9-17-2017 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sep 18, 2017
24th Sunday In OT / A / 2017
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
I don’t often preach on St. Paul, but today I want to say a few words about our short second reading, taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul’s letter is full of pithy sayings—short statements that catch our attention—and today’s passage is one of them:
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
This statement, in a sense, is the equivalent of St. Paul’s greeting at the beginning of Romans: "Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God." These words are not metaphorical, not an abstraction. Paul knew what a slave was, and so did everyone else. Paul was the property of another—his life was not his own. Similarly, Paul says in Galatians that "it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me." In other words, Paul is indicating that he has moved beyond "himself," from his childish ways, to an adult; or, as Paul says in Ephesians, "to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ" (Eph 4:13).
From childhood to adulthood, in the faith. A passage from one life to another. The goal for all Christians.
Fr. Richard Rohr, a popular author on Catholic spirituality, talks about moving from childhood to adulthood—and the importance of "initiation rituals" that move a boy or a girl from childhood, into adolescence, and finally to adulthood. Rohr says that the lack of such rituals in our culture means that many young people remain in childhood, not passing into adulthood or into spiritual maturity. I don’t mean to speak ill of our young people, but many studies have shown that maturity is coming later and later in life—if at all. And without personal maturity, spiritual maturity is unlikely.
Rohr says that initiation rituals—some quite challenging, even painful—move a person from the childhood comforts of home to the challenging realities of adulthood. There are five lessons to be learned along the way: 1) life is hard, 2) you are not important, 3) your life is not about you, 4) you are not in control, and 5) you are going to die. Learning these five lessons is of utmost importance on the path to adulthood and, with St. Paul, to grow to full personhood.
Think of a child. 1) Life is not hard for a child—we pamper them, and so we should. 2) A child thinks that he or she is most important—don’t we always tell them so? 3) A child thinks that life IS about him or her—they are the center of the universe and we treat them that way! 4) A child is in control—isn’t their wish our command? 5) No child thinks that he or she will die.
And all of this is fine for a child, but it is not good for an adult who must live in the real world. If you hold on to these childish beliefs into adulthood, what kind of adult will you be? You will never be a mature person—and your spiritual life will never grow. Why? Because you are too full of yourself—and there is no room for God or anyone else. The fully initiated person comes to realize that living for others is more important than living for yourself. (Phil 2:3 – "Consider others more important than yourselves.") To live as God lives: for the other.
Recently, I asked a young man what marriage is. And he answered with a great deal of wisdom: "Give yourself . . . ask for nothing."
And that brings us back to St. Paul: "None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself."
Your life is not about you; it’s about God and God’s purpose for you. That is our call, and that is our destiny—putting aside childish ways, and being servants to each other.