Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Slaves, Saints, and Colossians

This morning as I was praying the Office of Readings, the following Scripture leapt out at me:

To slaves I say, obey your human masters perfectly, not with the purpose of attracting attention and pleasing men but in all sincerity and out of reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord rather than for men, since you know full well you will receive an inheritance from him as your reward. Be slaves of Christ the Lord. Whoever acts unjustly will be repaid for the wrong he has done. No favoritism will be shown. (Colossians 3:22-25)

Now, I'll leave off for the moment the interesting point a friend recently made, namely that we need to consider St. Paul's social admonitions in their historical social context, both when the subject matter is slavery and when it is marriage. (I think she made a valid point, but that's not my point here.) I am not a slave, and I have no human "master," but I have other relationships in which St. Paul's point resonates with me deeply. In my understanding then, the word "obey" is translated "love," and the term "human masters" becomes "all." Now I can proceed with how this struck me.

Each sentence represents something of which the Lord has been teaching me and coaching me lately.

There is this thing of the risk of the motives for one's actions being misinterpreted, and of course of simply being impure in the first place. I am sometimes tempted to simply not show love, go passive, fuggedaboutit, because someone might think I'm trying to suck up. Actually, it is usually more the case that I do something and only then realize that someone has gotten suspicious of my motives. I'm getting to the point where I can foresee a difficulty, but then still have to decide: do I shut down, or do I love anyway. This first line affirms my decision to love anyway.

The next line was one of those "stop and ponder" words. Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. It seems to me this requires freedom, self-mastery, a joy, a simplicity, a focus, an ability to be in the moment. All of these things come only from Christ. This is the type of stuff that really spells "living in Christ." It reminds me of a quote I've heard, from one of the Teresa's. Something like, if you are praying, really pray; if you are eating pheasant, really pheasant.

Then there's this matter of inheritance from the Lord. He is the one before whom we live. He is the only one that matters, not our success or the reaction of those around us. We live for His eyes and for His merciful approval alone. He will be most generous in appraising what we do in love for Him.

Skipping just now the slaves of Christ thing... much could be said there, though.

Whoever acts unjustly will be repaid for the wrong he has done. Wow. This is one that sits like a weird warm steaming loaf of bread on the table before me. It is hard to describe the consolation this gives me, because it doesn't seem a very consoling word. I've never been much of a "justice" person. I don't go around wishing for people to get their comeuppance. I'm always about looking from all the possible perspectives, understanding, all that. I'm not claiming that as a virtue; it is just my natural bent. It is possible for this bent to lend itself towards insecurity, though. As I've written before, I have gotten myself into absurd corners where I start to justify to myself that which no one should. I can't call people to account for their wrongs. I try; it generally goes nowhere. I'm not very good at being the Holy Spirit (chuckle). But this line about unjust actions being repaid simply states God's truth. There is a fixed absolute truth. It also makes me pray to the Lord for His mercy for all of us. His mercy is that He shines His light into our darkness to draw us into repentance and a changed life, and we do penance for our sins against others, and healing prevails. We will all be called to account. If we refuse God's mercy, we are stupid. But all are given the choice. God does not ignore it when I am treated unjustly, nor when I treat others unjustly. No favoritism, either. It doesn't matter who is doing the wrong. Everyone needs to learn to call on God's mercy and to welcome every sign of it that comes to us.

Also, a quick note on the reading for the feast of St. Basil & St. Gregory. (Read it here; scroll down to the sermon entitled "Two Bodies, but a Single Spirit.") It reminded me so much of an article called "A Requiem for Friendship" by Anthony Esolen. (Long, but worth the read.) Basically, a modern is likely to read this account of the deep friendship between Basil and Gregory and think, They must have been gay. That is a sign of the deep impoverishment of our lives when it comes to friendship and spiritual fellowship in the Lord. When a deep unity and love has to become sexualized for it to make any sense -- that is a sign that we have lost something of what it means to be human.

Time to run; these are my morning ruminations.

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