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To worship and to witness

December 10, 2015

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, 

a holy nation, God’s own people, 

that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him 

who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 

Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; 

once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. 

1 Peter 2:9,10

In this brief but important passage, plucked from the first letter of Saint Peter, we hear the unique mission that each one of us has received as a result of Baptism.

Peter was writing to first generation Christians who had become dispersed from Jerusalem, “aliens and exiles” (2:11) in the seedbed of expanding Christianity in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Most of his audience, hearing what is presumed by many scholars to be a baptismal homily, were adult converts who had received Baptism later in life upon entrance into the Church. Consequently, Peter reminds them that, before their faith in Christ and consequent Baptism, they “were no people” in need of salvation, or extrication, from their pagan, lost culture and lifestyles.

St. Paul made a similar declaration in what many consider his baptismal homily, Ephesians:

And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. 

Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:1-9 

The Ephesian Christians, as well as those to whom St. Peter wrote, were not extracted and saved out of their dead, pagan lives because of any improved behavior or good deeds they might have started doing while still living as pagans, but rather, while they were still “dead through [their] trespasses”—“while…yet sinners” (Rom 5:9)—Jesus Christ, through His grace, touched their hearts, minds, and consciences, and brought them home to the Church. Through Baptism they were “born anew to a living hope” (1 Pet 1:3), “not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet1:23; cf. Jn 3:3-5).

Through faith and Baptism they were saved (cf. Mk 16:16) and became children of God, “a holy nation, God’s own people” (cf. Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 3:1), empowered to worship, as “a royal priesthood,” God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to witness—to “declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

To worship and to witness. Both are important, and both are essential.

It is my assumption that anyone reading this article has received the same undeserved graces and blessings as those first century Christians addressed above by Saints Peter and Paul. We, too, were once “no people” but are now “God’s people” by grace through faith, and born anew through Baptism, received even as ignorant infants in the hands of our faithful parents and a minister of God. As Saint Paul wrote:

In Him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13,14

Through our Baptisms we were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”, and empowered by grace to worship and witness. Not just “worship,” which is what the majority of Christians — Catholic or non — throughout the world think is the sum total of our responsibilities as members of the Church or our “ecclesial communities”; but also, and maybe most importantly, to “witness.”

Dorothy Day once made the following reflection: “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Certainly in this she was reflecting upon Christ’s great parable of the Sheep and the Goats — “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40) — as well as St. John’s exhortation:

But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? … If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  1 John 3:17; 4:20

This is all a sum total of what we believe the Coming Home Network International is all about: sharing what we have received from Him. The CHNetwork exists to help one another discover the fulness of God’s love and mercy, in Christ Jesus and His Body, the Church, so that we can “have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind” (1 Pet 3:8).

Let us keep each other in prayer so that in God’s good timing all baptized Christians can worship and witness together in love.

Sincerely In Christ, Marcus Grodi