At last I am well on the way to being a disciple. May nothing seen or unseen, fascinate me, so that I may happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching bones, mangling of limbs, crunching of the whole body, cruel tortures inflicted by the devil – let them come upon me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ. (Ignatius of Antioch. Letter to the Romans. ~110 AD. 5)
In our passage from Romans today we find Paul saying, “I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another.” I think the order he presents here is the recipe for being able to correct one another or receive correction as Christians.
Brothers and Sisters
First, there needs to be a recognition of the familial nature of our faith. If I see you as another member of the club you are fleeting and transient. However, if I see you as my sibling, then we are in this together for life. Thus, whether I am correcting you or you are correcting me, we are there in the long run.
Full of Goodness
To be full of goodness is to live a life of charitable love reflecting the Lord’s. Christ’s love is never self-interested, so if we are reflecting his love then there is confidence and reassurance that correction isn’t coming from a desire to boost my own ego.
Filled with all Knowledge
As a human with finite knowledge, this phrase means two things to me. The Holy Spirit, who possesses all knowledge is dwelling in me. That doesn’t mean I know everything He knows, rather He gives me the wisdom to know what I don’t know, and either for correcting or receiving correction, that is of great importance.
Admonish One Another
Finally, at the end of the recipe Paul presents admonishment, because he knows that we need to look out for one another, but we need to do it as siblings, in love, and wisdom, and ultimately for the good of their pursuit of the Lord.
This is the end of today’s first reading from Romans 14:7-12 and I want to focus on the emboldened line:
For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written:
As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.
So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.
This one line is a call to a healthy honesty that will lead to humility.
This is healthy honesty for a few reasons.
One, I will deliver an honest account of myself, not because of coercion, but because how are you going to lie to God? You can’t! My honesty will be freely chosen, because I will have a clear recognition of who God is, and seeing things as they really are is the best definition of sanity I’ve ever heard.
Two, it is healthy because I will not be condemning or acquitting anyone else, but instead giving an account of myself. It is too easy to lie to myself and make someone else my scapegoat. But, the sick person doesn’t get any healthier for diagnosing his neighbor. I know this sounds stupid, but emotionally and spiritually I do this ALL THE TIME!
Three, I’ll give an account of myself. This is neither exclusively positive nor exclusively negative, simply honest. So what does that mean? It means I’ll be honest about the good and honest about the bad. That is healthy! I’m gifted at retaining knowledge, but a chronic procrastinator… that’s the honest truth. It would be false humility to say I don’t know anything and prideful to say I’m so gifted at working without deadlines. Those lies destroy humility, because to be humble is to see yourself as you really are, strengths and flaws.
So if honesty, before God, with and about self leads to humility, how can this line about giving an account when we die apply to the present and our pursuit of humility today?
- Whether in public or secret, recall this line as you choose between right and wrong / the Gospel of the Lord or the draw of the World, because you will relive this moment. Not only will you relive, you will be the very one retelling it. How humbling!
- Do not be ashamed of your gifts, nor despairing of your shortcomings. One day you will stand before God telling him about the great stuff and the terrible stuff, why wait until then to recognize them?
- Frequent confession. Why wait until you are dead to start to give that honest account of your sins? Start now by standing before the mercy seat of God, the throne of grace.
- In your prayer do not forget praise so you remember who this God you can’t lie to is; do not forget thanksgiving so that you can begin to be honest with yourself that your gifts come from the Lord; and do not forget to pray for yourself because as you become more aware of your weakness you’ll see how much help you really need.!
A little Archbishop Fulton Sheen for you on All Souls’ Day: Continue reading “Dying: Beginning or End?”