The Responsorial Psalm tells us: “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face” (Psalm 24). This
longing is an experience of the Holy Spirit in us.
In Romans 8: 1-11 Paul is teaching us that without grace, even if we are instructed about right and wrong and able to see the reasonableness of what God’s law requires, we are unable to keep from violating his law — not because we are not free, but because we are “weakened by the flesh.” All the “roots of sin” inside us — Pride, Envy, Avarice, Anger, Lust, Gluttony and Sloth — drag us down. Cultural conditioning “programs” us to false values, distorted attitudes and destructive desires. External forces in the environment entice or intimidate us. Left to our own resources, we just don’t have a chance.
“To set the mind on the flesh” — on what the “world” offers us — “is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” By giving us his Spirit with grace, “Jesus has freed us from the law of sin and death.” What the guidance of the law alone “was powerless to do, this God has done” by sending his Son to give us the gift (grace) of sharing in God’s own divine life, and sending his Spirit into our hearts to guide and empower us. So we place our hope, not in our efforts to live by God’s law, but in the gift of the Spirit who empowers us to live on the level of God himself. That is why our focus as Christians must be, not on laws or law-observance, but on interaction with the living person of Jesus Christ. To be “faithful stewards” we must take responsibility for keeping the Church focused on the person of Jesus. “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.”
In Luke 13: 1-9 Jesus dismisses the idea that calamities are explicit punishments from God. Many, perhaps most, disasters are the natural consequence of people’s destructive choices; so, yes, Jesus says, “If you do not repent”; that is, make a radical turnabout in attitude, values, policies, practices and behavior, “you will all perish.” We see this happening: the shortsighted greed of our country is, in many cases, destroying the environment, polluting the atmosphere, increasing poverty at home and abroad, arousing such hatred in terrorists that they will kill themselves to kill us, and squandering billions on war instead of health and education. When we pay the price for this, it will not be God’s punishment but the fruit of our sin. And it will be because we have not been faithful stewards. Under our communal care the “fig tree” that is the Church has not been bearing sufficiently the fruit of grace, because we are not as we should be “the people that longs to see your face.”
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Focus the Church on bearing fruit by grace.