More often than not, the first chapter of St. Paul’s letters include some expression of thanksgiving. The Letter to the Ephesians is no exception. St. Paul gives thanks when he hears of their faith. As I pondered that statement, I was prompted to ask what exactly had he heard. What evidence was cited to prove that the Ephesians actually did have faith in Jesus? It was then that I realized that someone had probably told Paul what the community was doing in Ephesus.
According to the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul spent two years in Ephesus. However, the letter is curiously lacking in any personal addresses. In fact, the letter is very impersonal and spends most of its time speaking about the world-wide Church rather than the Christian community of Ephesus. The only personal element of this letter is in this greeting and thanksgiving. Their faith has given Paul hope. We know that this letter was written while Paul was imprisoned. I would imagine that the faith of the community in Ephesus has made his time in prison easier.
The thanksgiving acts as a launching pad for St. Paul to wax rhapsodic on the what is gained through faith: knowledge of Jesus, hope, glory, and great power. All of this while he is languishing in prison.
I come away from these statements realizing how important it is for us to take note of the faith of others. Left to our own devices, it would be easy to lose hope in the future. We seem to be surrounded by so much bad news. However, if we, like Paul, simply look at all the good that is being done by people of faith, gratitude wells up in our hearts, gratitude for our faith and gratitude for our vocation. We are part of the Church, and because of our membership in that body, Jesus is our head, our leader. What more could we ask for?
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.