I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Yesterday we meditated on the resistance we must offer to sin in order to serve righteousness instead. At the end we spoke of a “change of command” that must take place in us in order to bring about a complete change in the direction of our lives. From today’s reading we can take up these reflections: “For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification”.
This indication of the Apostle can become a great motivation when we think of what our life without God was like, both for those who did not really know Him and for those who, even if they knew Him in theory, led a more or less lukewarm Christian life.
We can discover this fervour in St Paul himself. Before meeting the Lord, he was a fervent Pharisee, but blind. And this blindness led him to persecute Christians. When the Lord appeared to him and he was moved to follow Him, he became the great Apostle. Of course, Paul knew that the Lord had forgiven his sins and that his heart belonged undividedly to Jesus. But I think that the memory of what he had once done remained as a thorn in his flesh, which helped him to strive all the more for the proclamation of the Lord. Just as his blind zeal had led him to offer his limbs in the service of injustice, it is now his “enlightened zeal” that leads him to offer them in the service of the Lord. Once a person has undergone a true conversion, God, in His wisdom, can make use of past sins and mistakes, transforming them into a fire of devouring love that impels the person to respond fully to God’s love and to repair, as far as possible, the evil done in the past; to make up for what has been missed and to do his utmost to cooperate with God’s grace.
This is a very consoling message! There is the possibility of serious conversion, of turning completely to God, of not being crushed by one’s own weakness or falls, but of allowing oneself to be lifted up again and again by the Lord! If we succumb to resignation, it is rather the work of the devil or of our own soul… In reality, it would be enough to remember God as our loving Father, always ready to lift up His child as soon as it repents.
At this point we can even go a step further…
It is no longer a question of making up for what has been lost, but of collecting oil for the lamps, so that there will always be enough in reserve. The way of following Christ does not only mean rejecting evil, whether it comes from the devil himself, from the world or from our own flesh. We can also gain the upper hand! Every day gives us the opportunity to lay up treasures for heaven. How much the saints must have appreciated doing much more than was strictly necessary to stay on the straight and narrow.
It is not so difficult…
It is a question of love and responsibility, because it is not only our own life that is at stake. Small daily acts of love and self-denial allow the flame of love to burn and grow in us. Acts of trust in God give Him more space in our lives, and so we will obey Him more and let Him guide us. In this way the spiritual life becomes easier and love gives it wings.
Finally, the current situation in the Church is a cause for great concern. Perhaps we can intensify our prayers and efforts on the path of sanctification, offering everything to the Lord with the request that He put an end to the present confusion as soon as possible.