Eph. 1:7-8a

“In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us (Eph. 1:7-8a).

Although I have quoted from v. 7 above, I only wish to comment on v. 8a, which says that Christ’s (God’s) grace was “lavished upon us.”

Here the Apostle’s choice of words is very appropriate. Only the rich can lavish their riches upon someone else. It is one thing to donate, one thing to give, and another thing to lavish. The very word suggests excess, surprise, abundance, overflow, things which are not possible except where there is an apparently inexhaustible supply of things to be given. Lavishing is something which one who possesses everything does to someone who possesses nothing or at least very little. Paul makes the point elsewhere, as in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians: “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). What did Christ’s richness consist in? He was “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6), being consubstantial with the Father, and all things were created through Him (John 1:3). Yet the Creator took upon Himself the nature of His creature and the entire impoverished condition in which this one had fallen because of sin — suffering and death — so as to share His riches with His creatures. And what are these riches? They consist in “every spiritual blessing” which we have received in Christ (Eph. 1:3), all those things necessary for a blessed and happy spiritual life. Human beings have gone from having nothing, from being under a curse and destined for death, to possessing the entire treasure of heaven in Jesus Christ, who died for their sakes so as to make them rich. Truly God’s grace has been lavished upon us!

But the question is: why does it not often feel that way? I can speak for myself. Why does it happen that, even though I believe all these things, I do not feel as if I have been lavished with God’s grace? Why am I still often dissatisfied with my estate and with the things of my life? Why should I not feel like the adopted child of God which by faith I am?

These are very disturbing questions to me. I think they have to do with the fact that I do not yet have the attitude or perspective of a Christian, at least not far enough. Dominique Janicaud, in his discussion of the “theological turn” of French phenomenology, quotes a wonderful line from Luther: “Faith means giving oneself over to the power of things which are invisible.” If I do not often feel as if I have been lavished with God’s riches, it must be because I am too focused on the visible, on what I can see, on what is in front of me, whereas the graces God gives — such as the forgiveness of sins, to give one example — are at least partly invisible. How do I make the passage from visible into invisible? How do I begin to live a fuller life in the invisible? Of course, there are also “visible” signs and evidences of these riches, such as the feeling of forgiveness, the word of Scripture, the Eucharistic meal, and so on. Perhaps it is important that we not neglect these either, these visible signs of invisible realities, so that we can be led through the visible into the invisible and live lives of genuine, lively faith.

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