Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Why Did God Make Us?
Have you ever wondered why God made you? Do the answers you learned as you grew up still satisfy you? Why or why not?
3 Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! When we are with Christ, God blesses us with every kind of gift heaven has to offer. 4 Even when he began to create the universe, he chose us to be special and without sin, so we bow before him with love. 5 He knew he would adopt us as his children through the work of Jesus Christ. God did this because he wanted to. 5 So, praise God for the gifts he gave us, along with Jesus, the Son he loves so very much.
11-12 God planned to do everything he wanted. According to his plan, God chose us with Jesus to live for his praise, for we are the ones who first put our hope in Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, the (ONE) blessing us in CHRIST with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, 4 just as he chose us in HIM from the foundation of the world to be holy (ones) and blameless down before him in love, 5 having preordaining us for adoption as sons through JESUS CHRIST to him, according to the favor of his will, 6 for the praise of the glory of grace by which he has favored us in the (ONE) having been loved.
11 In (HIM) whom we were appointed, predestined by the purpose of the (One) working everything according to the plan of his will, 12 for us to exist for praise of his glory, the (ones) having first hoped in the CHRIST.
1:3-6 This long sentence was written in a “berikah” form. This Hebrew blessing form begins with God and ends with God; in between, the form either prays for or states God’s activity in the affairs of humanity on earth. The form can be broken down in the following manner:
1:3b God blesses the believers with every blessing in heaven. (Praise of God)
1:4 God chose the believers to be holy (i.e., separate) and to worship (“down below”) in a blameless manner (people’s activities in the community).
1:5 God adopted the believers as his children (status of the faithful in community).
1:6 God graced the believers for the praise of his glory of his grace. (Praise of God)
Notice the similarities in the phrases “the (ONE) blessing us in CHRIST with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” from 1:3b and “for the praise of the glory of grace by which he has favored us in the (ONE)” in 1:6a. “blessing us” and “has favored us” is equivalent; so is “every spiritual blessing in heaven” and “the glory of his grace.” The blessing of God in 1:3a parallels “for the praise of...” So 1:3 is the beginning and 1:6 ends the Berikah.
1:4-5 described the activity and status of the community. In one sense, to be holy and blameless were identical concepts; both referred to the purity of the community in worship. Within Judaism, Temple worship insisted upon ritual purity and bodily wholeness; the Pharisees and other Jewish thinkers extended that sense of purity to a practice of quarantine in every day life. The impure (ritually, morally, and physically) were removed from the community; Jewish communities (especially those in the Diaspora) would live apart from Gentiles in ghettoes.
Christians, however, drew believers from the impure and lived among the Gentiles, even proselytizing them. Christian holiness was based upon a faith relationship with God and a life of charity within the community. Faith and charity were the basis of Christian morality, these qualities made Christians “blameless.” Indeed, such were gifts from God, just as their status as God’s children was pure grace.
Why did God make us? The Baltimore Catechism stated the answer thus:
God made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.
While the answer summed up Catholic doctrine, it only touched the surface of Paul's eloquence in Ephesians. To know, love and serve God could be found in his phrase "he chose us in HIM from the foundation of the world to be holy (ones) and blameless down before him in love, having preordaining us for adoption as sons through JESUS CHRIST to him, according to the favor of his will." As the notes above explained, God created us with the intent of adopting us as his children. In response to this gift, we are to worship him in love. Worship in this sense had two dimensions: 1) praise of the Father and 2) fellowship with the Son and his followers. Such worship was not restricted to Sunday mornings; it began with the assembly, but spilled out into the week's activities. Such worship was to be found in praise and charity.
The Lord destined us to live blameless lives. While this is a daunting task, the Church presented us with a model: Mary, the Mother of God. The Church proclaimed her to be holy and blameless in the eyes of the Lord from the moment of her conception. She was preordained to serve the Lord in love. She is what we are called to be.
Let us keep Mary's call in mind as we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Her role in the birth of the Christ should remind us of our role in the world, to serve the Lord with blameless and holy hearts. In this way, we can be like Mary, a true child of God.
Reflect on the answer to the Baltimore Catechism. How can you know, love, and serve God right now? This week?