Rom 6:12-18; Ps 124:1-8; Lk 12:39-48
Few of us would like to be compared to a bird. That is even more likely in the case of a bird stupid enough, or careless enough to be caught up in a fowlers’ snare. If someone compared us to a soaring eagle that would be one thing, but to be likened to a little sparrow caught in some net? It’s just not very complementary. Somehow, it doesn’t seem like a positive self-image. Yet, it may well be quite true. We are so weak and fragile when it comes to those vices that rise up against us and tempt us with such fury. Indeed, such powerful enticements could swallow us alive. Like waters, or more like tsunamis, we could be overwhelmed by temptation and even sin. Yet, the LORD is with us. We cry out in all honesty, “Blessed be the LORD, who did not leave us a prey to their teeth…Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Saint Paul reminds his beloved church in Rome that “you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness.” The Lord Jesus teaches his disciples that even more virtue will be expected of them because they have been given such an intimate relationship with the LORD. We, too, must be on the way to becoming saints and that is why we have come here again and again to the Altar of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Like our brothers and sisters in the church to which Saint Paul writes, we too, have been raised from the dead to life in Christ. This is our radically new identity. We are to use our bodies as weapons for righteousness; we cannot remove ourselves from the daily struggle between virtue and vice, good and evil, morality and immorality. Like everyone else at this time in history, we are caught up in a spiritual conflict. However, Saint Paul reminds us that sin is not to have any power over us. Notice, the Apostle doesn’t say “sin does not have any power over us” but that “sin is not to have any power over us.” We have been liberated from the control of sin and evil, but we still must confront concupiscence. We must struggle with the leftover tendency toward sin deep in our hearts. In this struggle, we do not give up, we do not despair. In the midst of such a spiritual war, we hear the good news of Saint Paul to the Romans. “But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted.” Notice, that’s from the heart. Our immersion into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ changes us from inside out. We have a new heart. We are no longer slaves of every desire, whim, and passion that blows through our hearts. We have become slaves of righteousness, slaves of the One who liberates us, Jesus Christ Our Lord!
Why Saint Peter? Why does he have to ask the question? Perhaps, it’s because he already has an important leadership position among the disciples. Perhaps, it’s because he should have known better. Of course it’s going to be more difficult for you, Peter, and for everyone like you, to be a prudent and faithful steward distributing the food at the proper time. So many other issues will demand your attention that having wisdom to nourish and sustain all the other servants will sometimes seem an impossible task, an insurmountable burden. Indeed, sometimes the task will give rise to the temptation to excuse oneself from the demands of office or even to excuse oneself from the ongoing task of growth in virtue. Being so busy is easily an excuse for short sightedness, snap judgments, and even lack of compassion. However, as the Lord Jesus announces, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” You, Peter, are chosen to follow, and you are sent forth with power and authority. Peter, you have glimpsed my glory on the mountain, and you have seen great signs and wonders. To you, much and more are given. I do expect you to be prepared for an hour you do not expect, which means being always ready for your Master’s return. These demands on Peter are not his alone. These demands are expected of each of us who has been called, chosen, and commissioned for loving service to God and our fellow servants. Vigilance is required, not suggested.