Monday of Week 30 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Romans 8:12-17

Paul continues his comparison between being “in the flesh” and being “in Christ”. He focuses today especially on baptised Christians, to whom his letter is mainly addressed.

Paul begins by repeating what he has already said about the difference between living in the “flesh” and living in the Spirit. Now that we are in Christ, there is no obligation to be ruled by our lower human nature, our sensual selves. To live that way leads to self-destruction. On the other hand, if, by the power of the Spirit of God working in us, we can overcome the habits which originate from the body, then we will truly live. By the power of the Spirit, we can nullify the pull of our lower nature and experience life in its fullness – physical, moral, social and spiritual.

Because, he says:

…all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Actually, the Holy Spirit is much more than one who inwardly guides, he is the very principle of a truly divine life. As Paul said of himself:

…it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.
(Gal 2:20)

He emphasises elsewhere that the whole community is the Body of the Risen Christ, in whom Christ is really present.

In a general sense, of course, God is the Father of every single person, to whom he extends his love and providential care. That is what we mean when we pray ‘Our’ Father – that ‘our’ cannot exclude a single person. But, when we identify ourselves with Christ as Lord through faith and accept his Gospel as our Way then we become children in a special sense. Not children merely by accident of birth, but by faith, thus setting up a special positive relationship.

And, as children, we have:

…not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but…a spirit of adoption.

This enables us to cry out “Abba, Father!” These words seem partly addressed to those Jewish Christians who want to bring back the Law as their way of life. To live under a law in this way is a kind of slavery and it engenders fear, an ongoing anxiety that the law is not being perfectly observed.

On the contrary, through faith, we have been adopted into the family of Christ, who is our Brother, with God as our Father. Adoption was common among the Greeks and Romans, who granted the adopted son all the privileges of a natural son, including inheritance rights. We Christians are adopted children by grace; Christ himself, however, is God’s Son by nature.

It was in the garden on the Mount of Olives that Jesus called out:

Abba, Father, for you all things are possible… (Mark 14:36)

‘Abba’ is a universal term found all over the world for a child to address his/her father with intimacy, love and affection. In English, we might say, ‘Papa’ or ‘Daddy’. The Chinese term sounds almost exactly the same as Abba – “Ah Ba”. Now we, too, can address our God in the same words and with the same feelings. For the traditional Jew or Muslim this would be unthinkable where the name of God is held in such respect that it can hardly be mentioned. Even Matthew, in many parts of his gospel, goes out of his way to avoid directly using the name of God.

Furthermore, Paul says:

…it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…

When it is clear from all our behaviour that we are filled with the Spirit of God and Christ, when our spirit and the Spirit of Christ merge as one in us, then we know that we are truly his adopted children.

From this, Paul draws another conclusion:

…and if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if we in fact suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

As adopted children of God, we share also in the inheritance that comes to Jesus. We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. The glory that is Jesus’ will also be ours, provided we share in his suffering.

It is presumed that we accept from God all the experiences, some of which may be very painful, that may come in living our faith openly, in publicly identifying with Christ and his Way and in giving witness to the Kingdom. We are not only heirs; we need to act like heirs, with our co-heir, Jesus, as our model.

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