Summary: Through Christ we have hope that we will eternally live at peace in the embrace of the Blessed Trinity.
Tuesday of the 29th Week in Course 2019
St. John Paul II
Today’s first reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans is the result of taking a scalpel to the original text. We read verses 12, 15, 17-19, 20 and 21, for reasons unknown to me, and the result sounds strange at best. So I had recourse to Scott Hahn’s commentary, which does make some sense. St. Paul starts the passage with the word “therefore,” so we have to read back into the letter to find out what he is talking about.
Earlier Paul has outlined that there are two states of humanity, one at enmity with God and the other at peace with God. Those at peace with God have attained that state through access to the grace of Jesus Christ. Through Christ we have hope that we will eternally live at peace in the embrace of the Blessed Trinity. The daily sign of that existence is the operation of the Holy Spirit in us, for this is the spirit of Christ.
But those who are enemies of God are not called hopeless, because we all have through our sin been at odds with our Lord in our lives, and yet while we were in sin, God was working to reconcile us to Himself through the outpoured blood of the crucified Christ. That leads us to this passage. In brief, the disobedience of Adam and Eve brought death to the world, and that death took hold of all their descendants. But by a free gift of God, the obedience of Christ to the Father, freely giving Himself up to death even though He did not deserve it, brings acquittal and life to all who accept His grace. As the Catechism teaches, Jesus substitutes His supreme act of obedience for our treacherous acts of disobedience. And so we have hope of eternal life.
St. Luke, himself a disciple of St. Paul in his following of Christ, shares the words of Our Lord to those who are living in obedience to Him: Girded loins are the sign of readiness to work, and to work with a burning lamp, in the light that conquers darkness. So there is both a physical and a spiritual meaning to the command. What are we doing? We are preparing for the return of Christ, a return that we profess every Sunday in our Credo. We must not be asleep at the switch when the train pulls into the station, when Jesus returns in glory. Note the upside-down character of the words of Christ. If we are ready for Christ, that is if we have been busy building His kingdom on earth when He returns, then what happens at His Second Coming? Ordinarily we’d expect the text to talk about our serving the Master, bringing Him gifts and taking care of His needs. But the Master is God. He needs nothing from us. He is not improved by our love and service. At His coming, Christ will wait on us. We will, as St. Paul teaches elsewhere, command the angelic powers. What a promise!
Today we remember Pope Saint John Paul II, who served the Church pretty much all His life. We all know stories of his resistance to the Nazis and to the Communists in Poland, his underground studies to prepare for priestly ordination, and his lengthy papacy. Most of us lived while he was pope. His holiness is without dispute. In some of his decisions, like certain episcopal appointments, he showed himself to be prone to the same kind of errors of judgment that all of us manifest.
But what lives on are his writings, his pastoral exhortations and encyclicals, and especially his theology of the body, which continues to inspire a new generation of young Catholics. John Paul insisted on the unity of truth. There is only one truth, and it points to the Ultimate Truth who is the person of Christ. He insisted that Faith and Reason are not only compatible, they are inseparable. And he defended human dignity and human life with every muscle and bone and word. He will continue to inspire the Church for many years to come, and I know he is praying for the Church in the current crisis, in the knowledge that God will have the last word, and that a new explosion of evangelism awaits the Church in this century.
And so we can say, St. John Paul, pray for us.