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Sunday, July 05, 2020

Fr. Ebido: We're not debtors to flesh - ITREALMS

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 5/20) 

My Daily Blessing: May the Lord, who chose you, to be his very own, empower you to live a life worthy of your calling! Amen!

Narration: I watched a video clip on social media recently. It shows how debt collectors came to the house of a woman and were ready to impound her mighty Escalade Jeep! She thought it was a joke, and refused to cooperate. However, the debt collectors very professionally managed all her ‘gra-gra’ (face-saving-maneuvers), and even tantrums, to take the car away. She and her daughter were actually about to go out in the vehicle before it was impounded! She lost that vehicle because she bought it on credit, but defaulted consistently in her payment. Many people in the ‘developed’ world lose their houses, motor-boats, vehicles, among others, in this way. 

During this Covid19, as millions lose their jobs, the spiral effect will be loss of many other things they bought ‘on credit’ if they fail to make payment as at when due (unless they manage to ‘refinance their credit’). 

Over there, only a privileged few are free from some form of debt, because the financial system is built in such a way as to enable people buy virtually anything on credit (using credit cards), or mortgage plan (for houses) and then pay gradually over time. It does add quality to life, but it comes with a huge burden overtime. If you have piles of debt with little finances, you might lose everything. 

The avaricious become easy victims. Here in Nigeria (and Africa), we don’t enjoy such privileges yet on any measurable large scale; we pay cash for everything! So we enjoy ‘lower’ quality of life. However, we do have a beautiful advantage: we are not up to our eyeballs in debt. Most of what we have (houses, cars), we own. You should thank God if you are not a debtor to anyone. It’s exhilarating to be debt free. It is even more exciting to be free from sin! 

In the Second reading for today (Rom 8:11-13), St. Paul tells us that “we are not debtors to the flesh”(v.12) because to live according to the demands of the flesh leads us to gradually lose everything we have worked for towards spiritual transformation. 

He reminds us that “you are not in the flesh, on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you” (v.9). This “Spirit” is that of Christ, the Holy Spirit. If it dwells in you, “he will give life to your mortal bodies” so that you cannot continue to live like a slave to the demands of the flesh. I am sure the one reading this will say, “it’s easier said than done!” 

Martin Luther, the reformer, like many before and after him, struggled with that text, and as an Augustinian monk, tried to ‘beat his body into submission’ (by flagellation) but failed. He later found in “sola fide!” (“faith alone!”), and “sola gratia” (grace alone) the answer to the elusive salvation and the ‘freedom from sin’ we enjoy in Christ Jesus. He concludes from the same St. Paul, that “It is only by faith that forgiveness of sins is apprehended.” 

Our works (human efforts), avails nothing, but merely “fruits” of that saving faith. 

According to him, “As long as we live in the flesh, sin lives in us,” but we take cover under the wings of Christ’s flesh, as chickens, under the hen, lest God sees our sin. This faith in Christ’s covering, is our righteousness. So, if that is the case, is it fair to ask, “do we have an active power over sin at all?” Or, as St. Paul asks, “do we then continue to sin so that grace may abound?” (Rom 6:1). Paul replied, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”(6:2). This brings us back to square one. Luther has a point, but only bandaged the wounds. I will look at how the Catholic tradition tries to resolve this problem tomorrow. Happy Sunday!

Prayer: Eternal Father, you have redeemed us in Christ Jesus. We can no longer be slaves to our sinful habits and inclinations. Send your Spirit and renew my life, and redeem the soul thou has made! Amen!
🙏🏽©️Fr Augustine Ebido, O.P.

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