St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written about 62 A.D., several years before the first written Gospel.
The city of Ephesus was a seaport city on the western coast of Asia Minor. It was the home of Mary, Mother of God. In 431 A.D. the third ecumenical council was held there. This was the council that gave Mary the title, “Theotokos”, that we use so often in our liturgical services.
In this epistle, St. Paul emphasizes the risen and exalted Christ. He shows the Church growing – a universal church as the body of Christ.
In the passage we just heard, St. Paul writes to us that salvation is a gift given to us by God. That gift is a result of our faith and our faith is itself a gift. Everything is a gift from God – not a reward for anything we do.
It was a similar passage of Scripture that led Martin Luther 500 years ago to his doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone.
It is true that we are not saved by our works, but faith must lead to good works. In the Epistle of James we read that faith without works is dead.
In today’s apostolic reading, St. Paul also writes that we are “created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of good deeds.” “A life God prepared for us in advance.”
Today’s Gospel is the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. The priest and Levite both had an opportunity to be neighbors to the attacked man. They may have had good reasons for passing by on the other side of the road but Jesus did not commend their lack of care. Instead he commended the Samaritan – the outcast – for being the true neighbor.
We, also, have many opportunities in our lives to be neighbors to those around us. Everyone one of us, rich or poor, must show good deeds to others. We do this especially through the 14 corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Our parish provides us with ways to carry out these works of mercy. Through our ongoing food drive we give food and drink.
Our Great Fast shoebox collection provides clothing. Our weekly bulletin lists the sick parishioners with addresses so that we can send a greeting card, short note, or pay a visit. Sheltering the homeless happens through our support of the new St. Elizabeth Center. Participation at the parastas and funeral Divine Liturgy is the way we can carry out the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead. Liturgy intentions are a way to continue to pray for the dead.
Among the spiritual works of mercy, we need to be cautious about admonishing the sinner so that we don’t wind up being judgmental or condemnatory. Of course we can instruct and counsel others, especially children and grandchildren. Comforting the sick and grieving go along with the relevant corporal works of mercy. Perhaps the most difficult spiritual work of mercy is bearing wrongs patiently. There most likely are lots of opportunities to forgive injuries.
We do all of these things because of God’s great gift of his mercy and salvation to us; his gift of our Catholic Christian faith – all that has been given to us through Jesus’ resurrection.