Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Christ brings us together by bringing us to the foot of His cross and uniting us in his Body.

Tuesday of 29th Week in Course

October 21, 2008

Kindness and Peace Shall Kiss

This letter to the Ephesians is one of the great theological works of the New Testament, a product of Paul’s later ministry, probably written in his first Roman imprisonment. Paul has had over twenty years to reflect on the mystery of Christ, and here he sums up his theology in the idea that we who were far apart have been brought close together by our life in Christ. This makes particular sense when we reflect on the rest of Paul’s writings–he was constantly battling to bring his churches together, to stop them from splintering over personal and doctrinal issues. It’s a good lesson for the Church today, especially in an election season.

The first splitting, which is best pictured in Galatians, is between Jewish and Gentile Christians. The Jews were brought up to believe that they would be saved by being incorporated into the Jewish community through circumcision, and they would stay in that community by observing the various rituals of Torah. Jesus, however, pointed out that the most important observance is to love God and love neighbor, and that taking care of the neighbor is more important, even, than observing the Sabbath. That’s why we Catholics believe that the only thing we can do on Sunday besides worship and be with family is to do good works for the poor and marginalized–and that doesn’t mean shopping.

The great divide between Jew and Gentile was symbolized by the wall in Herod’s Temple that separated the outer court of the Gentiles from the inner Courts of Israel. Gates leading into those inner precincts were posted with signs warning that Gentile trespassers would be killed. In fact, the Book of Acts records that Paul was nearly killed because one of his Gentile friends was thought to have entered the wrong door.

By bringing us to Himself, to the foot of His cross, for baptism and confirmation and communion, Jesus breaks down those walls of hostility and brings us close to each other. He has made peace–shalom–because he is peace. Shalom means the fullness of good, and that is Jesus Christ. As we share this fullness of good in communion, let’s resolve always to treat each other as brothers.

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