The Liturgy of the Word in Ordinary Time is constructed around the Gospel reading. That establishes the themes explored and commented on in the first reading and psalm. The second reading stands rather apart, being chosen as the next significant passage in a semi-continuous reading of one of the New Testament letters.
At present, our Sunday second readings lead us through the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. And what a notable passage we hear this coming Sunday.
Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes,
to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.
Such is the richness of the grace which he has showered on us in all wisdom and insight.
He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning to act upon when the times had run their course to the end: that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth.
And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.
Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation, and have believed it; and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.
There are some long sentences there – challenging for those who will proclaim the word at Mass on Sunday. Challenging too for those who have to listen and heard and take to heart. But what wonderful truths are expressed in those sentences. Well worth the effort of still more careful proclaiming and still more careful listening.
The passage is a beautiful expression of God’s purpose in creation and salvation. It may at first sight seem only to consider as recipients of God’s grace, and not also co-workers, cooperating with God’s grace for the benefit of our brothers and sisters. But even that as Paul knows very well and St Augustine would later underline, can happen only because we are, first and most fundamentally, recipients of grace. Our goodness and love – such as it is – has its ultimate origin in the goodness and love, and truth, of God.
There is so much of beauty in the passage we will hear on Sunday.
- Perhaps for prayer you could choose just one phrase that particularly speaks to you, and let it accompany you throughout this day, not only in any particular time of prayer, but as mood music for the day, there in your mind any time you can can pause and raise your mind and heart to God, returning to the phrase and its significance to you.
- Give thanks: for God is good, and he longs for you to be the same.
Images are of the font at the French Church, Leicester Square, London. (c) 2007, Allen Morris.