Reflecting on Ephesians for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From Ephesians by Peter S. Williamson, comenting on Ephesians 5:18:

The first phrase of verse 18 quotes an Old Testament wisdom text that warns against being enamored of wine. Paul is objecting to getting drunk and losing control of one’s speech and actions, whatever the alcoholic beverage or drug of choice may be. Paul criticizes drunkenness on the basis of what it leads to: debauchery, the ruin that comes from excess or throwing off restraint, and the opposite of the wise conduct recommended in 5:15. Saint John Chrysostom comments, “Immoderate indulgence makes one rash, passionate, prone to stumbling, anger and severity. Wine was given to gladden us, not for intoxication” (Homilies on Ephesians).

In a surprising contrast, Paul tells his readers to be filled with the Spirit rather than to be filled with wine. Why would Paul view being filled with the Spirit as an alternative to intoxication? At Pentecost, skeptical bystanders accused the Spirit filled apostles of being “drunk with new wine” because of their joyful praise of God (Acts 2:13). It seems likely that both Paul and Luke understand the gift of the Spirit as fulfilling the messianic promises of superabundant “wine” (Isa 25:6; 55:1–2; Joel 2:24–26; Amos 9:13–14) that symbolize the fullness of life and joy God promised his people. In the New Testament the Spirit brings joy and exultation.

© 2009 Peter S. Williamson and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Reflecting on Ephesians for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From Ephesians by Peter S. Williamson, reflecting on Ephesians 4:30-5:2:

It is striking how much of Paul’s practical instruction about our conduct is based on what God has done for us in Christ rather than on divine commands or ethical reasoning (as in ancient or modern moral philosophy). How we are to live derives from the fact that through faith and baptism we have acquired a “new self ” that has been “created” (v. 24) to be like God, which unites us to Christ and to the other members of Christ’s body.

More than that, this “new self ” exists in a personal relationship with the three persons of the Trinity in a manner that profoundly shapes our actions. We try not to grieve the indwelling Holy Spirit by our words or deeds, not wanting to sadden the Spirit, whose nature is joy. Rather than lose ourselves in destructive anger, as beloved children we aim to imitate the Father’s love and forgiveness toward those who wrong us. That is what the one whom Christians can call “Abba” does (Matt 5:43–48; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). Finally, we seek to follow our Messiah Jesus in a way of life marked by self-sacrificing love: “The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

© 2009 Peter S. Williamson and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Reflecting on Ephesians for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From Ephesians by Peter S. Williamson, reflecting on Ephesians 4:20-24:

Paul is reminding his readers about baptism, which the Catechism describes as “the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion” (1427). But since most Catholics were baptized as infants, before they had the ability to make a personal response of faith and repentance, Paul’s teaching applies differently today than it did to his original readers. Ideally, Christians baptized as babies receive preaching and teaching about Christ from their earliest days and turn to the Lord as children. Ideally, their families and parishes prepare them well for the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and confirmation, and they continue on this path into adulthood, growing in their understanding of their faith and progressing in holiness and ongoing conversion (Catechism 1428–29).

But often it does not work this way. Some receive little or no Christian formation as children; others receive it, but cease to practice their faith along theway, succumbing to the influence of the surrounding non-Christian culture. These baptized but unconverted Catholics need to be evangelized in order to experience the grace of the sacraments they have received. They need to be introduced (or reintroduced) to the person of Jesus Christ through a proclamation (kerygma) of the good news in the power of the Holy Spirit, accompaniedby the testimony of those who already believe. Only when they (re)discover the truth that is in Jesus (4:21), believe, and decide to turn from sin will they be able to benefit fully from catechesis about prayer, doctrine, the sacraments, and the moral life (the major themes of the Catechism). Only then will the divine life received in baptism be able to flourish and grow through a renewal in the spirit of their minds (4:23).

© 2009 Peter S. Williamson and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Reflecting on Ephesians for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From Ephesians by Peter S. Williamson, commenting on Ephesians 4:1:

In Greek, the first word of the second half of this letter is parakaleō, meaning “I exhort.” Although chapters 4–6 contain teaching, their primary character is exhortation, an appeal to the will. Paul begins his summons to Christian conduct by reminding his readers that he is a prisoner for the Lord and appeals to them on that basis. The Greek literally says “a prisoner in the Lord” (JB, NJB, NRSV), a slightly different wording than 3:1 that emphasizes Paul’s union with Jesus in his imprisonment. He exhorts his readers to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received. The word translated “to live” (peripateō) means “to walk.” In the Old Testament, the way a person “walks” refers to that person’s path in life, whether good or evil. The fact that Paul uses peripateō four more times in the next chapter and a half (4:17; 5:2, 8, 15) shows his attention to ethical behavior in this section.

In ordinary Greek the word translated “call” means “invitation.” As in the Gospel story of the man who invited his neighbors to a banquet (Luke 14:16–24), so Christians have received an invitation to a celebration of the good things that God has for us. If you were invited to a banquet of the world’s most famous and important people, you would think carefully about what to wear and how to comport yourself. Paul is saying that since his readers have been invited into a relationship with God and his holy people that begins now (2:19–22) and culminates in the age to come (2:7; 3:14–21), they should adopt a pattern of conduct that corresponds to such an exquisite invitation.

© 2009 Peter S. Williamson and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Reflecting on Ephesians for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From Ephesians by Peter S. Williamson, commenting on Ephesians 1:5:

The next sentence reveals God’s motive for choosing us—a fatherly love that moved him to adopt us as his children: In love he destined us for adoption to himself. In saying that God “destined us for adoption to himself,” the focus is not on the legal procedure of adoption but on the result of adoption, that is, that we become members of God’s family, his sons and daughters. God intended to accomplish this through Jesus Christ, the only way humans can truly become God’s children. Although Genesis portrays humans as God’s offspring because we were created in his image and likeness (Gen 1–2; see Luke 3:38), sin severely damaged this relationship (see 2:3). When the New Testament speaks of becoming children of God it refers to a far deeper filial relationship with God in Christ and through the gift of the Spirit than was previously possible (John 1:12–13; Rom 8:14–17; Gal 3:26).

Sometimes people are a bit put off by the idea that we are adopted children since this term could seem to distance us from God. But as parents of adopted children can testify, adopted children are not loved less. In the Greco-Roman world of the first century, adopted children enjoyed all the rights and privileges of those born into the  family. . . . As children we can count on God’s protection, provision, and steadfast love (Matt 6:31–34; 10:29–31; Rom 8:39). As children, we are “heirs of God,” with a dignity so extraordinary that creation itself will be transformed when our identity as sons and daughters of God is fully revealed (Rom 8:19–21).

© 2009 Peter S. Williamson and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Audio: Peter Williamson on “The Catholic Next Door”

A few weeks ago we noted that Peter Williamson was interviewed on the SiriusXM 129 (The Catholic Channel) radio program The Catholic Next Door.

Below is the audio from that interview:

Or

Peter Williamson 5.18.12

 

Williamson’s “Ephesians” Ebook on Sale!

In June, Baker Academic is offering the ebook version of Peter S. Williamson’s Ephesians in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture for $8.99 (or less), over 55% off!

The ebook is available through these online booksellers

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Check out www.BakerAcademic.com/ebookspecials for other great ebook discounts from Baker Academic & Brazos Press.

Reflecting on Ephesians for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

From Ephesians by Peter S. Williamson, commenting on Ephesians 4:9-10:

What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended . . . ? What is Paul’s logic? Paul is interpreting Ps 68:19, which addresses God, saying, “You went up.” He makes the logical inference that to speak of God ascending implies that he had previously descended, since God’s dwelling is in heaven, above everything else. The Old Testament sometimes describes God’s intervention in human affairs as his coming down or descending (e.g., Gen 18:21; Exod 3:8).

Paul understands Ps 68 to be speaking of Christ. After all, it begins, “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered” (RSV). When did God arise and scatter his enemies? At the resurrection of the Messiah, of course! And Paul tells us to where the Messiah descended: he went down into the lower [regions] of the earth. There are various interpretations of this descent. Most likely it refers either to Christ’s incarnation, when he emptied himself of heavenly glory (Phil 2:7) and came down among us (John 3:13), or to his burial in the earth. Alternatively, it could refer to Christ’s descent into the realms of the dead upon his death, where he preached “to the spirits in prison” (1 Pet 3:18–22).

In any case, the one who descended is the same person who has now ascended far above all the heavens, namely, Christ. As in Phil 2:6–11, Paul marvels that the one who came so far down has now been raised so high up. God had a purpose for this: that he might fill all things. Here, as in 1:23, “fill” means to exercise divine authority everywhere (echoing Jer 23:24) so that the Messiah might be Lord over all.

© 2009 Peter S. Williamson and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Peter Williamson on SiriusXM Tomorrow (Thursday)

Peter Williamson will be interviewed on the SiriusXM 129 (The Catholic Channel) radio program The Catholic Next Door tomorrow (Thursday, May 17) around 2:20 p.m. The show airs Monday-Friday 1-4 p.m. eastern.

(http://thecatholicsnextdoor.newevangelizers.com/)

Pope Benedict: “The quality of homilies needs to be improved”

Perhaps you didn’t the need the pope to tell you that!  Recent surveys in both a major east coast and a major western diocese found that American Catholics find the preaching at Mass to be one of the least satisfactory aspects of church life.

[Read more…]