Section 157 in the Rite of Penance gives a long section of Ephesians 2 as an option for a reading. As with other reflections in this series, we’ll look at the passage not as a Bible Study as such, but for the spiritual and liturgical applications for the Rite, either form I (individual celebration) or II (communal).
As a whole, the letter to the Ephesians emphasizes aspects of the Church, especially unity. Gentile Christians do get attention in the passage below and in the third chapter.
Perhaps such a consideration is relevant spiritually and pastorally, as many believers today are steeped in a non-Christian culture, or at the very least, non-Christian aspects of a post-Christian civilization.
Throughout this passage, the listener is reminded of the agency of the Son:
Brothers and sisters,
You were dead in your transgressions and sins
in which you once lived following the age of this world,
following the ruler of the power of the air,
the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient.
All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh,
following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses,
and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest.
As penitents we have had experiences where we have followed people other than Christ and values other than Christian. We are reminded that in these times, we are no different from anyone else caught up in the world’s allures. So we have no reason to be cocky about our status as baptized person. We rely on someone greater:
But God, who is rich in mercy,
because of the great love he had for us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
raised us up with him,
and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come
he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Christ remains at the center of a Christian’s consideration. We were dead, but Christ gives us life. And more, we are raised, as Christ was raised on Easter. And more, we have the promise of being part of a royal family as the brothers and sisters of Christ. The image is striking: God enthrones us. What have we done to deserve that? Nothing. It’s part of the Father’s grand gesture of mercy.
And so we have a dignity and a duty to live up to that dignity:
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
it is not from works, so no one may boast.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them.
This is a rich and long reading. But not beyond a good preacher’s ability to utilize in a communal setting. Ephesians 2 emphasizes the community of the Body, so I think the whole text is more fitting for a communal celebration.
But that last section, verses 8-10, seems good for individual reconciliation as well.