Sunday, May 8, 2016

Reflection for the 7th Week of Easter, Part 1

Monday – A Debater

Paul was a debater. He was a master at presenting rational arguments about the truth of the Christian faith and why people should accept it. He possessed a knack for logic and a way with words that touched his hearers' minds as well as their hearts. For Paul, persuasion tended to be more about intellect and will than emotion. His goal was to explain the faith in a reasonable manner and thereby lead people to see the truth and make a choice to accept it.

Today, however, many Christians turn toward emotion when they evangelize and catechize. Their message focuses on the good feelings Christianity can bring to believers and the emotional benefits of faith.

While emotion is certainly part of the picture, it doesn't provide a very strong foundation for faith. Feelings can change quickly, and when the emotional high goes away, faith can soon follow if it isn't build on something stronger.

That's why Paul focused so much on reason and will. When our faith is based on strong, rational, intellectual evidence and argument, it is a lot less likely to sway with every emotional breeze. Therefore, we must seek to learn as much as we can about our Christian faith and grow in our understanding so that, as St. Peter added, we may always be able to give a reason for the hope that we hold so dear (1 Peter 3:15).

Tuesday – A Farewell

The end was drawing near. Paul knew it. The Holy Spirit had been speaking to him, warning him of trials to come and instructing him to go to Jerusalem. Now, as he gathered the presbyters of Ephesus around him one last time, he was sure that he would never see any of them again. It was time to say farewell.

So he gave them some final reminders. He told them to recall how he had lived among them, always serving God, teaching the whole Gospel message without watering it down, calling all people to repentance, and witnessing to the truth of Christianity with his very life. They, Paul implied, must do the same.

Soon Paul was ready to depart. He didn't know exactly what the future would bring, other than hardship and imprisonment, but he was prepared to meet it head on. “I consider life of no importance to me,” he told the presbyters, “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.”

Wednesday – Consecrated in Truth

Today's Gospel gives us a glimpse of one of Jesus' prayers to the Father. As He prays for His disciples, He says,

“They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate Myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

Let's look closely at these beautiful words. Jesus begins with an important truth. His disciples do not belong to the world. They do not take part in the selfish, materialistic wickedness of worldly life. Just as Jesus is separate from all of that, so are His followers.

Further, Jesus prays that the Father will consecrate His disciples in truth. The Greek word translated as “consecrate” here is hagiazō, and it literally means to make holy or to set apart as holy or to sanctify. Jesus' disciples are not in the world because they are set apart as God's only property. They belong to God, and they are called to love and serve God, clinging to the truth that they have come to know and accept. The truth has set them for God.

And what is this truth? God's Word is truth, Word with a capital W. Jesus Christ, the Logos, the Word, the Son of God. He is truth in person.

Jesus then says that just as the Father sent Him into the world, He is sending His disciples. They have a mission, and it won't be an easy one. As they spread the Gospel, they will encounter suffering and even death from a hostile world. But they know the Truth, and they must proclaim it no matter what the cost.

Jesus ends with a rather puzzling statement. He says that He consecrates Himself for them that they may be consecrated in truth. The Greek word here is the same as above, so we may well ask how Jesus can make Himself holy. Isn't He already holy? Yes, of course He is. Here He is consecrating Himself, setting Himself apart, for God's purpose, for the Father's will. And what is the Father's will? The cross. Jesus is setting Himself apart, consecrating Himself to go to the cross. He will pay the price so that His disciples may be consecrated in truth, that they may be freed from sin and take their places as God's children for all eternity.

(Information about Greek vocabulary comes from HELPS Word Studies on

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