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88. The Call to Be Imitators of God and to Walk in Love
By Pope John Paul II
1. During our
talk last Wednesday I quoted the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians
(vv. 22-25). Now after an introductory glance at this classic text, one should
examine the way in which this passage—so important both for the mystery of the
Church and of the sacramental character of marriage—is situated in the immediate
context of the whole letter.
2. After this
profound and moving revelation of Christ in the Church, in the second part of
the letter the author passes to more detailed instructions. These are aimed at
defining the Christian life as a vocation flowing from the divine plan, which we
have previously spoken of, namely, from the mystery of Christ in the Church.
Here also the author touches various questions which are always valid for the
Christian life. He makes an exhortation for the preservation of unity,
underlining at the same time that this unity is constructed on the multiplicity
and diversity of Christ's gifts. To each one is given a different gift, but all,
as Christians, must "put on the new nature created after the likeness of God in
true righteousness and holiness" (4:24). To this is linked the categorical
summons to overcome vices and to acquire the virtues corresponding to the
vocation which all have obtained through Christ (cf. 4:25-32). The author
writes: "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love,
as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...in sacrifice" (5:1-2).
3. In the
fifth chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians these directives become more
detailed. The author severely condemns pagan abuses, writing: "For once you were
darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (5:8).
And then: "Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord
is. Do not get drunk with wine [referring to the book of Proverbs 23:31]...but
be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart"
(5:17-19). The author of the letter wishes to illustrate in these words the
climate of spiritual life which should animate every Christian community. At
this point he then goes on to consider the domestic community, namely, the
family. He writes: "Be filled with the Spirit...always and for everything giving
thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God the Father. Be subject to
one another out of reverence for Christ" (5:20-21). Thus we enter precisely into
that passage of the letter which will be the theme of our special analysis. We
might easily observe that the essential content of this classic text appears at
the meeting of the two principal guidelines of the entire Letter to the
Ephesians: the first, that of the mystery of Christ which, as the expression of
the divine plan for the salvation of man, is realized in the Church; the second,
that of the Christian vocation as the model of life of the baptized individual,
and of the single communities, corresponding to the mystery of Christ, or to the
divine plan for the salvation of man.
then, the text of the Letter to the Ephesians which we proposed as the object of
a deeper analysis is found in the immediate context of the teaching on the moral
obligations of the family society (the so-called "Haustaflen" or domestic codes
according to Luther's definition). We find similar instructions also in other
letters (e.g., in Colossians 3:18-24, and in First Peter 2:13; 3:7). Moreover,
this immediate context forms part of our passage, inasmuch as the classic text
which we have chosen treats of the reciprocal duties of husbands and wives.
However, one must note that per se the passage of the Letter to the
Ephesians 5:21-33 deals exclusively with married couples and marriage, and what
regards the family also in the broad sense is already found in the context.
First, however, before undertaking a more detailed analysis of the text, it
should be added that the whole letter ends with a stupendous encouragement to
the spiritual battle (cf. 6:10-20), with brief recommendations (cf. 6:21-22) and
with a final farewell (cf. 6:23-24). That call to the spiritual battle seems to
be based logically on the line of argument of the entire letter. It is the
explicit fulfillment of its principal guidelines.
Source: L'Osservatore Romano
89. Reverence for Christ the Basis of Relationship Between Spouses - 8.11.1982