Homily from the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B
When St. Paul wrote his letters to the various ancient Churches, such as the Churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and today’s letter to the Church in Ephesus, he always began these letters with two parts: first, a greeting, immediately followed by a blessing
Our worship today at Mass began with a greeting Paul used over and over again in nearly all of his letters: “Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1:2)
And in today’s second reading, we hear the blessing, Paul sends to the Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” And so on.
Then what follows, in the letter to the Ephesians, is the body of the letter, which can be divided into two parts. First, there’s what you might call a catechetical section. In this section, Paul teaches the people about their salvation through Christ. How we were dead in sin (Eph 2:1). But God, who is rich in mercy, raises us up to new life through Christ (Eph 2:6)
The second part of the body of the letter is what you might call an exhortation for us to embrace this new life in Christ in our daily living. In this section, Paul calls Christians to unity (Eph 4:1-16). To put aside vice and embrace virtue (Eph 4:17-5:20). Husbands and wives are to be subordinate to one another (Eph 5:21-32). Children are to obey their parents (Eph 6:1-4). And all this is to be done amidst constant prayer (Eph 6:18-19).
The letter to the Ephesians is an appeal to conversion. Leaving one life behind and entering into another. This conversion takes place through a particular act by God. And St. Paul uses a very specific word to describe this act and I’d like for us to reflect on it for a moment today. Listen to these words of St. Paul from today’s second reading: “In love he [God] destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 2:5).
Adoption. It’s an interesting word choice on the part of St. Paul isn’t it? We are adopted children of God. Why does St. Paul say we’re adopted and not just children of God?
We are sons and daughters of God, yes. But, we’re different, right, from the way in which Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus is the natural Son of God, meaning that Jesus shares the same nature with God the Father. They share the same substance. Or, as we say in the Creed, Jesus is “consubstantial” with the Father.
But we’re not of the same nature as God. And yet, He wishes to resolve this. God wishes to draw us, through conversion, into His divine nature. How does He effect this? Through Jesus who takes on our nature. Jesus becomes man, and shares in man’s nature, so that man may share in the Son’s divine nature. We become by grace, what Christ is by nature.
And what’s amazing is, that despite our being adopted sons and daughters of God, we are no less His sons and daughters, than even his own natural son, Jesus Christ. Jesus himself tells us this. As he is praying to the father the night before his death in Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John, he says to the Father, “you loved them even as you love me.”
Those of you who have adopted children of your own know this is true just as you know you’re adopted sons children are no less your children than your natural children. As adopted sons and daughters of God, we share in the same rights and privileges, the same honor and dignity, the same love and devotion, Jesus receives from the Father.
Consider what adoption meant in the time and place in which Paul was writing. In 1st century Rome, adoption was most often enacted when a wealthy and affluent adult wanted an heir who would receive the inheritance. God the Father is the fullness of wealth and affluence, far beyond any material sense and He desires you and I to be his heirs to His Kingdom.
In 1st century Rome, the child chosen for adoption was very often a slave. God chooses us, and pulls us out of our slavery to sin into his grace.
When adopted, the child would leave behind their former family and enter into the new one, experiencing a change in social status and class. When adopted by God, we leave behind lives of sin and enter into His royal family.
Adoption then, was, as it is now, a very expensive process. There was a debt to be paid. God pays the ultimate price, with the offering of His Son’s life, to erase the ultimate debt, our sins.
Over the next several weeks, we are going to hear more of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I encourage you, as we do so, to read the letter in it’s entirety as part of your daily personal prayer. As you do so, read with the eyes of God’s own adopted sons and daughters. Grateful for the salvation He has rendered unto you. With a docile heart open to conversion