Sunday, August 1, 2010

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what
is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand
of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on
earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden
with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory. Put to
death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the
greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its
practices and have put on the new self, which is
being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its
creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision
and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

Col. 3:1-5,9-11

What is it about us that, while we proclaim our belief in Christ and pledge to serve Him, clings to the vestiges of paganism as if our lives depend on it? We seem to live as two separate people, one concerned with the things of Heaven and the Word of God and the other mired in the flesh and its urges. Saint Paul is talking to the community of Colossae, Christians who had accepted Christ and yet seemed to be falling back into the sins that characterized their pre-Christian lives. Paul reminds them that they have been recreated in Christ, that their old selves and their old "gods" have died and no longer have power over them.

How much do we in modern society, most of us never having been pagans in the traditional sense, behave as if we were in fact pagans and show our constant need for conversion to the faith of Christ? We may not have a pantheon of gods and goddesses to worship, but we do just fine to fashion idols out of the things that surround our earthly lives. In his homily today, the pastor of my parish mentioned the story of Juno Moneta, the Roman goddess in whose temple was the mint where Roman coins were created. It is this epithet that gives us the word "money," and yet the word moneta does not relate to currency but rather refers to a warning or reminder. Perhaps we can see this as a warning to ourselves when we mix religion and the pursuit of money, the message of the "prosperity gospel" being a particularly egregious example, and when we risk crossing the line into an outright worship of wealth. Perhaps we should approach money as we do Uranium, having a particular usefulness but extremely dangerous if possessed in large amount or held too closely. Many seem to think that St. Paul called money the "root of all evil," but as my pastor pointed out today it was the love of money that Paul was warning against rather than the thing itself. Money has its uses, it can be given in charity to those without and it can be used to uplift people and to build things in praise of God, but if we hold it too closely or being to see it as an end rather than a means it will end up consuming us. We should always hold wealth at an arm's length, using it to do good works and bring others the Gospel but being careful not to become too attached to it. It is God who will allow us to do this, He who will show us the truth of the world and allow us to overcome its pull.

Sin has an effect like gravity upon us, it keeps us down when we want to float away in the direction of light and grace and God. Every sin that we indulge in increases that gravity, like heavy chains that weigh us down ever more toward the dirt of sin. After a while these chains can become familiar, so familiar in fact that we don't even notice their presence. Even if we become used to them and gain the ability to stand and walk in spite of their weight, we remain unable to rise to the heights that should be within our grasp. If we ask God to then He will take the chains from us and show us how to fly, and yet how many among us ever ask? We may think that we are asking, and yet we know not even how to much less what should be requested. To receive we must ask, and to ask we must listen for the direction of Him who already knows our yearning. May He lift up our heads to see the stars and break our chains so that we can reach for them.

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