Today’s second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians 1:3-14. St. Thomas Aquinas observes that God is blessed as “God” because of His “divine essence” and as “Father” “because of his property of generating [the Son].” He is Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, of “the Son who is our Lord because of his divinity, and Jesus Christ according to his humanity” (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Letter to the Ephesians).
Thomas observes that “God who has blessed us with hope in the present while in the future he will bless us with the reality … God blessed us with every spiritual blessing both for soul and for body. For then the body will be spiritual: ‘It is sown a natural body: it shall rise a spiritual body’ (1 Cor. 15:44)” (Commentary on Ephesians).
This blessing will be ours “in heaven, and in Christ since it will be through Christ or by Christ’s action: ‘For He Himself will transform our lowly body’ (Phil. 3:21)”
The blessing that God gives us is not from our merits: “He blessed us not through our merits but from the grace of Christ—as He chose us, through Christ. ‘You have not chosen Me; but I have chosen you’ (Jn. 15:16)”
This choice was from the very beginning of the world: “This happened before the foundation of the world, from eternity, before we came into being. He chose us, I say, not because we were holy—we had not yet come into existence—but that we should be holy in virtues and unspotted by vices (Commentary on the Ephesians).
We are called to be “Saints in his sight; interiorly in the heart where He alone can see: ‘The Lord sees the heart’ (1 Sam. 16:7). Or, in his sight may mean that we may gaze on him since the [beatific] vision, according to Augustine, is the whole of our reward. He will accomplish this, not by our merits, but in His charity; or, by our [charity] with which He formally sanctifies us”
Thomas reflects upon the “predestination”: “Hence he affirms that God, having predestinated us, has fore-chosen us by grace alone unto the adoption of children that we might share with the other adopted children the goods yet to come—thus he says unto the adoption of children. ‘For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons,’ and further on, ‘waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body’ (Rom. 8:15 & 23)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Our adoption by the Father is through the Son: “It must be through contact with fire that something starts to burn since nothing obtains a share in some reality except through whatever is that reality by its very nature. Hence the adoption of sons has to occur through the natural son. For this reason the Apostle adds through Jesus Christ, the mediator who draws all to Himself: ‘God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that He might redeem them who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons’ (Gal. 4:4-5)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
We are “conformed to the Son”: “This is accomplished unto himself, that is, inasmuch as we are conformed to him and become servants in the Spirit. ‘See what love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; and so we are,’ after which comes: ‘We know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him’ (1 Jn. 3:1-2).”
The likeness to the Son is had now by grace and completed in heaven: “One is imperfect, it is [the likeness] through grace. It is called imperfect, firstly, because it only concerns the reformation of the soul. Regarding this Ephesians 4 (23-24) states: ‘Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.’ Secondly, even with the soul it retains some imperfection, ‘for we know in part’ (1 Cor. 13:9)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
The complete likeness is in heaven: “The second likeness, which will be in glory, will be perfect; both as regards the body—‘He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body’ (Phil. 3:21)—and in regard to the soul—‘when the perfect comes, the imperfect shall pass away’ (1 Cor. 13:10)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
The adoption may be the “imperfect assimilation to the Son of God possessed in this life through grace” but it probably refers to the complete adoption: asserts: “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God” (Romans 8:23).”
This predestination is not “necessitated” by God or “due” to us: “It is rather according to the purpose of his will… This recommends the blessing to us, for it springs from pure love … an election love… the efficient cause is the simple will of God—according to the purpose of his will. ‘Therefore, He has mercy on whomever He wills’ (Rom. 9:18). ‘Of His own will He has given us birth by the word of truth’ (Jam. 1:18)”
The final cause, the purpose is: “Unto the praise of the glory of His grace … that we may praise and know the goodness of God… For the [efficient] cause of divine predestination is simply the will of God, while the end is a knowledge of His goodness.”
Thomas explains that God’s will does not have a cause even though it is “the first cause of everything else.” However, it can be said that there is a “certain motive” on the part of the one who wills: “The motive for the divine will is His own goodness which is the object of the divine will, moving it to act. Hence, the reason for everything that God wills is His own goodness” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
“On the side of what is willed, however, there can be some created existent can be a motive for the divine will; for example, when He wills to crown Peter because he has fought well (cf. 2 Tim. 4:7-8). But this latter is not the cause of [God’s] willing; rather it is a cause of it happening the way it did.”
Thomas continues: “Nonetheless, it should be acknowledged how, in the realm of what is willed, effects are a motive for the divine will in such a way that a prior effect is the reason for a later one. But when the primary effect [i.e., the perfection of the Universe] is arrived at, no further reason can be given for that effect except the divine will. For instance, God wills that men should have hands that they might be of service to his mind; and [He wills] man to possess a mind since He wills him to be a man; and He wills man to exist for the sake of the perfection of the Universe. Now since this is what is primarily effected in creation, no further reason for the Universe can be assigned within the domain of creatures themselves; [it lies] rather within the domain of the Creator, which is the Divine Will” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
The source of good and grace is from God: “Within the realm of what is willed [by God], grace can be identified as a reason for the effects which are oriented towards glory. For example, God crowned Peter because he fought well, and he did this because he was strengthened in grace. But no reason for the grace, as a primary effect, can be found on the part of man himself which would also be the reason for predestination. This would be to assert that the source of good works was in man by himself and not by grace. Such was the heretical teaching of the Pelagians who held that the source of good works exists within ourselves. Thus it is evident that the reason for predestination is the will of God alone, on account of which the Apostle says according to the purpose of His will” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
God acts because of His goodness: “To understand how God creates everything and wills it because of His own goodness, it should be realized that someone can work for an end in two ways. [A person may act] either in order to attain an end, as the sick take medicine to regain their health; or [he may act] out of a love of spreading the end, as a doctor will work to communicate health to others. But God needs absolutely nothing external to himself, according to “O God, You are my Lord; You are my Good; I have no good apart from You (Psalm 16:2). Therefore, when it is said that God wills and performs everything on account of His own goodness, this should not be understood as though He acted in order to confer goodness on Himself but rather to communicate goodness to others” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
“This divine goodness is properly communicated to rational creatures in order that the rational creature himself might know it. Thus, everything that God performs in reference to rational creatures is for His own praise and glory, according to Isaiah 43 (7): “Everyone called by My name, whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed and made” so that he may know what goodness is, and in this knowledge praise it. The Apostle thus adds unto the praise of the glory of His grace, that man might realize how much God must be praised and glorified” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Thomas comments: “For justice enters into the picture only where a debt is present or is to be returned. But for man to be predestined to eternal life is not due to him—as was said, it is a grace given in perfect freedom. Nor does he simply say of the glory, but annexes of His grace as though it were of a glorious grace. And grace is just this; the greatness of grace is revealed in that it consists in the greatness of glory. [Its grandeur is shown] also in the way it is bestowed; for He gives it without any preceding merits when men are unworthy of it. ‘God proves His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’; and a little further on, ‘when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son’ (Rom. 5:8,10)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Thomas summarizes what he has previously written: “By now it must be clear how divine predestination neither has nor can have any cause but the will of God alone. This, in turn, reveals how the only motive for God’s predestinating will is to communicate the divine goodness to others” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Thomas continues: “We are predestined unto the adoption of sons, for the praise of the glory of His grace—that grace, I say, in which He has graced us in His beloved Son. In this respect, it should be noted that to be loved by someone is identical to being pleasing to him. For he is pleasing to one whom I love. Now, since God loved us from eternity—He chose us before the foundation of the world in love, as has been said (1:4)—how has He made us pleasing to Himself in time? A reply is that those whom He loves eternally in Himself, He renders pleasing [to Himself] in time according as they exist in their own natures. The former [His love] is from eternity and is not created, the latter happens in time and is said to come into being. Hence the Apostle says that He has graced us, that is, made us pleasing that we should be worthy of His love. ‘See what love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; and so we are’ (1 Jn. 3:1)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Thomas considers two types of grace: “Charismatic grace freely given without being merited—‘And, if by grace, it is now not by works; otherwise grace is no more grace.’ (Rom. 11:6)—and sanctifying grace which makes us pleasing and acceptable to God. The latter is the grace dealt with here.”
Thomas proceeds to show that we are loved in the Son: “Notice how persons can be loved for the sake of others, or for their own sake. For when I love someone very much, I love him and whatever belongs to him. We are loved by God, not for what we are in ourselves, but in Him who by Himself is beloved of the Father. Thus the Apostle adds in His beloved Son on account of whom He loves us and to the degree that we are like Him (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Love is based on similarity: “Every beast loves its like: so also every man his neighbor” (Sir. 13:15). By His own nature, the Son is similar to the Father, He is beloved before all else and essentially. Hence He is naturally, and in a most excellent way, loved by the Father. We, on the other hand, are sons through adoption to the degree that we are conformed to His Son; in this way we enjoy a certain participation in the divine love. ‘The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has life everlasting, (Jn. 3:35-36). ‘He has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves’ (Col. 1: 13) (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Through Christ we are pleasing to God: “For within us there exists two antagonisms to the divine good pleasure, the stains of sin and the punishing injuries [sin inflicts]. Justice is as opposed to sin as life is to death, so that through sin, having departed from our likeness to God, we cease being pleasing to God. But through Christ He has made us pleasing. First, indeed, by abolishing the punishment; and in reference to this he says that in Christ we have redemption from the slavery of sin. ‘You know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as gold or silver, from the vain manner of life handed down from your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled’ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). ‘You have redeemed [us] for God, by Your blood’ (Apoc. 5:9) (Commentary on the Ephesians).
We are redeemed by Christ: “We are said to be redeemed because through Christ we are freed from a slavery in which we were caught as a result of sin without ourselves being capable of fully making satisfaction. By dying for us, Christ has satisfied the Father and thus the penalty of sin was abolished. Whence he says unto the remission of sins. “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (Jn. 1:29). ‘It is written that Christ should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that penance and remission of sins should be preached in His name (Lk. 24:46-47).”
God gave us His Son: “The way [we are blessed with grace] on God’s part is set down in according to the riches of His grace. As though he said: In making us pleasing to Himself, God not only forgave us our sins, but He gave His own Son to make reparation on our behalf. This was from an overflowing graciousness by which He willed to preserve the human race’s honor while, as though in justice, willing men to be freed from the slavery of sin and death through the death of His own Son. Thus, in saying according to the riches of His grace he seems to state: That we were redeemed and made pleasing [to God] through the satisfaction of His Son comes from an overflowing grace and mercy since mercy and compassion are bestowed on those having no claim to it” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Greater dignity was preordained by God to some saints: “He infused grace more abundantly into them. For example, He imparted a unique grace to Christ as man when He assumed [the humanity] into the unity of the [Second] Person. He endowed with special graces in both her body and soul, the glorious Virgin Mary whom He chose to be His mother. Similarly, those God called to a unique dignity, the Apostles, were gifted with a corresponding favor of grace. Thus the Apostle states ‘… ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit’ (Romans 8:23)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
In a special way, “God’s grace has superabounded in the Apostles, [enriching them] with all wisdom. For the Apostles are set over the Church to be her pastors: ‘And I will give you pastors according to My own heart: and they shall feed you with knowledge and doctrine’ (Jer. 3:15). Two qualities should characterize pastors: a profound knowledge of divine truths and an assiduous fulfillment of religious actions. They must teach those trusted to them the true faith; this requires that wisdom which consists in a knowledge of the divine, concerning which he remarks in all wisdom. ‘For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay’ (Lk. 21:15). They also need prudence to guide their subjects in external and temporal affairs: ‘Be therefore prudent as serpents and simple as doves’ (Mt. 10:16). Thus the special blessing of wisdom given to the Apostles is clearly expressed (Commentary on the Ephesians).
The next blessing is knowing God’s will: “That He might make known unto us the mystery of His will. As if he had said: Our wisdom does not consist in discovering the natures of material realities, nor the course of the stars, or such like; rather, it concerns Christ alone. ‘I decided not to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2). Hence he says that He might make known the mystery, that is, the sacred secret, hidden from the beginning, the mystery of the Incarnation. He adds the cause of this hidden mystery when he says His will” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
The Incarnation is caused by God’s love: “Now the mystery of the Incarnation has God’s will as its cause since He willed to become incarnate on account of His intense love for us: ‘For God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son’ (Jn. 3:16). Yet God’s will is more hidden than anything else: ‘No one knows what pertains to God, but the Spirit of God’ (1 Cor. 2:11). So, the cause of the Incarnation was concealed from everyone except those to whom God revealed it through the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle mentions: ‘God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God’ (1 Cor. 2:10). Hence He affirms that He might make known the mystery which is a sacred secret—a secret because it is of His will. ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the wise and clever and revealing them to little children’ (Mt. 11:25). ‘The mystery, hidden from ages and generations, and now made manifest to His saints, to whom God would make known the riches of the glory of this mystery’ (Col. 1:26-27)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
God willed to re-establish everything in Christ: “…that He might make known unto us the mystery of His will, which mystery is to re-establish all things in Christ, that is, through Christ. All, namely, that are in heaven and on earth. This re-establishment in Christ must be in the dispensation of the fullness of times which, in turn, is according to His good pleasure. Thus, three aspects of the mystery are touched on; the mystery’s cause, the temporal fitness [of its appearance], and its purpose”
“According to his good pleasure briefly sums up the cause. Although whatever pleases God is good, goodness is preeminently suited to God’s pleasure in this [effecting of the Incarnation] because through it we are led to perfectly enjoy goodness. As Psalm 146 (11) declares: ‘The Lord is pleased with those who fear Him, who rely on His strength’; and Romans 12 (2): ‘that you may prove what is the good and the acceptable and the perfect will of God’” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
The suitable time was in that dispensation of the fullness of times which Galatians 4:4-5 speaks of: ‘But when the fullness of the time came, God sent his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem them who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.’”
The Incarnation of the Son of God took place at God’s chosen time: “God orders and arranges everything, including time; for He manages and accommodates the passage of time to those events which He wills to exist at the right moment. Just as other events effected by Him had their specified time, likewise He eternally preordained a time for the mystery of the Incarnation” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Thomas maintains that the Incarnation took place when humanity has experienced its futility: “This time, occurred after man was convinced of his own stupidity before the written [Mosaic] Law, when he worshiped creatures instead of the Creator—‘For, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools’ (Rom. 1:22)—and of his own absolute inability to live up to the prescriptions of the written Law. Thus men, no longer trusting in their own wisdom and power, would not consider Christ’s advent as unimportant. Weak, and to a certain extent ignorant, they would eagerly desire the Christ” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Thomas explains the “purpose” of the mystery: “The mystery’s purpose is to re-establish all things. Inasmuch as everything is made for mankind, everything would be re-established [when man was redeemed]: ‘In that day I will raise up the booth of David that had fallen; I will close up its breaches and rebuild it as long ago’ (Am. 9:11)… And what is on earth [will be re-established in Christ] insofar as He reconciles heavenly and earthly realities: “Making peace through the blood of His cross, both as to the things that are on earth and the things that are in heaven” (Col. 1:20). This must be understood in reference to the sufficiency [of His redeeming actions], even though, with respect to its efficacy, everything will not be re-established” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Grace superaounded: “I have indicated, he says, that grace has superabounded in us and that everything has been re-established in Christ. The same Christ In whom we also are called by lot, not by our own merits but by a divine choice: ‘Giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light’ (Col. 1:12) because ‘my lots are in Your hands’ (Ps. 31:15)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
To understand this it should be realized that many human events which seem to occur by fate and chance, in reality are arranged according to divine providence.
God freely calls us: “When he says predestined according to His purpose, he writes of the free predestination of God concerning which Romans 8:30 deals: “And those He predestinated He has also called.’ The reason for this predestination is not our merits but the will of God alone, on account of which he adds according to the purpose of him. ‘And we know that to those who love God, all things work together unto good; to those who are called according to his purpose’ (Rom. 8:28) (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Everything is according to God’s will: “He approves of what he has predestined according to His purpose since not only this, but also everything else that God does He works according to the counsel of His will. Whatever He wills the Lord does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all the depths’ (Ps. 135:6). ‘My counsel shall stand, and what I like I shall do’ (Is. 46: 10). He did not say “according to His will” lest you would believe it was irrational, but according to the counsel of his will. This means, according to His will which arises from reason; not that reason here implies any transition in His thoughts, it rather indicates a certain and deliberate will” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
The purpose of our call is the praise of God: “Finally, he briefly mentions the end of one’s predestination and vocation, namely, the praise of God. Thus he states that we may be unto the praise of His glory, we who before hoped in Christ. Through us, who believe in Christ, the glory of God is extolled. ‘The mountains and hills shall sing praise before you’ (Is. 55:12). The praise of God’s glory, as Ambrose remarks, occurs when many persons are won over to the faith, as a doctor’s glory is in a large clientele and their cure. ‘You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for everlasting joy and mercy’ (Sir. 2:9)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Ephesians addresses the call of the Gentiles: “Christ in whom you also, after you had heard, that is, by whose favor and power you have heard the proclamation of the word of truth since Christ Himself has sent those who preach it to you. ‘How shall they believe Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent?… Faith, then, comes by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ’ (Rom. 10:14-15, 17). They hear through the blessing of Him who sends them the preachers: ‘Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it’ (Lk. 11: 28)” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
The Apostle mentions the threefold recommendation of this preached word: “It is, first of all, true; a word of truth. Indeed, it could be nothing else since its source is Christ concerning whom John 17:17 states: ‘Your word is truth.’ And James 1:18): ‘For of His own will He has begotten us by the word of truth.’ Secondly, it is a proclamation of good news. Hence he says the gospel: it announces the highest good and eternal life. ‘Word of faith’ is preeminently applicable to the Gospel as the communication of the highest good. ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news and preaches salvation… Go up on a high mountain, lady-messenger of Sion’ (Is. 52:7; 40:9). This refers to future goods. The present goods are what describe and recommend [Christian preaching] in the third place, for it saves. Thus he says of your salvation; if believed in, it gives salvation. ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe’ (Rom. 1:16). ‘Now I make known unto you, brothers, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received and wherein you stand, by which also you are saved’ (1 Cor. 15:1) (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Conversion is a blessing: “Regarding the blessing of conversion to the faith, he states in whom, namely, Christ, by whose action you also believing, were signed. This blessing is applied to faith since faith is necessary for those who listen. In vain would anyone listen to the word of truth if he did not believe, and the believing itself is through Christ. ‘By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God’ (Eph. 2:8) (Commentary on the Ephesians)..
Justification is a blessing: “Concerning the blessing of justification he mentions that you were signed with the Holy Spirit who was given to you. Concerning this [Spirit] three things are said; he is a sign, the spirit of the promise, and the pledge of our inheritance.”
“He is a sign inasmuch as through Him charity is infused into our hearts, thereby distinguishing us from those who are not the children of God. Relating to this be says you were signed, set apart from Satan’s fold. ‘Grieve not the holy Spirit of God; whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption’ (Eph. 4:30). Just as men brand a mark on their own herds to differentiate them from others, so the Lord willed to seal his own flock, his people, with a spiritual sign. The Lord had the Jews as His own people in the Old Testament. “And you, My flocks, the flocks of My pastures are men” (Ez. 34:31 ). “And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand” (Ps. 95:7). This flock was fed on the earthly pastures of material teachings and temporal goods: ‘If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good things of the land’ (Is. 1:19). The Lord, therefore, differentiated and set them apart from others by means of the bodily sign of circumcision. ‘And my covenant shall be in your flesh’ (Gen. 17:13); before this it says, ‘You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, that it may be for a sign of the covenant between Me and you’ (Gen. 17:11) (Commentary on the Ephesians).
God’s flock is the Christian people: “In the New Testament the flock He had is the Christian people: ‘You have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls’ (1 Pet. 2:25). ‘My sheep hear My voice; and I know them; and they follow Me’ (Jn. 10:27). This flock is fed on the pastures of spiritual doctrine and spiritual favors; hence the Lord differentiated it from others by a spiritual sign. This is the Holy Spirit through whom those who are of Christ are distinguished from the others who do not belong to Him. But since the Holy Spirit is love, He is given to someone when that person is made a lover of God and neighbor. ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us’ (Rom. 5:5). Therefore, the distinctive sign is charity which comes from the Holy Spirit: ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another’ (Jn. 13:35). The Holy Spirit is He by whom we are signed” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
The Spirit is promised: “The Spirit is described as a promise for three reasons. First, He is promised to those who believe: ‘I will put a new spirit within you… And I will give you a new spirit’ (Ez. 36:26, 37:6). Secondly, He is given with a certain promise, by the very fact that He is given to us we become the children of God. For through the Holy Spirit we are made one with Christ: ‘Anyone who does not have the Spirit of God, does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9). As a result of being made adopted children of God, we have the promise of an eternal inheritance since ‘if sons, heirs also’ (Rom. 8:17) (Commentary on the Ephesians).
The Spirit is a pledge: “He is termed a pledge inasmuch as He makes us certain of the promised inheritance. Adopting us into the children of God, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of promise who also is the seal of the promise yet to be attained” (Commentary on the Ephesians).
“God communicates charity to us: “God communicates charity to us as a pledge, through the Holy Spirit who is the spirit of truth and love. Hence, this is nothing else than an individual and imperfect participation in the divine charity and love; it must not be withdrawn but brought to perfection.”
“For through the Holy Spirit God grants us a variety of gifts. Some of these will remain in the fatherland, as charity which ‘never comes to an end’ (1 Cor. 13:8); while others will not last on account of their imperfection, such as faith and hope ‘which shall be done away” with (1 Cor. 13:10).
“He adds the purpose for which we are signed as unto the redemption. For when a man buys new animals and adds them to his flock, he puts a mark on them to the effect that he has purchased them. Now Christ has purchased a people from the Gentiles. ‘Other sheep I have that are not of this fold; them also I must bring. And they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd’ (Jn. 10:16). And on them he imprints a sign of purchase: ‘A holy nation, a purchased people’ (1 Pet. 2:9) ‘which He has purchased with his own blood’ (Ac. 20:28)”
Christ acquired this people, not because they never were His, but because they previously belonged to Him and yet, by sinning, had sold themselves into a diabolical slavery which oppressed them. So it does not simply state that He acquired them but adds unto redemption, as though to say: You are not strictly a new acquisition; you are re-purchased from the slavery of the devil through his blood. ‘You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from the vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ’ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Christ purchased us, therefore, through a redemption; not that this added anything to God since he needs none of our goods. “If you are righteous, what do you give Him [God], or what does He receive of your hand?” (Job 35:7). The purpose for which Christ acquired us is unto the praise of His glory, that God Himself be praised since ‘everyone who is called by My name, I have created Him for My glory’ (Is. 43:7) (Commentary on the Ephesians).
Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.
References to Thomas Aquinas’ Commentary on the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians may be found on the web page of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/