Our second readings for the next few weeks are taken from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. We know from the Acts of the Apostles that Paul spent three years in Ephesus, preaching in the synagogue and performing miracles (Acts 19). It would therefore seem natural for him to write to the Christian community there. Scholars are however divided whether Paul is the actual author of the letter or whether it is the work of one of his disciples addressing issues in the community shortly after Paul’s death. Stylistically, the letter is unlike other Pauline work, with long sentences and elaborate use of nouns, but scholars favouring a traditional view of its authorship would argue that this may be put down to the fact that Paul was exploring new horizons in his theology and teaching.
A dominant image, used ten times in this letter is that of the Body of Christ – the notion that believers are incorporated into Christ. With Christ as Head, the letter portrays the Church as both submitting to Christ and receiving its life from Him. The Church is one and indivisible and the letter encourages all Christians to maintain that unity by above all loving each other.
Building on this unity in the local community, the Church becomes a visible sign in the world of the joy that is possible when all things are united in love in Christ; a pledge that Jesus can bring an end to divisions and disharmony. The Church itself therefore becomes a sacramental sign of God’s love for the whole of humanity; it both points the way to God’s love and is the holy vessel of that love on earth.
The Church is Christ’s instrument. She is taken up by him also as the instrument of salvation of all, “the visible plan of God’s love for humanity.” (Catechism 776)