abide in Us, showing us where we need to clean house in order for Him to more fully dwell in us through His Spirit.