Monday, October 24, 2011

Spirit or Flesh

Today we reach that part of the Letter to the Romans when St. Paul tries to explain the relationship of life in the Spirit and life in the flesh. Despite the number of times we hear the words of St. Paul, how truly do we believe them.  He write, "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, 'Abba, Father!'"

Yet, how many Christians still talk and act as if we are slaves.  Sayings like, "That's just the way I am" or "You can't teach an old dog new trick," or even "I'm only human," all deny the message of St. Paul. This is the language of slavery. It denies the real power of God's grace and turns sacraments into empty symbols.

For St. Paul, the Holy Spirit that we first receive in Baptism transforms us, or to use his metaphor, it frees us from slavery, and makes us the sons and daughters of God. Even the translation "Father" seems too formal to capture the "Abba" of St. Paul. He reminds us that Jesus teaches us to address God as he addresses God. 

As Christians we must embrace the freedom God gives us, embrace the full meaning of our new identity. Can we do it all at once? Not usually. For most of us what it means each day making steps forward, acknowledging those aspects of our life that do not correspond to the gospel, and turning to God to help us eliminate those words and actions which are not in the image of Christ.