Lately, given my new appointment by Bishop Byrne, I have been thinking a lot about my vocation as a priest and the journey I took to ordination. While discerning this vocation, I remember telling a priest-friend of mine that, while seriously thinking that God wanted me to be a priest, I was terrified. That conversation will always stick with me … “what are you afraid of? Do you not think, that if God wants you to do something for Him, that He will protect you and guide you? Do you not think that He is on your side?” … In other words: “If God is for us, who could be against us …” What was I afraid of?
Now, before launching more in depth into this saying of St. Paul its important to remember two things… First: this letter was written around the mid-first century and that he is writing to Christians in Rome, the capital of the world at that time. Second: It is important to note that in this chapter of the Letter to the Romans St. Paul focuses on three things: the work of the Spirit, the divine gift of sonship – meaning our relationship with Christ, and the divine purpose of suffering … and this third piece is where we pick up in the second reading today … what is his point? He means to say that as believers, we cannot doubt that even in the midst of our sacrifices and sufferings that God is on our side, we are assured of His love and His commitment to us given the fact that Christ has suffered already on our behalf. And since no worldly creature or power can equal or match (no matter how powerful or dangerous) that which is divine – namely God and His love for us – then we have nothing to fear … St. Paul seems to say, that in our sacrifices and sufferings that we give to God, we will then receive the very gift of His own grace in us, He will come alive in us … for in giving to Him everything of ourselves – mind, body, heart and soul – He gives us back Himself … We must not then be afraid to sacrifice, to suffer for Him and for others because: “if God is for us, who could be against us…”
Simply put, St. Paul’s lesson to us is a lesson in humility… What exactly do we have to lose by giving ourselves to God … why are we afraid to allow the Church, to allow Christ, to form us in body, mind, heart and soul? What exactly are we afraid of? We have become so attached to things, ideas, opinions that we are afraid to lose them … we are afraid to let go of them as if we will lose a piece of ourselves, afraid that we might offend someone of different opinion or come across as not compassionate or understanding – we tend to be so full of ourselves, so full of pride … You see this is why fasting and the sacrifices we make during Lent are such a necessary piece of the practice of our faith because they teach us humility … they teach us to detach ourselves from things, ideas, and opinions in order that we might allow Christ, allow the Church to form our minds, bodies, hearts and souls in Truth, Goodness and Charity. Humility, therefore, is not just about thinking ourselves less than others, it is an inner disposition, an attitude of the heart that allows God to form us from within … this involves sacrifice … it involves trust … and with that – do we not think that God will lead, will not guide … will not protect us from the dangers of this world??? “If God is for us, who can be against us?”