Daily Office Readings for Thursday of the 7th Week of Easter: Year 2
Morning, Psalm 105:1 to 22; Evening, Psalm 105:23 to 45;
Zechariah 4:1 to 14; Ephesians 4:17 to 32; Matthew 9:1 to 8:
“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:18)
When Paul says “they,” he is referring to the people he calls the Gentiles, or the Nations. These are people outside of his believing community. The same people he feels called to, to bring the message of Good News of God in Christ.
Today we could use the language of “alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart,” to describe even our fellow Americans who, in many cases, say they are Christian. But they show ignorance and hardness of heart with political divisiveness and polarizing personalities. We suffer from a, “whose team are you?,” mentality. It is not the way we Christians are suppose to live. It is not speaking truth to our neighbors, but instead speaking handed down rhetoric parroted from misguided leadership. It is not who we are supposed to be, it is falsehood.
St. Paul says, “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4: 25 – 26). We can be angry without acting on such anger. I, at one time, worked with Clinical Social Workers while in the Marines as we dealt with domestic violence issues within the families of our service members. It took a lot of time to show the young men (I only dealt with men) that there was a specific point in which they decided to move from being angry to striking out. Separating the two can be done. In the military we couldn’t talk about Jesus while doing this work. That may be in part why I’m doing this priestly work now, it’s Jesus based.
Paul goes on and says, “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you;” (Ephesians 4: 31 – 32). Folks, if we give in to the darkened teachings of a polarized culture, we are turning our backs on who God wants us to be, and on the real love God has planted in us through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have been equipped to forgive one another, but too often we choose not to. Too often we would rather be hard-hearted than tender-hearted. We are not the Gentiles or the Nations. We are Christians. Forgiveness is the same message presented in our Gospel lesson for today in Matthew, chapter 9.
It is because we are Christians that we wholeheartedly reject the actions of the Russian government’s aggression against Ukraine. But forgiveness is still a possibility.
As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John