Third Sunday In Lent: The Need for Revelation and Power
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and of revelation, in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what the hope is of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.
In Ephesians 1:17-18, Paul had prayed that the Christians at Ephesus might receive revelation from the Holy Spirit. At the end of this first half of Ephesians, in chapter 3:16, Paul prays that they might receive power from the Holy Spirit. These two, among others things, are some of our greatest needs - revelation and power. The Holy Spirit alone can give us both. The entire Christian life is dependent on the Holy Spirit. First of all, the Spirit gives us revelation on what God has done for us in Christ. Then, He gives us power to walk or to, as Ephesians 5:1 says, to follow God in a manner worthy of our calling, obeying all that He has taught us.
What does Saint Paul mean when he says in our Epistle for today, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children”?
The word “followers” means “mimic”, to be an “imitator.” The command is for God’s people to imitate Him. We are to learn all about God, and mimic His characteristics.
We are to learn all we can about the Lord from His Word and we are to put into practice everything we know about Him. We are to do the things we see Him doing. We are to be like God in every respect. In essence, God is here commanding us to do something that is impossible within ourselves. Left to ourselves, we could never be imitators of God. But through the revelation and power that comes from the Holy Spirit we can follow or mimic or imitate God in a manner worthy of our calling, obeying all that He has taught us.
Concerning this thought, let me quote Saint Jerome:
“When Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians, indeed, he said “be imitators” of me … for though they could not instantaneously become imitators of Christ, it was still a great thing for them if they could be imitators of the imitator. But to the Ephesians, since they are those to whom he has revealed such great mysteries, he neither says “be imitators of me” nor “be imitators of Christ” but “be imitators of God.”
Saint John Chrysostom:
“Concerning the Ephesians. Since they are those to whom he has revealed such great mysteries, he neither says “be imitators of me” nor “be imitators of Christ” but “be imitators of God.” This does not imply that it is less to be an imitator of Christ than of God, for Christ is God…. Admittedly much that God has done we humans can hardly be said to imitate. But in the way that he is merciful to all and rains on good and bad, so we may pour out mercy upon all we meet. When we do this, we shall be beloved children.”
You are called to imitate God, to become like God. This can happen when you are reconciled with him…. Paul then adds another splendid incentive: You are to act “as beloved children.” He is saying, in effect: “You have another reason for imitating him, not only to receive good but also to be fittingly called his own children.” … Not all children imitate their father, but those who know themselves to be beloved act like 'beloved children.'”
Now in Ephesians 3:18-19 we read: That you may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth: To know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fulness of God.
There are four dimensions there and that itself goes beyond human knowledge!! The terminology used by the Apostle in and of itself suggests vastness. And there is no doubt that he chose to describe it in this four-dimensional manner in order to give that very impression.
We see that we can experience the...
Breadth of the Love of God: There are several places in Scripture where this particular dimension is put before us in a striking manner. In the Book of Revelation, for instance, we find the words: “. . . and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue and people, and nation”. And again: “. . . and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (5:9,11). The Book of Revelation seems to be particularly interested in the breadth of Christ’s love. As it gives us the picture of the glorified saints, and of the Son of God with His redeemed, it uses these figures: “After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues stood before the throne and before the Lamb” (7:9). One day, in the glory, we shall see that perfectly.
Length of the Love of God: I am convinced that the Apostle specified these particular measurements in order to encourage the Ephesians. The length surely conveys the endless character of the love of Christ. Sometimes we read in Scripture about the “everlasting” love of God -“I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3). Have you ever considered the eternity of Christ’s love towards you and towards all the saints? The dimension of length reminds us that this is a love which began in eternity. It was always there.
Height of the Love God: That brings us, in turn, to the height of His love. By this dimension the Apostle expresses God’s ultimate and final purpose for us. Or we may say that this is the way in which he describes the height to which God proposes to raise us. Most of us tend to think of salvation only in terms of forgiveness, as if the love of Christ only purchases for us the forgiveness of our sins. Anyone who stops at that has clearly never known anything about the height of the love of Christ. Something of this height is seen in the fact that He died not only that we might be forgiven; He died to make us good. He died not only that our sins might be blotted out, but also that we might be given a new birth; not merely to save us from punishment, but also that we might be made children of God, sons of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. Such is His purpose for us, and all He did had that end in view. Furthermore, having given us this new birth, this new principle of life, He causes to dwell in us the same Holy Spirit that was in Himself. “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him”, we are told (John 3:34). He gives the same Spirit by measure to us. That is the height of His love to us.
Depth of the Love of God: His love shows yet greater and deeper when we remember that there was nothing in us to call forth such love. “All we like sheep have gone astray”. We all have “come short of the glory of God”. In our natural state we all were hateful and hopeless creatures. That we may have some true conception of our actual state and condition, and the depth of His love, let us turn to what Paul tells us about the condition of mankind until the grace of God in Christ laid hold upon us. We find it in the third chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, where we read, “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongue they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (vv. 10-19). It was for such people that Christ came, enduring the Cross and despising the shame. The Apostle makes the same point in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Our Lord had said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”; but says Paul, “God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” and “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled unto God by the death of His Son. . .” He did all this for sinners, for His enemies, for those who were vile and full of sin and who had nothing to commend them. That is the measure of the depth of His love. He came from heaven, He went down to the depths and rose again for such people. It is only as we meditate upon these things and realize their truth that we begin to know something about His love.
So we see that we can experience four dimensions of the love of Christ.
But get this. Saint Paul says “That you may be able to comprehend, with ALL the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth: It is only along with ALL the saints.
We can never grasp the love of Christ all by ourselves. We need the other members of Christ's Body. And further, we need ALL the members of Christ's Body, ALL the Saints, whether those in heaven, or those striving to be Saints here on earth.
That is why our hearts should always be open to ALL believers, Not just those we get along with, or those who personalities rub us the wrong way. Our hearts should be open to all of God's children. Our hearts must have room for as many brothers and sisters as God has children.
That is why we need to be open to reading the writings of ALL the godly Saints - and not just the writings of our favorite Spiritual authors of today or even of yesteryear.
St. Philip Neri: “Reading the lives of the saints is a great means to preserve piety.”
Padre Pio: “Help yourself during this troubled period by reading holy books. This reading provides excellent food for the soul and conduces to great progress along the path of perfection. By no means is it inferior to what we obtain through prayer and holy meditation. In prayer and meditation it is ourselves who speak to the Lord, while in holy reading it is God who speaks to us. Before beginning to read, raise your mind to the Lord and implore Him to guide your mind Himself, to speak to your heart and move your will.”
Let me warn you, in advance, that in my lifetime, There seems to be very very few who have such an open heart for a well rounded, reading of different spiritual authors and or Catholic biographies. But those are the few who are truly spiritually wealthy. The remainder carry on with their poverty-stricken, sectarian attitudes and live and die as Pharisees, missing out on the wealth that could have been theirs if they had been humble enough to accept all whom God had accepted.
Let us meditate carefully on the first five chapters of Ephesians and ask the Holy Spirit to give us revelation on these glorious truths. Once you have got revelation, you will be ready to seek the Spirit for His power to live an overcoming life, full of purity, humility and love. Then we will be able to put away ALL unwholesome words from our speech, and ALL anger and ALL bitterness from our hearts (Eph.4:29,31).
Then wives will be able to submit to their husbands as the church is to Christ, and husbands will be able to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph.5:22,25). Then we will be able to overcome Satan at all times (Eph.6:11-13). And then we will have the power to "become imitators of God" (Eph.5:1).
God is able to do far more in us and through us than we can ask or think.
To Him alone be all the glory (Eph.3:20,21).