BLESSED AND CHOSEN – Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 10, Year B; Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (RC)

July 14, 2024

Revised Common Lectionary
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 or Amos 7:7-15
Psalm 24 or Psalm 85:8-13
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Amos 7:12-15
Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14 (8)
Ephesians 1:3-10 (11-14)
Mark 6:7-13

If you’ve ever felt badly about yourself, you’re not alone. Many people carry well into adulthood a variety of negative messages about themselves that they received during their formative years. Moreover, we live in a culture that extols youth and beauty, and so it’s not surprising that some people have learned to compare themselves unfavorably to unattainable images they have seen on social media.

Negative messages come in many forms. Some people feel that they were never able to live up to the expectations of parents or other authority figures while others suffer lasting effects from the ridicule of peers, academic struggles, or lack of athletic ability. Still others continue to feel the sting of racial discrimination experienced in their schools or communities. Many LGBTQ+ youth experience emotional distress from shame that has been heaped on them by family members or religious authorities. Others live with the trauma of childhood abuse or experiences of violence in families or communities.

Many of us have been taught to see ourselves as “less than” or “not enough,” and the results can be serious. Today’s reading from the Letter to the Ephesians offers an important alternative message. The passage we hear today celebrates the many ways that God has lavished upon us goodness, not shame. The language is beautiful but dense, requiring us to read and re-read these words to grasp their deep significance.

This passage takes us back to the beginning of the human story, long before we may have been influenced by negative messages planted in our minds. The author praises God who “has blessed us In Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Eph 1:3), lavishing gifts upon us at every moment of our existence.

These opening words from Ephesians paint a grand vision that is both cosmic and personal. The Holy One has valued each of us from the beginning, as God “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless” (Eph 1:4). The Divine has “destined us for adoption” (Eph 1:5), to live with us in the intimate relationship of parent and child.

Even in our weakness and sin, God continues to regard us as persons of worth. Indeed, the Holy One’s response to human frailty is expressed in the saving work of Christ: “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7). We can let go of our guilt, our fear, and our shame, because God’s grace is more generous than any human failing.

God wills that no one or nothing should be lost; the entire cosmos and everyone in it have value in the divine plan. The Holy One has established “a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10). God seeks to claim all things, including all persons, because they are of worth.

The early Christian bishop and teacher Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130 – c. 202 AD) famously taught that “the glory of God is the human person fully alive.” Recognizing our worth is not only an important step toward mental health but is also an act of faith. By affirming what God has done for us and in us, we are set free to “live for the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12).

As followers of Jesus, we are called to regard every person—yes, even ourselves—as God does: beloved children who have been blessed and chosen by God.

A Hymn for Today: “In a Deep Unbounded Darkness”

This Chinese hymn, translated by Francis P. Jones and adapted by Mary Louise Bringle, FHS, celebrates God’s goodness and high regard for humans and the entire cosmos, beginning with creation and ending with the fulfillment of God’s plan to bring us all homeward. It is paired with the chant tune DIVINUM MYSTERIUM, evoking the role of Christ, the Word-made-flesh, as the center and primary expression of God’s grace. Listen here.

In a deep, unbounded darkness
long before the first light shone,
you, O God, beyond all merit
worked a wonder faith makes known.
In your mercy, in your mercy,
you embraced us as your own,
evermore and evermore.

Though our world is ever changing,
you are constant, firm, and sure,
faithful to your covenant promises.
Trusting you, we live secure:
singing praises, singing praises,
long as heart and breath endure,
evermore and evermore.

Joy transforms our lips to boasting
only in your matchless grace,
sending Christ to dwell among us,
Word made flesh in time and space:
Friend and Savior, Friend and Savior,
in whose life we glimpse your face,
evermore and evermore.

God of Hagar, God of Sarah,
God of nomad Abraham;
God of Miryam, God of Moses,
Fiery Pillar, great I AM:
lead us homeward, lead us homeward,
to the love-feast of the Lamb,
evermore and evermore.

Text: Anon. Chinese; trans. Francis P. Jones, 1953; adapt. Mary Louise Bringle, 2012; © 2012, GIA Publications. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.

Image Credit: Heaven Holds a Sense of Wonder (detail), Famke van Wijk, Spullein opposite the Nieuwe Kerk, Den Haag, Netherlands

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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