LENTEN CONVERSION: FROM FACTIONS TO ONE LORD

In this time of slowing down to catch up to the Christ within us, Lent provides each person with their own unique way of sorting out those false narratives that drag us down from seeking the true Christ to ones that fit our emotional responses to how we look at what is around us. What sounds like a mouthful of marbles speaking is actually one of the keys to making all things new, again. It is the seductive and sophomoric failing of human nature to belong to a group, any group. We have a deep seated fear of being alone and so belonging to some group tends to make us more secure than being our in the woods alone.

Remember that you have been chosen by God to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father so you can claim the inheritance bought by the precious blood of Our Lord on the cross. The Mystery of Faith is one that says we don’t quite know what is in store for us in Heaven but because Christ loved us first, we know that heaven is love. One thing heaven is not is a group of factions. During Lent we need to get rid of those factions and put on the new self in Christ.

Read what St. Paul tells us about moving from the old self (factions) to the one (One Lord). I encourage you to read it three times, very slowly. The first time, read it for the words and the flavor. The second time, read it to see how factions can be insidious pieces of glass in your shoes. The third time, read it with the idea that you must put on those things that move to Christ and away from factions, in particular. I have added the notes at the end of this Scripture for your convenience. This is my Lenten reading which I share with you. Notice the seven unities in verses 1-6. St. Paul provides us with the behaviors we must follow to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) https://bible.usccb.org/bible/ephesians/4

Unity in the Body. 1* I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,a2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b3 striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:c4* one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;d 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.f

Diversity of Gifts.7 But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.g 8Therefore, it says:

“He ascended* on high and took prisoners captive; he gave gifts to men.”h 9 What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower [regions] of the earth? 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. 11* And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,i 12 to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,* for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,* to the extent of the full stature of Christ,j 14 so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.k15 Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head,l Christ,*16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love.m

Renewal in Christ.* 17 So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds;n18 darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart,o19 they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess.p 20 That is not how you learned Christ,21assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, 22 that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires,q 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,r 24 and put on* the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.s

IV. Daily Conduct, an Expression of Unity*

Rules for the New Life. 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.t26 Be angry but do not sin;u do not let the sun set on your anger,*27and do not leave room for the devil.v 28 The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work* with his [own] hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need.w 29 No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.x 30 And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.*31All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.y32[And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.z

* [4:116] A general plea for unity in the church. Christians have been fashioned through the Spirit into a single harmonious religious community (one body, Eph 4:412; cf. Eph 4:16), belonging to a single Lord (in contrast to the many gods of the pagan world), and by one way of salvation through faith, brought out especially by the significance of baptism (Eph 4:16; cf. Rom 6:111). But Christian unity is more than adherence to a common belief. It is manifested in the exalted Christ’s gifts to individuals to serve so as to make the community more Christlike (Eph 4:1116). This teaching on Christ as the source of the gifts is introduced in Eph 4:8 by a citation of Ps 68:18, which depicts Yahweh triumphantly leading Israel to salvation in Jerusalem. It is here understood of Christ, ascending above all the heavens, the head of the church; through his redemptive death, resurrection, and ascension he has become the source of the church’s spiritual gifts. The “descent” of Christ (Eph 4:910) refers more probably to the incarnation (cf. Phil 2:68) than to Christ’s presence after his death in the world of the dead (cf. 1 Pt 3:19).

* [4:46] The “seven unities” (church, Spirit, hope; Lord, faith in Christ [Eph 1:13], baptism; one God) reflect the triune structure of later creeds in reverse.

* [4:810] While the emphasis is on an ascension and gift-giving by Christ, there is also a reference in taking prisoners captive to the aeons and powers mentioned at Eph 1:212:23:106:12.

* [4:11] Concerning this list of ministers, cf. 1 Cor 12:28 and Rom 12:68. Evangelists: missionary preachers (cf. Acts 21:82 Tm 4:5), not those who wrote gospels. Pastors and teachers: a single group in the Greek, shepherding congregations.

* [4:12] The ministerial leaders in Eph 4:11 are to equip the whole people of God for their work of ministry.

* [4:13] Mature manhood: literally, “a perfect man” (cf. Col 1:28), possibly the “one new person” of Eph 2:15, though there anthrōpos suggests humanity, while here anēr is the term for male. This personage becomes visible in the church’s growing to its fullness in the unity of those who believe in Christ.

* [4:1516] The head, Christ: cf. Col 1:18 and contrast 1 Cor 12:1227 and Rom 12:45 where Christ is identified with the whole body, including the head. The imagery may derive from ancient views in medicine, the head coordinating and caring for the body, each ligament (perhaps the ministers of Eph 4:11) supporting the whole. But as at Eph 2:1922, where the temple is depicted as a growing organism, there may also be the idea here of growing toward the capstone, Christ.

* [4:1724] Paul begins to indicate how the new life in Christ contrasts with the Gentiles’ old way of existence. Literally, the old self (Eph 4:22) and the new self (Eph 4:24) are “the old man” and “the new man” (anthrōpos, person), as at Eph 2:15; cf. note on Eph 4:13.

* [4:24] Put on: in baptism. See note on Gal 3:27.

* [4:256:20] For similar exhortations to a morally good life in response to God’s gift of faith, see notes on Rom 12:113:14 and Gal 5:1326.

* [4:26] If angry, seek reconciliation that day, not giving the devil (Eph 6:11) opportunity to lead into sin.

* [4:28] Honest work: literally, “the good.” His [own] hands: some manuscripts have the full phrase as in 1 Cor 4:12.

* [4:30] See note on Eph 1:13.

a. [4:13:1Col 1:10.

b. [4:2Col 3:1213.

c. [4:3Col 3:1415.

d. [4:4Rom 12:51 Cor 10:1712:1213.

e. [4:51 Cor 8:6.

f. [4:61 Cor 12:6.

g. [4:7Rom 12:361 Cor 12:28.

h. [4:8Ps 68:19Col 2:15.

i. [4:111 Cor 12:28.

j. [4:13Col 1:28.

k. [4:141 Cor 14:20Col 2:48Heb 13:9Jas 1:6.

l. [4:151 Cor 11:3Col 1:182:19.

m. [4:16Col 2:19.

n. [4:17Rom 1:21.

o. [4:18Col 1:211 Pt 1:14.

p. [4:19Col 3:5.

q. [4:22Rom 8:13Gal 6:8Col 3:9.

r. [4:23Rom 12:2.

s. [4:24Gn 1:2627Col 3:10.

t. [4:25Zec 8:16.

u. [4:26Ps 4:5 LXX; Mt 5:22.

v. [4:272 Cor 2:11.

w. [4:281 Thes 4:11.

x. [4:295:4Col 3:164:6.

y. [4:31Col 3:8.

z. [4:32Mt 6:14Col 3:1213.

St. Paul provides what we should do, but it that what happens when we live out our lives in the world? Here are some ideas about factions and what they mean to me as I trod through the minefield of everyday living.

  • Factions are all those little sidetracks on the road of life that try to convince me to join them to be free or fulfill my destiny. They are illusions of power or certitude that offer a cotton candy approach how I must lead my life each day.
  • Factions separate brother from sister and families from other famililes because of moral beliefs, political beliefs, financial beliefs
  • Factions cause me to think that I am better than others because I am Catholic (or Protestant or Jewish)
  • Factions cause me to think that my nationality is my true identify rather than putting on Christ Jesus
  • Factions causes pride when I think of how much more Christian I am than those poor wretches that think there is no god
  • Factions cause me to think being male is superior to being female because God is male (actually God is neither male or female, but Jesus Christ is male)

Imagine placing factions as your center rather than the One Lord. The outcomes of such an switch are:

  • envy
  • jealousy
  • factioning (Galatians 5)
  • being one political party and hating the other
  • living only in the physical and mental universes (the world) rather than adding the kingdom of heaven
  • nationalism
  • racism
  • religionism
  • any of the many isms that split us into “me and you” rather than “us”

The wages of sin are death. Life is the reward for those who get rid of all factions. There are no factions in heaven, only Christ. Lent is a time to take stock of how factions in my life pull me down rather than lifting me up to make all things new. Factions are very subtle temptations to be god. Get rid of the insidious virus of factions, if you want to continue to die to yourself so that you can properly sit next to Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter and just hang out.

Once again, re-read what St. Paul says about the rules we should assimilate into our hearts each day, but certainly during this Lenten season of penance and prayer.

Rules for the New Life. 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.t26 Be angry but do not sin;u do not let the sun set on your anger,*27and do not leave room for the devil.v 28 The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work* with his [own] hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need.w 29 No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.x 30 And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.*31All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.y32[And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.z

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/ephesians/4

To move from false self to new self in Christ Jesus, be aware of factions and get rid of them all. There is no room for sin and Christ in your house, now or in heaven.

A LAY CISTERCIAN LOOKS AT HOW FACTIONS SPLIT THE UNITY OF CHRIST

One of the hidden factions that the devil uses to tempt us to break off from Christ is to think that I am alone in my spiritual journey and not part of a group of other Lay Cistercians. I break off from the interaction of the Holy Spirit with each Lay Cistercian member and only listen to myself. This faction has no growth, and with me as the only way, truth, and the life. How boring that is.

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