“Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” – Ephesian 3:2-3a,5-6
The impact of this message of Paul is huge!. I believe we lose the shocking nature of this message because we have become familiar with the word “gentiles”. However, it was not used in favorable terms by the Jewish community in Paul’s time. To understand better its understanding I looked up the definition:
(Heb., usually in plural, goyim), meaning in general all nations except the Jews. In course of time, as the Jews began more and more to pride themselves on their peculiar privileges, it acquired unpleasant associations, and was used as a term of contempt.
In the New Testament the Greek word Hellenes, meaning literally Greek (as in Acts 16:1Acts 16:3 ; 18:17 ;Romans 1:14 ), generally denotes any non-Jewish nation.
So, what is St. Paul saying? He is saying that the revelation he received was that EVERYONE is called to be “co-heirs, members of the same body,
and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” No one is to be excluded from God’s invitation. Wow! We are called to be people (and a church) of “inclusion”, not “exclusion”. How easy it is for us to make divisions – who’s in and who’s out like those in St.Paul’s time (gentile or Jew, slave or free, woman or man, etc.).
This feast of the Epiphany also reminds us that God’s message is for the whole world. God’s love is for all creation and for all peoples. So, as we begin this New Year, and the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, may we learn to be persons of inclusion. Let’s begin close to home. Is there a particular person or persons within our family, our neighborhood, our school, our community that we have “excluded”? Let us begin to reach out, to be inclusive, to be welcoming.
Lord, helps us to love as You. Help us to open our hearts to all who come into our lives, to be good neighbors, to be loving and kind. Amen.
Photo from loc.com