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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Owing Only God

AUDIO (9:30am Mass): CLICK HERE

“Love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Remember, this section of Saint Paul's letter is his general instruction of moral norms: that is, how does my faith affect every aspect of my life - how do I live as a Christian and not as a pagan worshipper of idols or of myself.  "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice...your spiritual worship" effects everything: your calendar, your check book, your social life, your family life, your sex life, your recreation, your work.  If I keep first things first (meaning God is on the throne of my heart and not myself or anyone or anything else), then my life will look radically different than what is the norm in our society.
Today's first piece of advice, "owe no one anything" could easily be translated into the American culture in financial terms: "Have no debt."  I wonder how many fewer lives would be lost each year, how many relationships would still be intact, how many fights we would avoid with other people if we would simply fulfill this one sense of Saint Paul's words.  If you haven't heard of it, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University is a wonderful program offered in church communities around the U.S. that really allows us to put God at the center of our finances.  I highly recommend this Christian-based approach to escaping the traps of our consumerist culture which you can find at his website (daveramsey.com), which also has many other helpful resources resources for various ages, including books and online tools.  If you feel like your finances are choking your ability to grow spiritually because you are constantly worrying and trying to stay afloat, this could be the way to learn the wisdom behind the advice of Saint Paul "owe no one anything."  And when we do that, then we can truly put into practice the rest of the verse, "except to love on another."  The word love is that same root as our english word "charity."  When we aren't slaves to our consumerist culture, we can finally practice generosity and allow our treasures to build up others.  A great gift.
            But the truth is Paul isn't referring merely to finances in this passage.  In some ways he is talking about where our allegiances lie, and the intangible kinds of "debt" we can find ourselves caught in.
            One way to discover some of our allegiances, or what we might call our "ties" to things in this world, is to simply review how we spend our so-called "free time."  For the Christian, of course, there is no such thing: our time, like our lives, like our gifts, like our breath, is not our own.  I didn't earn even one hour of life on this earth.  It's a gift from God.  My time is His - or it should be.  But still, the term can refer to those periods of time when we are able to choose more how it is ordered.  So what do we do?  What do I think about?  What do I read about or watch or play when I am "free"?  For me it is usually pretty boring: exercise, sleep, read a book, play music, listen to religious podcasts, visit with my family.  But I gotta be honest, sometimes I don't use that time as well as I should.  Sometimes that free time is spent more on me than on God, and at my worst, I can end up skimping on my prayer (doing only the "minimum" for a priest).  It is in those times I can see that I still have some serious allegiances, serious "ties" to selfish things that do not build up others.

            A saint owes no one and no thing, "except to love on another."  If "love is the fulfillment of the law," then the saint is the one who loves perfectly.

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