Ephesians 5 gets a lot of attention for how its author dealt with the relationship of husband and wife. Be assured the Rite of Penance doesn’t touch upon this chapter’s hot spot.
There are shorter versions of this reading in the Lectionary. You may recall verses 8-14 being proclaimed on the fourth Sunday of Lent this past year. It is grouped in the cycle A readings with Jesus healing the man born blind and the endorsement of young David as King.
A very brief option in RP 80 is verses 1 and 2. Just this:
So be imitators of God,
as beloved children,
and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
Just so unto others as Christ did for us. That’s a pretty high bar, one must admit. And we have the emphasis on love. That sounds a bit like Saint John. Love can be difficult. Love is not a feeling so much as a conscious choice backed up with action.
This portion might be good for a reconciliation liturgy with children. The message is clear: be like Jesus.
Maybe the people at Ephesus suggested to the apostle that he get a bit down-to-earth about his standards. What does that mean, if we’re talking about deeds, and not just words?
Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you,
as is fitting among holy ones,
no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk,
which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving.
Be sure of this,
that no immoral or impure or greedy person,
that is, an idolater,
has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
We’re not talking about husband and wife, but these verses usually spark some reflection or discussion on sex. Is that all that’s going on here? Immorality is fairly broad, at least as we read it in English today. And greed? Are there Gordon Gekko disciples in our midst? The Greek, if you consult your sources, has the suggestion of “covetousness” in what we read as “greed.” Wanting things that are not ours to have: that is the sense here that the people of Ephesus would have heard.
Read the passage carefully: Paul wants gratitude to emanate from our mouths. Can sex and greed be so easily cured? Just be thankful? My sense is that the pervasiveness of pornography addiction isn’t going to be so easily battled, even in the individual penitent. My sense: handle with care.
Scripture scholars place the break in topic at this verse.
Let no one deceive you with empty arguments,
for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.
So do not be associated with them.
For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them,
for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”
“Live” as we read above in the NABRE is often translated as “walk.” To walk implies exertion and movement. And indeed, the Christian life is about more than just living.
This passage contains a lot of “don’t do this, but do this instead.” Sorting it all out takes care for a listener, let alone a reader. If one decided to use it at liturgy, it would need careful proclamation. And if preached on, I would think almost a read-as-you-go approach as well.
A rich passage intended for a community well over nineteen centuries ago, but in the matters of gossip, foul language (about others), sexual sins, and coveting–you can’t get a more direct word in the Scriptures than here.