My oldest sister is a religious sister with the Nashville Dominicans. Her state of life has humbled me, guided me, and even perplexed me. I experienced disbelief one day as she explained how we would be communicating once she entered. She told me that texting, phone calls, and emails were out unless it was an emergency. Instead we’d be writing letters; real, snail mail letters. Now, I don’t write many letters. I write emails, send text messages, and keep up with Facebook messages but don’t really write letters and unfortunately I haven’t gotten much better just because she is a sister. Then, as I read today’s first reading, I was really convicted by Paul’s letter-writing and my own written correspondence in the first place.
So much of my written correspondence is based on what someone else can do for me. Sure, I might open with pleasantries about family and health but at the end of the day I’m trying to take care of business.
Paul on the other hand, spends 8 verses at the beginning of the letter to the Ephesians proclaiming the Gospel and praising God for the Ephesians. This is a man that knows he is writing to other Christians, but he still starts this way. This practice reminds us of a few things.
First, we must never forget that we are called to encourage one another. We are walking in free — but costly — grace and we aren’t walking alone. We need the support and gratitude of one another. This doesn’t mean we have to open every text or email paraphrasing Ephesians. However, we could be better at expressing gratitude just for someone’s presence. In a society where so many question their worth and value can we afford to skip this step as often as we do?
Second, we dare not let the Gospel be implied or leave Jesus assumed. It is never a waste of time to re-articulate the Gospel. Besides, so much of what we do doesn’t make sense without it. Without a common understanding of the Gospel, the letter to the Ephesians would fall short, the same is true of our instruction, catechesis, and encouragement. This can be done simply. If we have a quote, passage or something like AMDG at the bottom of our email, we could think about putting it at the top instead. Not in an obnoxious way, but as a reminder of what we are about. For example the top of every page in one of my sister’s letters has a Cross with an M at the bottom.
Third, we should be praying for one another’s spiritual growth. Not only should we be praying for it, we should be telling each other that we have their back in prayer. Paul does this, why can’t we?
We live in a busy world and are often serving in an understaffed church. Those circumstances tempt us to be straight to business without faith. We need to let people know they are valuable; to remind them that all of this is flowing from Christ; and to ensure them that we are praying for them to grow closer to the Lord (and ask them to pray for us as well).