Eph 2. 1-10; Ps 100; Lk 12. 13-21
Homily of Rev. Paul D. Panaretos, S.J.
Staying with Experience
I realize that when you and I hear about cosmic forces our minds tend to think of outer space or of the behavior of matter and energy on the atomic level. Our knowledge and experience does not help us appreciate what the first Christians grasped. They and their contemporaries felt strongly grasped by cosmic forces and in bondage to their effects.
St. Paul’s phrase, the ruler of the power of the air, is one expression of cosmic forces--another we find in this letter is principalities and powers./1/ People felt and knew themselves in bondage to these forces. Christians experienced a freedom from this bondage, which registered one way as being dead in our transgressions and sins, able only to follow the wishes of the flesh and the impulses.
Their freedom was salvation. Being saved was not a future condition but very present, in which they felt certain of their new identity in Jesus and free to proclaim it in deed and word. Dark forces sought to lure them in many directions, one impulse was greed. Salvation--freedom in the dead-and-risen Messiah Jesus--was their wealth, not possessions or power or prestige.
Being saved enlightened their minds so that they could live according to the Spirit of Jesus rather than the wishes of the flesh and the impulses, that is, whatever was contrary to Jesus’ Spirit of freedom and of communion.
One important clue this offers us is this: God in Jesus by their Spirit worked their freedom in and through the experience of the first Christians. To live and to be rich in what matters to God begins and continues for us in our experience, too.
Parents know from experience what psychologists help us understand: impulse control is crucial in life. St. Paul reminds us how God in Jesus by their Spirit control all things for good, inviting us to share the gift of true freedom, for our lives now and as well as for ever.
1. Ephesians 3.10. Paul used the collective, powers, again in the same letter; three times in Romans; twice in his letter to the Colossians (a letter with great overlap to Ephesians); and once in his letter to Titus.
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