Scripture: Lectionary 477: Romans 7:18-25. Psalm 119:188.8.131.52.93.94.
Paul’s chapter seven is a good preparation for the Sacrament of
Reconciliation. It is his personal recognition of his sins and the
temptations he struggles with. We are able to easily identify with him in
his particular examination of his conscience. He is looking for an answer
as to how to make a firm purpose of amendment and gives us the answer at
the end of the passage chosen for today from his greatest epistle.
Good intentions are not enough to face the obstacles of sin, omissions and
commissions of sin, and our tendency to repeat the same faults and bad
habits that obstruct our life as disciples of Jesus called to be faithful
witnesses of the Gospel and transparent agents of God’s loving-kindness.
We may compare our struggle with that of taking on a new diet that will get
us back to where we should be or where our doctors would like us to be with
regards to our avoirdupois (weight, heaviness, personal weight; a word
coined in 1755). Our great start falters after a few weeks and we just let
it go as we fall into the bad eating habits that are part of our struggle
with life in general. We reward ourselves with snacks and junk food. The
temptation to sin is similar to this and Paul gives us a more pastoral
insight into how he struggled with this issue. We can profit much from
this very personal chapter seven which like the Confessions of St.
Augustine get to the heart of the matter. Fortunately, he does find an
answer in the following last verses given to us today: “Who can free me
from this body under the power of death? All praise to God, through Jesus
Christ our Lord.”
As a very devout Pharisee, Paul meditated upon Psalm 119 the longest psalm
and realized how the laws of God are imbedded in this masterpiece that
follows its praise of the Torah with stanzas for each letter of the Hebrew
alphabet. This is called an acrostic psalm. Paul found out how to do this
and observe all the commandments by turning to Christ through the grace of
his conversion and his intense faith that followed in the formation he
received from the followers of Jesus.
Jesus encourages us to go beyond knowing what’s going on in the world about
us or reading the signs of the times. St. Ignatius of Antioch would be
the next to speak of reading the signs of the times and then Vatican II
would tell us to do the same in our day and to balance it with the reading
and acting out the Gospel of Jesus in our lives. We all need to confront
ourselves through discerning what is good and what is bad in the signs of
the times and then live out the values of the Gospel. May our next
examination of conscience be as fruitful as Paul’s was. Amen.