THE LORD IS FAITHFUL IN ALL HIS WORDS AND LOVING IN ALL HIS DEEDS
(SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2019)
It is hard to find a passage in Paul's epistles that gives us Christians more encouragement than today's reading from Romans 8:1-11: "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death." What makes the passage so powerful to me is that Paul's enthusiasm for this new life in the Spirit flows from his personal experience.
Recall that before Paul's conversion he was a conscientious Jew, yes even a Pharisee. As such he was committed to seek holiness by the observance of the 613 precepts of the Torah. Paul bemoans the fact that though the law imposed many obligations, the law itself gave no power to fulfil them. Paul's epistles reflect his discouragement at being unable to fulfil the law and so feeling weighed down by his sinful flesh.
But how things changed after his conversion to Jesus. As a disciple of Christ, he is now invited to live by a new law: the law of the Spirit of Jesus received at Baptism. Paul is exultant because this law of the Spirit of God written on his heart frees him from the weight of his sinful self. The presence of the Holy Spirit actually gives the power to live this new life in Christ.
And what good news for all Christians. We have also received this power of the Spirit of Christ. Because of this presence, grace in us is stronger than sin in us! Our challenge, like Paul's, is learning to recognize -- to discern -- the promptings of the Holy Spirit rising up within us and to respond always. Upon this all our peace and happiness and fruitfulness in serving the Lord depend.
The teaching of Jesus today begins with a story that is reported to Him by some people about a group of Galileans massacred by Pilate while offering a sacrifice in the Temple. Not only was the outrage committed within the walls of the Temple but human blood was mixed with the sacrificed animals which provoked further shame and indignation.
The response of Jesus suggests the presence of something more serious: a condescending judgment towards the victims as if they deserved to die violently while they were at prayer as if the brutality of the Romans was a judgment of God on those who were killed. Jesus draws a lesson from the attitude of those who reported the sad episode. No one He says is authorized to interpret the suffering, illness, accidents, or tragedies of others as a divine punishment for sins committed but everyone must consider his/her sins as the worst misfortune and try to convert with sincere repentance.
As the Psalmist asks: If the Lord should count our sins and misdeeds, who will indeed survive? None has been given the authority to judge and divide people between “good and bad” Only the Lord knows all the truth of our hearts but that should not negate what Christ says in the Gospel that “by their fruits, you shall know them”. Jesus however immediately rejects the suggestion that there is a causal link between violent death and the gravity of sin. Jesus wants to underline that the incidents do not necessarily reveal the gravity of some hidden sin of the victims. Rather, they are like warnings that remind us that death can knock always, even when we least expect. This is why we must awaken in everyone the necessity and the urgency of interior conversion, to be accepted and carried out before it is too late.
Let Us Pray: Heavenly Father, help me to love you with my whole heart and to detest sin. May I be a shining example to those who look up to me. Amen.