Second Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6
One With God, One With Others
1 I am being held prisoner just because I am a follower of the Lord. So, I encourage you to live the way God called you to live. 2 Be humble and gentle. Be patient with others and treat them in a loving way. 3 Be eager to let God's Spirit keep you as one, as you live in peace. 4 Remember, there is one Body you are part of. There is one Spirit who calls you to share one hope as followers of Jesus. 5 There is only one Lord, and one baptism that made us his followers. 6 There is only one God and Father of us all. He is above all creation. He works through all of us. And he lives in all of us.
1 I, a prisoner for the LORD, encourage you to walk (throughout life in a manner) worthy of the call which you were called (by God), 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, 3 quickly going around to keep unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 (There is) one Body and one Spirit, like you were called into the one hope of your call; 5 one LORD, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of us all, the one above all, through all, and in all.
4:5-6 The emphasis on the "one" compared the unity of the community with the concept of monotheism Christians adopted from Judaism (see Deuteronomy 6:4). As God was "one," so should the community be.
4:6 "one God and Father of us all, the one above all, through all, and in all" The last phrase of 4:6 can refer to God's activity in his creation ("above everything, through everything, and in everything"). Or it can refer to his activity among people in the end times ("above everyone, through everyone, and in everyone"). The context argues for the later meaning.
Unlike the Eastern religions which emphasize interior enlightenment of the individual as the primary goal of life, Western religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) focus upon ethical living within a community. Obviously, all major world religions seek insight and high moral living. The difference is a matter of direction. The East begins within and flows outward to others. The West begins in community and flows to the heart of the believer.
Of course, this explanation is almost a caricature of East vs. West. But, it points out the Western road to holiness. In Ephesians, the author (Paul or a ghost writer) saw unity with God through a unity with others in the community. Notice the language the author used to describe the Christian lifestyle: walking a worthy journey. This language reflected the mobile ministry of Jesus and the missionary efforts of the early Church. Early Christians described their spirituality as the "Way," a path or journey that was shared with others.
Imagine, for a moment, travel in ancient times. Since travel on the road was filled with dangers, many travelers formed or joined caravans. The group became the vehicle for safe travel. This matched the mind set for ancient culture. The one's place within the group defined the individual. What a person did for others built up his or her reputation in community and on the road. 4:1-3 described how someone could build up others: gentleness, humility, patience, keeping peace, charity.
All these qualities (and, indeed, life itself), the author inferred, came from God. The Spirit produced the community and its lifestyle (i.e., the "Body"). The Lord Jesus taught his followers the "faith" and gave them the sacrament of baptism. And God the Father gave them the world as a home. Again, notice the flow of Christian spirituality: from the Spirit, through the Lord Jesus, to the Father. But, always, always in community.
Our unity with God as Trinity means our unity with others in community. That is the bar that measures an effective Christian life.
Reflect on your efforts to build up others. How effective have you been? How have your efforts built up your spiritual life?