It’s Christmas in heaven today- Thursday, 29th week in ordinary time- Romans 6:19-23
In today’s first reading, Paul speaks in “human terms” or as we would say he talks the lingo to the Romans. He does this for their (and our) better understanding of the matter at hand. He apologises for using a common figure (the use of slavery as an example) derived from a social institution, in order to express a Christian reality but he does so because he wants to be sure that his talk of Christian liberty is not misunderstood.
Remember that Paul spoke of freedom from the law but he does not want this to be misunderstood that therefore one was ‘free’ to do anything now that they were free from the law. For Paul, freedom from the law is not license to do as we wish but rather a call to be of service to Christ, motivated by love, which proceeds from the heart. This call is a call to be ‘enslaved to God’ rather than be ‘enslaved to sin’.
Paul is clear when he asks the Romans, ‘what advantage did you get from sin except death?’ Paul deliberately, in a play of words, links the reality of sin as giving one a ‘false sense of freedom’ from doing what is just in the eyes of God. This unfortunately is what ails our world today. We have the false notion of being ‘free from God’, ‘free from righteousness’ and hence succumb to the belief of the ‘death of God’ in our society. ‘Who needs God’ is one of the false slogans peddled by certain groups in our own generation. For Paul, a human being can be deluded by what he thinks is freedom and Paul sets off all the red flags for for he knows that there is no ‘freedom’ in living in sin, it comes with a price tag. Such beliefs bring spiritual death, making our consciences dead.
On the flip side Paul presents the great advantages of being ‘enslaved to Christ,’ for there with Him is sanctification and eternal life for the person. Being enslaved to God means a dedication to him that brings with it a withdrawal from the profane and from the attachment to sin. Such dedication does not remove one from the world but it makes one live in it as one dedicated to God.
Paul is emphatic about the consequences of choosing a sinful life; “the wages of sin is death”. Paul uses the Greek word opsonion; a word used in military circles for wages paid. Soldiers received a regular recurring payment for their services. For Paul, the more one ‘serves sin’ the more pay in the form of death one gets. Contrast that to the eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord which is graciously given to the Christian by God himself.
For Paul, the choice that one makes for Christ is a great choice. It’s like one of those ‘get out of jail free’ cards in the monopoly box and yet much more. Because a Christian chooses to live under grace and rejects sin, he or she is offered more than a monopoly card; they get a ‘get out of hell’ assurance and that’s offered totally free! God does not need to give gifts at Christmas; he offers that all year round to any sinner who freely chooses heaven. That’s why it’s Christmas in heaven every day.
-These reflections are guided by exegetical thought taken from the JBC
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