There are some wonderful scriptural cross-references in St. Paul’s other letters which can enrich our understanding of what the Apostle is teaching the Ephesian Christians in chapter 4. Verses 1-3 relate well to Romans 12:1,2 and Colossians 3:12-14. And the passage concerning the spiritual gifts given to the people of God, verses 4-13, has two companion passages, Romans 12:3-8 and I Corinthians 12:1-12. It would be good to have paper and pen alongside your Bible and make your own list of the spiritual gifts which you find as you study these passages.
Things to ponder: 1) Which of the verses speak specifically to the purpose of the gifts God has given to His people? 2) In what ways do you think the spiritual gifts relate to the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (see CCC 1831) based on Isaiah 11:1,2? 3) In what ways do the spiritual gifts relate to an individual’s vocational calling?
The Catholic Commentary (listed in Sources and Resources) has a thoughtful exposition of two words which Paul used to begin his exhortation to the Ephesians in this chapter, words which apply well to a woman’s life in relation to her family, Church, and interactions in the world: gentleness and patience. These are foundational spiritual gifts which we might ponder as we do our self-examinations during the Lenten season. Williamson writes, “Paul …recommends gentleness…sometimes translated ‘meekness’ (RSV), which does not mean being soft or weak. Aristotle described this virtue as the desired middle ground ‘between being too angry and never being angry at all.’ It can have the character of kindliness. When ascribed to someone in authority, it means a reasonable lenience. Gentleness is a virtue of peacemakers, namely, the inner strength not to retaliate when provoked. It enables a person to bring correction in a fraternal manner when it is needed (Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:25). Paul speaks of the ‘gentleness’ of Christ (2 Cor. 10:1)…
“The word translated patience literally means ‘long-tempered.’ Many times (in the Old Testament) this word is used to depict God as ‘slow to anger,’ that is, someone who has a long fuse. Paul uses this word in describing Christ’s attitude toward him: ‘I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost (of sinners), Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience’ (I Tim. 1:16 NRSV). The book of Proverbs teaches that patience marks a person who is wise (14:29; 16:32; 19:11) and that ‘those who are slow to anger calm contention’ (15:18 NRSV)….Paul is well aware that relationships even among Christians can be trying and sometimes require extraordinary charity and self-restraint.” (PSW, p. 109)
We’ll expound upon the riches found in this passage in Ephesians again next week, and I look forward to sharing some of our thoughts with one another at the third Wednesday book group meeting in Heffernan Hall. Those who met last Wednesday decided it would be a good idea to meet the first and third Wednesdays rather than getting together just once a month.
Those of you who read this blog but cannot meet with the group are welcome to share your thoughts by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We might get some insights from blog readers which I can share with all who come. -JC