Just a few thoughts on our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Ephesus. This community was made up of Jewish and Gentile men and woman. Those Jewish men and women who came to believe Jesus as the Messiah still held on to their conviction that they were special to God above all other people. Some strongly resisted the acceptance of Gentiles into the community. These people were known as Judaizers. They insisted that Gentiles be circumcised and keep Jewish dietary laws. This mentality caused a certain tension in the community. Paul had to battle this narrow minded attitude throughout his whole life. Justification, a person’s relationship with God comes through the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, not from following the Law. Justification is a gift not an earned reward.
So we hear Paul telling the Ephesians; “Now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both Jews and Gentiles into one and had broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us. So Jesus Christ came and proclaimed peace to you who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
We would have to be blind not to see the hostility, the resentments, and the divisions that separate people one from another, in politics, in neighbourhoods, in places of work and in our church. There is such a lack of civility in political discourse. There is so much resentment toward newcomers to the country. ‘They’re taking over the neighbourhood.’ There is a fear of the stranger and the different. The ordinary person has a helpless anger toward the captains of finance who manipulate markets, make fortunes while most ordinary people struggle to keep their heads above water. We’ve seen that anger expressed in the Occupy Movements, the 99% movement over the past years. Cutbacks in social, welfare and pensions funds cause great anxiety in a lot of good people of limited means. There is a widening divide between the haves and the have-not’s. As the saying goes, the rich get richer and the poor get babies. We must know by now that bigger prisons will not silence the guns on our streets.
We have divisions in the church. There are some bishops, priests and people who want to go back to the good old days and others who say, no way Jose. Some want to put the brakes on and others want to step on the gas.
We are all good people. We are convinced in the rightness of our convictions, whether they are political, theological or ideological. But we are missing something. We are missing the grace to see in the person with whom we disagree a brother or sister loved by God our Father before the world began. We fail to recognize in the other a person Jesus’ love even unto death, even death on the cross. We ignore the truth that the person we may be belittling or dismissing as a person sanctified by the Holy Spirit just as we were.
I think we should all hear Paul’s plea to the Ephesians for peace and understanding in their community and work to bring that peace to our own communities, whether they be local, civic, national or church. We have all been brought near to each other by the blood of Christ, his sacrifice we celebrate at this Eucharist and this is why we should treat our brothers and sisters, of whatever faith, whatever nationality, whatever social standing, with respect and love. To quote St.Paul, “Say only the good things people need to hear, things that will really help them.”