Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost: All In The Family
For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Of whom all paternity (or of whom the whole family) in heaven and earth is named. (Ephesians 3:14-15)
How wonderful it is to be part of a family. There’s a story that is told about Sam Rayburn who was the Speaker of the House of Representatives for 17 years. If the story isn’t true, it’s one of those that ought to be true.
“Mr. Sam” as he was known, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and it became necessary for him to resign as Speaker of the House. He decided to move back home to Bonham, Texas, population 7,300.
Someone asked him why he didn’t stay in Washington, DC or perhaps go to New York to get the latest and greatest treatments. They wanted to know, “Why in the world would you go back to a little place like Bonham, Texas?”
Sam’s reply was this. He said, “I want to go back because in Bonham, Texas, people know when you are sick, and they care when you die.”
Some of you may have grown up in a small town like that, but things tend to change over the years. And it seems that, more and more, we are living in a time when people are isolated from one another. People hide behind the walls of their houses and apartments. People cut themselves off from any real contact with others. And even with the popularity of texting, tweeting and Face-booking, we have become what someone has described as a “nation of strangers.”
Part of the problem is that our society has become so mobile. The average American moves 12 times in his lifetime, and some of you probably passed that number a long time ago. But that mobility affects our ability to establish deep relationships with others.
The extended family was once a very important part of our lives in this country. People grew up surrounded by grandparents and cousins and uncles and aunts and people that they were related to even if they weren’t sure exactly how. For some of you, that’s still a reality. But for most of us, we’ve moved away and we don’t have those family ties. We may see those people once a year at family reunions, but they aren’t really a part of our lives.
Every where you look, there are signs that people are hungering for fellowship, community, and a sense of family. One of the most popular shows on television for many years was the sitcom, Cheers. It was a show that was set in a bar. The theme song said it all, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came; You want to be where you can see, our troubles are all the same; You want to be where everybody knows your name.” That show resonated with viewers because it touched a need that we all feel—to know and be known. I believe the pull of the neighborhood bar is often not the alcohol but the friendship it offers.
And it seems a shame to me that people will go to bars looking for that, when God intended for that to be a description of the Church. The Bible uses several different pictures for the Church, and each of them is used to emphasize a different aspect of the Church. For example, sometimes the Church is referred to as a “kingdom”, an image that stresses the dominion and power of God and our responsibility to obey Him.
Other times, the Church is referred to as “the bride of Christ”, an image that stresses the love and close relationship that Jesus has with his Church.
The Church is also called the “body of Christ”, an image that stresses that Jesus is the head and that there is a need for each and every member to do his or her part.
But the most frequently used image of God and his people in the New Testament is the family relationship. Sometimes we are pictured as being “born again” into this family. Other times, we are pictured as being adopted into God’s family. And this image of the family is used to stress the close relationship we have with God, who is our Father, with the blessed Virgin Mary our mother and our close relationship with one another, as brothers and sisters in this family.
Reading from Saint Pauls first epistle to Timothy, he says, 3:14-15: I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household or the family of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
What is God’s design for the family of God?
Gods design for the family of God is to have a Father
"The Church is called a house, because it is, as it were, one family governed by one father of the family...."-Catechism of the Council of Trent
Not only do we have a God that is our Father, (Matthew 6:9 "Our Father who art in heaven,"), but he has given us fathers here on earth. That is the Pope and our Priest. The Pope being a Prime minister for God here on earth and one who should be considered our father on earth. "And he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda". Isaiah 22:21 b. St. Paul calls himself a father to the people of the Corinthian Church.
For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you. I Corinthians 4:15
Gods design for the family of God is to have a Mother
The Blessed Virgin Mary is our Mother.
When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. John 19:26-27
St. Epiphanius, wrote “Against Eighty Heresies” where he affirmed: “Eve was called the mother of the living ...after the fall this title was given to her. True it is...the whole race of man upon earth was born from Eve; but in reality it is from Mary the Life was truly born to the world. So that by giving birth to the Living One, Mary became the mother of all living”
According to St Irenaeus, Mary "became a cause of salvation for the whole human race" (Haer. 3, 22, 4; PG 7, 959), and the pure womb of the Virgin "regenerates men in God" (Haer. 4, 33, 11; PG 7, 1080). This is re-echoed by St Ambrose, who says: "A Virgin has begotten the salvation of the world, a Virgin has given life to all things" (Ep. 63, 33; PL 16, 1198), and by other Fathers who call Mary "Mother of salvation" (Severian of Gabala, Or. 6 in mundi creationem, 10, PG 54, 4; Faustus of Riez, Max. Bibl. Patrum, VI. 620-621).
In the Middle Ages, St Anselm addressed Mary in this way: "You are the mother of justification and of the justified, the Mother of reconciliation and of the reconciled, the mother of salvation and of the saved" (Or. 52, 8; PL 158, 957), while other authors attribute to her the titles "Mother of grace" and "Mother of life". (1)
Gods design for the family of God is to have brothers and sisters
St. Paul tells St. Timothy...
An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father: young men, as brethren: Old women, as mothers: young women, as sisters, in all chastity. I Timothy 5:1-2
There are verses after verses showing that those in Christ are brothers and sister. Not only is Jesus our brother, but all of us are spiritually related to each other.
There is only one family of God
Again in todays lesson we read: "For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
Of whom all paternity (or of whom the whole family) in heaven and earth is named. (Ephesians 3:14-15)"
The text: "The the whole paternity/the whole family in heaven and earth" – God’s one family in heaven and earth. The word is singular, patria, "family," singular: "the whole family," the one family of God in heaven and in earth.
From these verses we can see the Churches teaching on the Communion of the Saints, the Family of God.
The baptized all form one body and the good of each is shared by all. "Because”, In the Words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “Christ (the Church's most important member) is the head, his riches are given to all the members through the sacraments".
There are five Communions in this one family:
Communion in the faith
This faith of the Church was received from the apostles.
Communion of the sacraments
Sacraments, especially Baptism, link all the faithful to each other and to Christ. The word "communion" "is especially suited for the Eucharist which brings about this communion.
They therefore that received his word, were baptized; and there were added in that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2: 41)
And continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house,(Acts 2:46)
Communion of charisms
These are "And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit.", (1 Corinthians 12:7). That is for profit for the whole Church.
We see an example of this in (Acts 2:43) And fear came upon every soul: many wonders also and signs were done by the apostles in Jerusalem, and there was great fear in all.
Communion of common goods
Whatever a Christian has is really possessed in common with everyone else.
And all they that believed, were together, and had all things common. Their possessions and goods they sold, and divided them to all, according as every one had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
Communion in charity
"If one members suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Cor 12:26).
Because of the Communion of the saints, that is "Being in one accord" (vs 46) in these areas, and because they were "Praising God", "and having favour with all the people",in other words having a good testimony before the people, Scripture says that, "The Lord increased daily together such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47)
There are Three States of life for those in the family of God.
The Militant Church
The Militant Church is the church members on earth who are struggling against the world, the flesh and the devil.
Labour as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No man, being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular businesses; that he may please him to whom he hath engaged himself. (II Timothy 2:3-4)
For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.(Ephesians 6:12)
The Suffering Saints In Purgatory
I can not, for the sake of time give justice to the subject of purgatory. But let me give you some brief scriptures.
In II Maccabees 12:39-46, we discover Judas Maccabeus and members of his Jewish military forces collecting the bodies of some fallen comrades who had been killed in battle. Judas and his men “turned to prayer beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out… He also took up a collection… and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably… Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”
I Corinthians 3:11-15 may well be the most straightforward text in all of Sacred Scripture when it comes to Purgatory and what happens during the purging process: For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. if any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.
And then lastly we read in Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap.
Even though Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin, even though the debt was paid in full, there is still the principle of sowing and reaping. This principle is irrevocable; there is no escape, either for the believer or for the unbeliever. It is a law of life. Purgatory is a place that fulfills this principle.
The Church Triumphant
The church triumphant describes the Church in heaven. The realm in which the holy Trinity, the angels and saints who have reached the fullness of salvation in Christ, abide. But it will have its fullest being at the end of time, when all of creation and all the Church whether the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, or the Church Triumphant, will be conformed to Christ and all reality will be one of divine praise and glory.
The term "church triumphant" underlines the truth that in the glory of heaven all human sin will have been transformed, death and suffering will be no more, and the glory of God will have triumphed over all the imperfections of human history.
What is the state of the Church Triumphant in Heaven?
The Church triumphant is in a state of UNSPOTTED PURITY.
The Triumphant Church is said to be "arrayed in white robes, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!" These kind of terms, when used in Scripture, are used to denote purity and the favor of God.
The Church triumphant is in a state of TRIUMPHANT JOY.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away. (Revelations 21:4)
The Church triumphant is in a special state of COMMUNION WITH CHRIST.
Often did he promise that his disciples would be "with him" in Heaven; and so it shall come to pass; for "he who sits on the throne shall dwell among them," verse 15. "Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God." (Revelation 21:3)
The Church triumphant is in a state of PERFECT AND ETERNAL EXEMPTION FROM ALL DISTRESS.
It must be so, since they serve him without interruption, and since he dwells among them. Hence,
(Revelation 7:16). "They shall hunger no more or thirst " "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," (Revelation 7:17) Poverty has often been the lot of the pious on earth; they have hungered and thirsted; they have toiled and been weary; have been destitute, tormented, and afflicted; but this shall be known no more."neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat. " (Revelations 7:16)
Such bliss is enough to make the Church Militant and the Church Suffering say, With Saint Paul,"But I am straitened between two: having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, a thing by far the better.!" (Philippians 1:23)
The heavenly family is in a state of participation in a bliss which God has promised to all the family of God.
So in conclusion let me ask you a few question. Are you a part of the family of God? How can you be born into God’s family? – John 1:13 tells me. I must be “born of God”. Only God can make me a child in His family; it is His work, and His work alone.
There are, however, conditions which we must meet; in other words, God will make us His children – when:
Believe on Jesus: As the one who bore your sin, died in your place, was buried, and whom God resurrected.
(John 1:12) "But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name."
Realize We are a Sinner:
(Romans 5:12) "Wherefore as by one man ( Adam) sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned."
(James 2:10) "And whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all."
We must Repent:
(Acts 3:19) "Be penitent, (repent) therefore, and be
converted (turn back or change your mind), that your sins may be blotted out."
You must desire and seek to be baptized.
(Acts 2:38) "Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
The way of entrance into an earthly family is by physical birth, and the way of entrance into the heavenly family is by the miracle of a spiritual birth – a second birth, a birth from above.
Water baptism is the sacrament that admits the forgiven sinner into a covenant relationship with God.
Spiritual birth through baptism bestows upon the believer son-ship in the family of God. In Romans 8:15–16, Paul wrote, “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father). For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.”
And again in Galatians 3:26–27: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Or once more: “And because you are sons, God hath sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying: 'Abba, Father.’” (Galatians 4:6).
Faith in Christ is the first and necessary step in being born again, but without water baptism it is incomplete and does not bestow New Testament son-ship.
For those of us who are already born into the family of God I have theses questions.
Are you under the Authority of God your spiritual "Father" and your spiritual "Mother"? The Virgin Mary? Or are you being rebellious and doing your own thing? Do you pick and choose what you want to obey? Mary commanded the servants at the Wedding of Canaan with the words, "Whatsoever Jesus shall say to you, do ye." and they obeyed her and followed the directions of Jesus.
Do you treat your brothers and sisters with the respect and love they deserve? St. John says, "For he that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not?". I John 4:20
Just some things to think about.