Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Little Something Extra...Fifth Sunday of Easter

Who Are Christians?

In today's Second Reading, St. Peter answers the following question: Who are Christians? Who are we who call ourselves by that's name? Let's look closely at what he says.

Christians are “a chosen race,” in Greek, genos eklekton. The word eklekton, chosen, tells us that we have been selected by God, picked out to be His favorites. The word genos, translated here as race, can also mean family, nation, or kind. We are God's family, specially chosen by Him to be His beloved children. As such we are a community set apart to live together for God our Father.

Christians are “a royal priesthood,” in Greek, basileion hierateuma. At our baptism, we became priests, prophets, and kings who share in the priesthood, prophetic office, and kingship of Jesus Christ. As kings, we rule over our passions by faith and reason so that we may one day sit on Jesus' throne with Him, just as He promised to those who persevere. We Christians possess a royal (basileion) dignity that comes through our sharing in the life of Christ. Furthermore, even those of us who are not ordained priests share in the universal priesthood (hierateuma) of all believers and are called to offer ourselves, our prayers, and our sacrifices to God in genuine, devout worship. 

Christians are “a holy nation,” in Greek, ethnos hagion. No matter where we come from or where we live or what race or nationality we claim, we are now one people, one nation, one ethnos. God has joined us together as one people, and He has made us holy. Holiness means being set apart for God. We belong exclusively to Him; we are sacred to Him; we are consecrated for His use; and we behave accordingly. We make upright moral choices. We follow God's commands and let His will guide our lives. We strive to remain pure in His sight.

Christians are “a people of His [God's] own,” in Greek, laos eis peripoiēsin. This time the Greek word for people is laos, which suggests that we are gathered together, united in the same faith. We are not just any people; we are God's people. We are His own possession and property, His peripoiēsin. After all, Jesus Christ has purchased us with His own blood. We belong fully to Him now.

Christians are people with a job to do. We are to announce the praises of God, tas aretas exaggeilēte. The Greek words for the praises are tas aretas, which refer to perfection, virtue, excellence, goodness, gracious acts, and uprightness. Indeed, God is all-loving, all-good, all-wise, all-perfect, all-powerful, and all-knowing. He has done and continues to do wonderful things for His people. We, in turn, must recognize Who He is and what He has done. We are to recognize His characteristics, as far as we can with our limited human minds, and then we are to announce them to the world. The Greek verb here is exaggeilēte, which means to proclaim fully and to declare totally. We must not leave anything out but instead celebrate God and show forth His greatness and His wondrous deeds before all people.

Christians have been called “out of darkness” and into God's own marvelous light. Once we walked in the darkness of sin and death. We were apart from God, separated from His perfection by our sin. But God has called us. The Greek verb here is kaleō, which can also mean to invite, summon, or name. God has reached out to us. Making the first move, He has invited us into a relationship with Him, summoning us to communion with Him and to a share in His own divine life. He has given us a new name, the name of Christian. So now we walk in God's own marvelous light. He is the light of the world. He is light itself, and He shines upon us, radiantly, brilliantly. We live bathed in His healing, enlivening, saving rays.

Do we Christians really know who we are? Spend some time this week meditating on St. Peter's answer to that perpetual question, “Who are Christians?”

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