Day 347: Witness to Unbelievers
Acts 26:1-32 Standing before Agrippa, Paul again related his conversion story and the reason the Jews had brought charges against him. Neither Agrippa nor Festus found anything that warranted prison or a death sentence, but to declare Paul innocent and set him free, after his appeal to Caesar, would have provoked the Jews against them.
Ch 26:5 Before his conversion, Paul was a Pharisee who kept the Law according to its strictest interpretations. He had received his education from a well-known and respected rabbi, Gamaliel.
Ch 26:7 Our twelve tribes: The desire of all Israel, expressed by the prophets Ezekiel and Hosea, was for both a restoration of the nation of Israel and the physical resurrection of the dead. The prophets compared the hoped-for resurgence of Israel to a certain resurrection from the dead (cf. Ez 37:1-14; Hos 6:1-2). (CCC 1539)
Ch 26:14 It hurts you to kick against the goads: A line from Christ not reported in the earlier accounts of Paul’s conversion. It is a colloquial expression that counsels against doing harm to oneself by fighting a losing battle. Literally, it refers to oxen pulling a plow; if they attempt to kick at the farmer who is guiding the plow, they will hurt themselves on the “goads,” the sharp spikes of the plow.
Ch 26:19-23 Paul explained that the true reason he was opposed by the Jews was that he preached repentance and salvation even to the Gentiles-something predicted by the prophets of old but which went against the Jewish traditions and sensibilities. (CCC 601)
Ch 26:25-31 With great courage, Paul tried to convert Agrippa himself.
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians
For the first fifteen centuries of Christianity, St. Paul the Apostle was held universally to be the author of Ephesians.
In the sixteenth century, however, Erasmus of Rotterdam popularized the idea that the writing style and tone of the Epistle was too different from the other known Pauline Epistles to have been authored by St. Paul; it also lacks his customary closing remarks.
Most scholars today believe that, while the ideas expressed are St. Paul’s or are based upon his thought, it was most likely one of St. Paul’s disciples who penned the Epistle.
Others still hold that St. Paul is the author of Ephesians, noting his ability to adapt his style and tone for the particular audience to which he was writing and the pastoral circumstances that he was addressing.
The dating of Ephesians varies with the theories of its authorship.
If St. Paul is the author, then it must have been written in the final few years before his execution, possibly while he was under house arrest in Rome between AD 60 and 62.
If a disciple wrote it, it may have been written after AD 80 and perhaps as late as AD 90 to 100.
Not all of the early copies of the Epistle mention the Ephesians in the salutation, so it is not entirely certain that it was directed specifically to the Church at Ephesus.
St. Paul did spend several years in Ephesus preaching and building up the Christian community; however, it is possible that the Epistle was a more general Epistle intended for circulation not only in Ephesus but among several churches established throughout the region such as Laodicea, Colossae, and Smyrna.
The primary theme of Ephesians is the role of the Church in God’s plan of salvation.
The mystery of Christ is the mystery of the Church, whose members have become children of God, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
No longer is there a single “Chosen People” because the Church of the New Covenant invites all people into this Mystical Body.
The themes of Ephesians are similar to those in St. Paul’s other Epistles.
Gentile believers are full and equal members of the Church and sons and daughters of God by adoption.
This unity and new life in Christ is a precious gift that all the faithful must celebrate and defend, living harmoniously in a spirit of love and sanctity.
The unity of Christ and his Church is to be reflected within the household, in the life of husband and wife, and the respect of their children (cf. 4:17-6:20).
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Ephesians 1-2 Paul’s greeting makes no mention of any specific audience. Although it is called a letter to the Ephesians, this Epistle probably circulated widely among other communities of that region as well.
Apostle: Paul customarily began his letters by calling himself an Apostle, although not among the original Twelve chosen by Christ. His mission to preach was communicated to him through Ananias, who cared for him during his temporary blindness and baptized him (cf. Acts 9:18; 22:13-16). Paul may rightly be called an Apostle because Christ appeared to him and called him to discipleship.
Saints: in the early Church, Christians referred to each other as saints. This term was indicative of their awareness of their call to holiness. (CCC 442, 946, 1475, 2013, 2028)
Ch 1:3-14 A remarkably rich hymn of praise. God the Father called every Christian to sanctity from eternity, i.e., before the creation of the world. These verses strike at the heart of the Christian vocation, which is an invitation to a contemplative life in Christ and to love others with the very love of Christ. (CCC 257-258, 381, 1077, 2627, 2641)
Ch 1:3 Spiritual blessing: A blessing praises God and petitions him for his gifts to assist us in fulfilling his will. It is the primary effect of sacramentals, i.e., any of a number of sacred signs that in some way point to the Sacraments and occasion special assistance derived from the spiritual patrimony of the Church. Mary was blessed by God more than any other individual because she was chosen to bear the Son of God. (CCC 492, 1671)
Ch 1:4 Holy and blameless: This is translated literally as “set apart and fit for sacrifice.” In the Old Testament, animals used in sacrifice had to be without deformities or blemishes. This was a type (TYPOLOGY!!), or prefigurement, of Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, who sacrificed his life for our sins. It also describes the perfection with which we must live the teachings of the Gospel. For most people, growth in personal sanctity will involve doing our work and fulfilling our duties with the greatest perfection. (CCC 796, 865, 1426, 2807)
Ch 1:5-6 He destined us: Predestination takes into account both God’s omniscience and our free will. God predestines those who are faithful to everlasting life. While he gives each person numerous chances for repentance and salvation, some will reject his loving overtures. Therefore, those who refuse God’s love are not predestined to salvation but regretfully bring eternal punishment upon themselves. (CCC 52, 294, 1083)
Ch 1:7 Redemption means “the act of setting free.” Analogous to the redemption of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt by the blood of the Passover lamb, the redemption of the human race takes place through the Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. (CCC 517, 2839)
Ch 1:9-11 Christ fulfilled perfectly the will of his Father. We, too, state our desire to fulfill God’s eternal plan in the Lord’s Prayer: “They will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (CCC 257, 1066, 2603, 2807, 2823)
Ch 1:13 Were sealed…Holy Spirit: A seal is a wax impression on a document or a mark on a material object that indicates ownership or authority. The seal of the Holy Spirit is an indelible mark or character that is left on the soul by the reception of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, each of which can be received only once. (CCC 693, 698, 1121, 1272-1274, 1296)
Ch 1:14 It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that we share in the divine life of God by being grafted into the life of Christ. (CCC 706, 1106-1107)
Ch 1:15-23 The largely Gentile audience of the Ephesus region was eager to probe the mysteries of Christ, the knowledge of which is an inexhaustible font of wisdom and love. To this end, Paul prayed that they would receive the “spirit of wisdom” (cf. verse 17). Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension are compelling signs of his victory over sin and death.
The church, which is his body: In Paul’s theology, the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ in which the individual members of the faithful form complementary parts analogous to the parts of the human body. (CCC 158, 272, 648, 2632)
Ch 1:20-22 At his right hand: A traditional position indicating honor and great authority. Christ equally shares in the Father’s dominion over the world.
Rule and authority and power: Some interpret these terms as three of the nine choirs of angels, along with seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations, archangels, and angels.
Under his feet: A gesture showing the defeat of one’s enemies. (CCC 668-669, 753, 830, 2045)
Ch 2:1-10 Ancient Greek philosophy taught the concept of dualism in which spirit and matter (or body and soul) are completely separate entities. Considering the flesh as sinful and unworthy of God, certain heresies denied the humanity of Christ. Paul taught that while salvation comes through faith and grace as a free gift from God, we must show love for God and neighbor through selfless and humble service to others. (CCC 465, 2011)
Ch 2:1 You were dead: To be steeped in sin causes spiritual death. The bestowal of grace, derived from Christ’s Redemption through the grace of faith and Baptism, grants us new life in a spiritual rebirth. (CCC 734)
Ch 2:2 Prince of the power of the air: At the time, evil spirits who wrought evil influence on humanity were thought to dwell in the upper atmosphere. The term is used here to describe demons whose power has been curtailed by Christ for those who live in grace. Without the aid of grace, the Devil’s temptations will always be overpowering. (CCC 1520, 2863)
Ch 2:3 Paul spoke of a struggle between concupiscence, i.e., the disordered appetites for sensual gratification, and the spiritual life.
Children of wrath: These are sinners who may face eternal punishment for their sins. (CCC 1768, 2515-2516, 2530, 2537, 2540)
Ch 2:4-8 Grace: This gift of God enables us to participate in God’s life. Sanctifying grace unites us to Christ so we can share in his wisdom and love. With the infusion of sanctifying grace come the virtues of faith, hope, and love, together with infused moral virtues. A holy person is someone who enjoys an abundance of grace. (CCC 154, 179, 211, 654)
Ch 2:6 Sit with him…of Christ Jesus: Because we share in Christ’s humanity, we will also share in his Resurrection. Through the liturgy and the indwelling Spirit, we already share in the heavenly life, although in a limited and hidden way. (CCC 1003, 1073, 2796)
Ch 2:10 Grace gives the capacity to perform meritorious works out of love for God and neighbor. The gratuitous grace of Baptism gives the capacity to earn an increase of grace through faith-filled deeds of love. As grace grows, the person becomes more and more transformed into the likeness of Christ. (CCC 2006-2011)
Ch 2:11-22 Circumcision was a sign ratifying the Old Covenant for the people of Israel. The question of whether Gentile converts to Christianity should be circumcised before being baptized was the subject of a major controversy in the early Church. Gentiles and Jews alike equally form part of and are bound together in the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and both redeemed by the same Sacrifice of Christ and reconciled to God the Father. Both Gentile and Jew, therefore, share in the promises of joy and everlasting life that God made to Israel. Thus, there should be no enmity or separation between the two. (CCC 781)
Ch 2:14-16 The peace that Christ gives is not the mere absence of conflict but the spiritual tranquility that comes from being reconciled with God. In Christ, we experience true freedom, especially from slavery of sin and death.
Dividing wall: The Temple in Jerusalem had a wall separating the inner courts from the router courts. Only Jews could worship in the inner court, and Gentiles who entered the inner court faced severe penalties. It was a remnant of the Old Testament Law that Jews had to insulate themselves from pagans to avoid temptations toward idolatry. With the coming of Christ, however, Jews and Gentiles can worship together as sons and daughters of God.
Through the cross: The Cross is central to the plan of salvation. Catholic prayer begins and ends with the Sign of the Cross accompanied by the Trinitarian formula, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 624, 2157, 2305)
Ch 2:18 Through the Incarnation, Christ took on our humanity, thereby granting us “access” to the Father and making us adopted children of God. (CCC 51)
Ch 2:19 Saints and members of the household of God: These include those already in heavenly glory; the Holy Souls in Purgatory, who are in the process of purification before entering eternal life; and the faithful on earth. Christians are “citizens of two worlds,” living here on earth but having an inheritance in Heaven. (CCC 1370-1372, 1886)
Ch 2:20-22 Cornerstone: This is the foundation stone upon which an entire building is constructed. Christ is the cornerstone for the Church. One of the four marks of the Church is that she is Apostolic, which means that she was founded by Christ upon the Apostles. The bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and she continues to hand on the Catholic Faith traced back to the Apostles. (CCC 756, 797, 857)
Ch 3:1-13 Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, was sent by Christ to preach to the uncircumcised, i.e., those who were not of the Jewish faith, although not exclusively. He revealed to them the “mystery of Christ,” from which comes profound truths and the bright promises of hope derived from the son of God made man. (CCC 221, 424-425, 772, 2778)
Ch 3:1 A prisoner for Christ Jesus: Paul may have been in a Roman prison at this time or perhaps he used the term “prisoner” to extend his frequent analogy of being a “slave” for Christ.
Ch 3:2 A steward is a servant who manages the affairs of his master’s household. Paul saw his role as a steward of the riches of the Gospel teachings of Christ and a conduit of God’s grace. (CCC 893, 952, 1117, 2404)
Ch 3:5 Because human beings cannot come to a full knowledge of God through their own power, God chose to reveal himself to people. Throughout the Old Testament, he prepared his people gradually until they were ready for the fullness of his revelation in Jesus Christ. (CCC 50)
Ch 3:9 Plan of the mystery: God’s plan of salvation, called the “economy of salvation,” was fulfilled in Christ. (CCC 1066)
Ch 3:10 Christ instructed his Church to spread the good news to all nations and to continue his saving work until he comes again. Evangelization, i.e., the spreading of the Gospel message, is the responsibility of all the baptized since it follows that living for Christ ought to involve attracting others to him. Every vocation-to Holy Orders, to consecrated religious life, or to the lay state-enjoys an equal calling to evangelize. We should also pray for those whose vocation involves devoting their lives exclusively to the missionary activity of the Church. (CCC 851)
Ch 3:14-15 The story of salvation reveals God’s great love for us. That limitless love lavished on each person is one of the marvelous mysteries of God.
I bow my knees: A sign of great adoration and humility, familiar to us today but rarely used by first-century Jews, who prayed primarily standing.
From whom every family…is named: Every human family reflects in some way the fatherhood and the love of God within a Trinity of Persons. (CCC 239, 2214, 2367, 2702-2703)
Ch 3:16-17 Inner man: This refers to the very soul or heart of the Christian, formed and renewed by the new life given by the Holy Spirit; God dwells there within the faithful believer.
Rooted and grounded in love: Through contemplative prayer we find greater oneness with Christ. (CCC 1073, 1995, 2714)
Ch 3:18-21 The dimensions mentioned here are meant to convey the vastness of the love of Christ, which is beyond measure. Some scholars have interpreted this passage to refer to the Cross of Christ, which is the culmination of God’s Revelation of his love.
Glory in the church: The early Christians sang the Psalms with joy, understanding these prophetic words in the new light of the Revelation of Christ. They also composed many new hymns and prayers centered on the Death and Resurrection of Christ. (CCC 2565, 2641)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Ok so Fr. Mike is a little hoarse today
Hopefully it isn’t too annoying or too bothersome (Everyone say a prayer for Fr. Mike! I think it’s endearing he is still reading to us for 347 straight days 😁)
We have St. Paul once again
You know…it is really INCREDIBLE
St. Paul is someone who if you give a bunch of lemons and a bunch of sugar, he’s going to make lemonade (I have to admit that I on the other hand am more like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes…if you know, you know 😉)
You can’t make lemonade with just lemons
You need sugar
St. Paul is on trial
He uses this opportunity to try and CONVERT the people who are listening to his case
THINK ABOUT THIS!!
Think about his CAN-DO attitude
BUT EVEN MORE…
Think about the deep theological virtue of HOPE
“God, you can do ANYTHING with ANY CIRCUMSTANCE.”
“God, you can do ANY GOOD even in the WORST POSSIBLE SITUATION.”
St. Paul is in front of Agrippa, Festus, and Berenice and all these other people
He is telling them his conversion story
Acts 26:27, “King Agrippa, do you believe in the prophets? I know that you believe.”
Acts 26:28, “And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a short time you think to make me a Christian!’”
And we love Paul’s response
Paul says, “I don’t care. Short or long. It doesn’t matter. I don’t care if you do this quickly or if you do this slow.”
Acts 26:29, “And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am-except for these chains.”
So Agrippa, Berenice, and Festus WOULD have let him go
Acts 26:32, “Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’”
So Paul is going to be shipped off to Rome really phenomenally because then we have St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
St. Paul writes this Letter to the Ephesians from HOUSE ARREST IN ROME
This is kind of this PROVIDENTIAL WAY that our readings are going TOGETHER HERE
Paul is writing a NUMBER of letters
Particularly, St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
He is writing these while being under house arrest in Rome
What house arrest involved was a guard, a Roman soldier, whose job it was when it was Paul’s turn to stand in court, they had an hour to bring that person before the authorities, Caesar in this case for Paul
So it’s basically a light house arrest
Here is Paul using this opportunity not only in Acts Ch 26 but HERE in Ephesians
He is using this opportunity to WITNESS to the guards
WITNESS to these people who were assigned to take care of him and make sure he would appear before Caesar when it was time
Paul is writing to the Ephesians
What is going on in Ephesus?
We know that Ephesus was one of the more significant cities
We have Jerusalem, obviously clearly significant
We have Corinth in St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, and it was a very UNIQUE city
Ephesus was also an incredibly UNIQUE city
It was a port city back in the day
If you go there now, the ocean is quite a ways away because it has been filled up with silt
You don’t need to know ALL the details
BUT AT THE TIME…
It was a very RELIGIOUS city
It was a very COSMOPOLITAN city
It was a very RELIGIOUS city as Fr. Mike thinks he said for the third time?? (I stopped doing math years ago 😉)
So there were a lot of CONVERSIONS there
Not only among those who were Jews who recognized that Jesus is TRULY the Messiah
BUT also among the Gentiles who came to believe in the one God and in Jesus Christ whom he had sent
So what is happening is what has happened a BUNCH
There is a lot of DIVISION
We have the JEWISH Christians
We have the GENTILE Christians
This place of separation
This place of “us vs. them”
Those people who believed that you had to follow the Law in order to follow Jesus
And those who came to Christ directly as opposed to going through Judaism
One of Paul’s primary points of his Letter to the Ephesians is going to be, “We are all coming from different places. And yet we are united in the one Spirit, one Baptism, one Faith, one God and Father of us all. You know, one Jesus Christ.”
This is going to be really INCREDIBLE as Paul is talking
“All of the spiritual blessings that you have received!”
He is trying to point out the fact that they are UNITED in Jesus by highlighting, “If you are a Jewish Christian, look at how many blessings you have in your life. If you are a Gentile Christian, look at all the blessings you have in your life.”
Ephesians 1:5-8, “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.”
This is to the Gentile Christians AND to the Jewish Christians
Paul is making this ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that he has so much in store
Ephesians 1:19-21, “...and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.”
Paul is highlighting the fact that YOU ALL WERE DEAD
AND NOW YOU ARE ALL ALIVE IN JESUS CHRIST
Whether you came from a Jewish tradition
Or you came from a Greco-Roman tradition
YOU WERE DEAD
AND NOW YOU ARE ALIVE!!
That is the THEME of the second half of Ch 2
YOU ARE NOW ONE OF CHRIST
One of Fr. Mike’s favorite lines is in St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians Ch 2
St. Paul is summarizing this process of moving from DEATH to LIFE
Ephesians 2:3, “Among these we all lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
He says WE
Which means JEWISH CHRISTIANS
Which means GENTILE CHRISTIANS
“This is where WE used to live.”
Ephesians 2:4, “But God…”
If you just want to writes something, put it on a throw pillow, or tape it up above your mirror over your sink in your bathroom, it is these two words: BUT GOD
SO we were DEAD in sin
We were DEAD in our broken human nature
Here we are again CHILDREN OF WRATH like the rest of mankind
Ephesians 2:4-8, “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD THROUGH OUR TRESPASSES, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith…”
THIS IS NOT YOUR OWN DOING
THIS IS THE GIFT OF GOD
We have been saved BY grace THROUGH faith
Knowing that the point of Ephesians is, “We are united as one.”
We are all part of this ONE FAMILY in God
He highlights the fact of the Gentiles
Ephesians 2:3, “...we were by nature children of wrath…”
But then he highlights the Gentiles
It’s SO GOOD
Ephesians 2:12, “...remember that you were at that time [before you met Jesus] separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel [remember that they weren’t part of the promises of Israel], and strangers to the covenants of promise…”
And here is the line Pope Benedict XVI wrote about
Ephesians 12, “...having no hope and without God in the world.”
Think about this…
Having NO hope and living WITHOUT God in the world
This is how SO MANY PEOPLE live right now
One of the missionary mandates for us is that we KNOW this (What’s the plural for impetus? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?? 😉)
All of those who don’t know of Jesus Christ
Who DON’T KNOW who God REALLY IS
The idea of HOPE is just wishful thinking
The idea of HOPE is optimism
BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT HOPE IS!!
HOPE is, “I know I can trust in another.”
It is that TRUST PLACED IN ANOTHER
Those who live without Jesus live without HOPE
They live without God in the world
Not that God doesn’t love them
Not that God doesn’t show himself in hidden and shadowy ways
The DEPTH of who God is
The BREADTH of who God is
The HEIGHT of who God is
People who don’t know Christ lived without HOPE and without God in the world
Even those who have HEARD about Jesus but have never ENCOUNTERED Jesus live without HOPE and without God in the world
THIS IS FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US!!
Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.”
So we are no longer strangers and sojourners
We are FELLOW CITIZENS with the SAINTS and the members of the HOUSEHOLD OF GOD
THIS IS THE KEY!!
Every one of us at one point were alienated from God
At one point, every one of us did NOT belong to God
We belonged to the Evil One
BUT GOD HAS RESCUED US!!
Whether they were originally Jewish
Or whether they were originally Gentile
GOD HAS RESCUED US IN CHRIST JESUS AND MADE US ONE IN HIM!!
So we are no longer strangers
We are no longer sojourners
We are now BROTHERS AND SISTERS
We are SONS AND DAUGHTERS of the Father
Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
I think that’s a GREAT prayer to end today
JUST A GIFT!!
To be able to go through the beginning of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians today
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you. Thank you so much. You are God the Father. You are the one from whom all fatherhood comes. You and those you gather to be yours, to be your family, and this where we get the idea of family, the very idea of fatherhood, the very idea of family comes from you. The very reality of love is found in your deepest identity. And your deepest identity, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is you are a communion of persons. You are an eternal exchange of love. You pour yourself out in love to the Son, Father. And the Son, Jesus Christ, you pour yourself out in love to the Father and we give you praise for the Spirit that is the Third Person, so real that love that’s so real that it’s a third person. Lord God, all fatherhood, all family on earth comes from you. And so we just thank you. Thank you for bringing us into your family. Thank you for making us your children. Thank you for allowing us access in the power of your Holy Spirit to be able to cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”