“Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Christ Jesus for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.”
Ephesians 1:3-7 [CTS New Catholic Bible]
“Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation, and have believed it; and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.”
Ephesians 1:13-14 [CTS New Catholic Bible]
I love this chapter so much, and I think it’s especially relevant as two days ago I was baptised and confirmed and received my first communion. I recommend reading the whole chapter.
What stuck out to me, was the claim that this gives us freedom. I was considering the passage in relation to my entering the Church, and was surprised to see it mention freedom. The link between forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and freedom didn’t seem very clear at first.
But I remembered, that sin is an entirely false freedom. Freedom is to truly be what you are. And because God is the foundation of all existence, the one who creates from nothing and sustains all things in being, all being is good (Wisdom 1:14). In freedom, we flourish and grow. In the context of being with God, in His creative love and embrace, we flourish to truly be ourselves, and are made whole in Him. Filled with the Holy Spirit of the Promise, we do not lose our identities, but we find and live out our mysterious identity in relation to the mysterious God, who makes us truly alive.
Sin, on the other hand, is always destructive, and always violent. It denies the dignity of all: the person committing the sin, those it’s committed against, and creation, and its creator. It defines things in the most dull ways- what temporary pleasure we may derive from them, or how they make us look- it’s all surface level. It propagates an attitude of the division of the world, into consumers and commodities, the vulnerable and the exploiters. And the more we consider creation as commodities for consumption, the more we consider the people who depend on creation as resources to exploit also.
But to the Christian,
“He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning, to act upon when the times had run their course to the end: that he would bring everything under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth.“
Christ has redeemed creation, and it is to be put to his purposes, all united under him. We are called to “live through love in his presence,” (1:4). We are called to live in God’s creative love, being built up and strengthened by Him, to live in true freedom.
In the parable of the prodigal son, we see that he goes out and squanders his inheritance, on partying and (if his brother was correct) prostitution. But he returns to his father’s farm. On his own, he was squandering his resources and his life, and consuming recklessly and using people as objects. At the farm, on the other hand, life is sustainable, and productive, and people are accepted as family. At both he has parties, but away from home, they are celebrating his wealth and spending, and using each other for private profit, while at home, they are celebrating him for being with them again.
“…determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Christ Jesus for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.”
In Christ, we are redefined. We leave behind the illusions of vanity and pride and strength, and become the children of God. Our sins are forgiven, so they no longer rule and define us, as part of the dominion of death. We are truly set free, to live in and live out the divine love, being truly ourselves as we were born to be.
This freedom shouldn’t be understood as something only spiritual, and not relating to everyday life. It isn’t just a change of mindset, that is irrelevant to the real world, or will just improve your self-image. It is the truth of life itself, to be lived out every day.
When slaves became Christians, they knew that they were the Lord’s free people. They were encouraged to keep working for those called their masters in this world, but out of love, both for their masters, and for the Lord Jesus Christ (I should note, that there is plenty of place for slaves to rebel, out of love for each other). They knew they were no longer slaves, but the children of God Almighty. Yet they continued to serve their masters, but not in shame or out of fear, but out of love for their fellow man. They were freed from the intimidation and judgment of men, because they were children of the King. And when masters were Christians, they were to “treat your slaves in the same spirit; do without threats, remembering that they and you have the same Master in heaven and he is not impressed by one person more than by another.” They were redefined as brothers, and co-servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. These enemies were joined in Christ, as members of his body, the Church.
“He has put all things under his feet, and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.”
Our freedom and our unity are crucially linked. If it does not unite us, it is not freedom, and it is not serving Christ.
“and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.”
The Holy Spirit makes us free! And as St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”
“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
By the Holy Spirit living in us, we can have the creative, loving, spontaneity of God in our lives, strengthening us and leading us. The Holy Spirit will give us words of faith when we need them most, and bless our lives always.
May God Almighty bless you as abundantly as He has offered