Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling [vocation] with which you were called, . . . .”
I do not believe that the Church has faced a greater test than it has during these days of COVID, political upheaval and wrangling, and social unrest, at least in the memory of my lifetime. Add to this the scandals that have reared their ugliness in the Church both East and West, and it is no wonder the faithful “feel” the end is near at hand. These days have been a challenge to the Church’s faith and endurance. They have caused many of us to give pause and re-examine whether or not we personally believe the Gospel of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ is indeed the Good News of God and His joyful tidings of good will to all men. And yet, Paul the prisoner calls out from his dungeon – from his imprisonment – to us to have hope in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in this hope (which is inseparable from faith) “to walk worthy of the calling with which [we] were called” and to which we are called in Christ Jesus. For Sacred Scripture constantly reminds us that it is by the patient endurance of faith in God that the saints receive their reward (Mt. 10:22; 24:13; Mk. 13:13; Lk. 21:19; Hb. 12:1; Rv. 3:10; 13:10; 14:12). “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,” says St. Paul.
“To walk,” as we know, is to have an established pattern of life, a recognizable way of life arising from a specific mindset, a faith and hope in Jesus Christ that makes itself known in words and deeds to others who are enabled to “’see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven’” (Mt. 5:13-16). “To walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,” is to adorn our faith in Jesus Christ with behaviors that shine with the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, elsewhere St. Paul instructs us to “walk worthy of God Who calls you into His own Kingdom and Glory” (1 Th. 2:12)! God not only ordains to give us His Kingdom, as our Lord says (Lk. 12:32), but He deigns to make us partakers of His divine nature, which is the Glory – the Majestic Glory – of the Transfiguration (2 Pe. 1:4)!
There is no greater calling than what we have already received in our Baptism into Jesus Christ! This is what St. Paul speaks of in his Epistle to the Philippians. So great is this calling in Christ God that all else pales in comparison. Indeed, all else is like manure – dung – by comparison, he says! “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish [manure/dung], that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, . . . .” (Pp. 3:7-11). Dare we say the same thing? Can we hope for the same as our beloved Apostle Paul? Do we dare to walk worthy of our calling in Christ God Who is the Excellence of God Himself?
Paul goes on: “Not that I have already attained [arrived at], or am already perfected; but I press on.” Why press on, dear Apostle, in these days? “[T]hat I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Which is what? The Kingdom and the Glory of God. He goes on: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the [high calling] of God in Christ Jesus.” And then he adds this counsel: “Therefore, let us, as many as are mature, have this mind [which was in Christ God]; . . . [T]o the degree that we have already attained [arrived], let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind” (Pp. 3:12-16). To achieve our end in Jesus Christ, we must have this single-mindedness of our Lord and Master Himself. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, . . . .” (Pp. 2:5).
There is a unity we are called to in our high calling in Christ God, both here and elsewhere in Sacred Scripture. If we are to endure or persevere in hope and faith, we must be focused solely on our calling in Christ God to apprehend the Kingdom of God and His Glory. To be so focused not only saves ourselves, but one another. For you see, beloved, what the evil one intends is to use the circumstances currently afflicting us and the uncertain political future of this nation to weaken our faith and our hope as the baptized, the elect sons and daughters of God. He has been slowly eroding our confidence in God by this prolonged and seemingly unending COVID crisis while introducing fear into our hearts by the current sentiments of a few bent on the suppression of the Church and her Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. We need to stand united in the Faith of Jesus Christ as His “one holy catholic and apostolic Church” and remain within the only Ark given among men of good will for their salvation, which is the Church, against which the gates of Hades cannot prevail (Nicene Creed; Mt. 16:18; Ac. 4:12)! The tactics of the devil always involve “divide and conquer.” He is expert at such things, having honed his skills over the millennia since disrupting the angelic orders, and pitting Adam and Eve against each other and God!
The Church, beloved, is the Kingdom and the Glory of God to which we are called in our Baptism because the Church is inseparable from her Lord into Whom we have been baptized (Ep. 1:22-23; 4:15-16). She is the shining and most glorious City of God come down from Heaven, the New Jerusalem, whose splendor stuns all who gaze upon her with a brilliance not of this world or the making of men (Rv. 21:1-22:5). She is pure and holy, gleaming with the uncreated energy of God the Holy Spirit, the Bride of the Lamb, the apple of the Father’s eye – no spot, no wrinkle, without blemish, sanctified, a virgin, the prize of our high calling in Christ God (Zc. 2:8; Ep. 5:22-33). Her God is Trinity in Unity and so she likewise is one though having many members (Rm. 12:5; 1 Cr. 12:12-27). Hers is “the unity of the [Holy] Spirit” and “the bond of peace,” according to the Apostle, obtained by and maintained with “all lowliness [humility] and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” “There is one Body and one Spirit,” says the Apostle, “one hope . . . one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; one God and Father . . . . .” We are to promote and protect this divine unity above all things, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the [Holy] Spirit in the bond of peace,” just as St. Paul tells us. If necessary, we are “to contend earnestly for the Faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Ju. 3), but to do so in the Spirit of love as we speak God’s Truth (Ep. 4:15).
To face the powers of darkness in this world, we must love the beauty of God’s House and the place where His glory dwells (Ps. 25 :8). It is here in “the one holy catholic and apostolic Church” that the brethren dwell together in the unity of the Holy Spirit, described by the psalmist as a most beautiful thing to behold. “[T]here,” says the psalmist, “the Lord commanded blessing and life forevermore” (Ps. 132 :1-3).
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling [vocation] with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!