For the Year of St. Paul: Living Our Faith
This being the Year of St. Paul, I thought we should take a closer look at today’s Second Reading from the Letter to the Romans:
"I beg you through the mercy of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind so that you might judge what is God's will, what is good, pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:1-2
This is a transition passage in Romans, bridging what we believe and how we live our faith.
Christianity is a religion that is very simple, yet is also very complex. It is simple because the answer to all questions is "Trust in God. Have faith in Him." It is complex because it utilizes the full extent of our intelligence to just begin to comprehend the mysteries that God has revealed to us. The lessons we give a 7 or 8 year old to prepare for First Communion, or even those which we give a 14 or 15 year old to prepare for confirmation are basically framed to a child's or adolescent's capabilities. The complexities of what we mean when we say that Jesus is God and Man, or that God is Three in One, or what we mean when we use the words salvation, redemption, predestination are what algebra and calculous are to the adult mind in comparison to the addition and subtraction we teach a child or the general math we teach an adolescent.
Perhaps there is no place where this is more obvious in the scripture than in the first eleven chapters of Paul's Letter to the Romans. Here Paul deals with the deep, mysterious truths of Christianity: he speaks about natural ethics, predestination, laws that bind and laws that free, resurrection, and so forth.
But the, after eleven chapters of this, Paul changes directions, or rather, gives direction to all he has written. "What use is the revelation of God to us?" Paul is asking, "what use is God's revelation if we do not allow ourselves to act upon it?" Knowledge of the faith, no matter how complex, no matter how intricate that knowledge might be, is useless if we are not transformed by this knowledge into Christians. Look at Peter in the Gospel reading for this Sunday. He knew that Jesus was the Messiah. This passage comes right after the passage we had last Sunday when Peter says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah, but he didn't act on this knowledge. If he really believed that Jesus was the Messiah, he would have accepted what the Messiah was saying as part of God's plan. But Peter doesn't accept this. When Jesus predicts his passion, Peter opposes him, opposes the plan of God. Peter, the one who proclaimed "You are the Christ," was siding with the devil. That is why Christ said to him, "Get behind me Satan."
It is insufficient for us only to attain an adult understanding of the complexities of our faith. We must allow ourselves to be transformed by what we have learned, by what we have been given. We must put on a new mind set. The focus of our lives must not be ourselves. That is the way of the world. The way of Christ is the way of sacrificial love. This is the meaning of our faith. This is the transformation of the mind which St. Paul speaks about in today’s second reading.