The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan on Romans 12:1-5 for 1st Sunday After Epiphany

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 7, 2011

With this chapter commences the Moral Part of the Epistle. The principles already laid down in the foregoing portion are now viewed in their consequences and influences upon the Christian life. Having shown that faith is the only way to salvation the Apostle goes on in the remainder of his letter to point out what faith demands in practical ways from Christians.

This last part of the Epistle has two main sections. The first of these (Rom 12:1-13:14) contains general instructions for all Christians; the second (Rom 14:1-15:13) has particular counsels for the Christians in Rome.

THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD CONSECRATE HIS LIFE TO THE SERVICE OF GOD
Rom 12:1-2

The practical consequences to be drawn from what has been said regarding the mercy of God toward man is the duty of entire consecration to God’s service, and of a radical interior transformation, as a means to the perfect execution of God’s will.

Rom 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service.

I beseech (παρακαλω) , i.e., I exhort, I counsel.

Brethren, i.e., all you Christians of Rome. The term αδελφοι refers not to the Jewish Christians only, as Zahn pretends; but, as in Rom 11:25, to all the Christians in Rome.

By the mercy, or, according to the Greek, “by the mercies” (2 Cor 1:3), i.e., on account of the mercy of God about which we have just spoken in the preceding chapter, and of which you Romans have been the object.

That you present. The word παραστησαι means to present as a sacrifice, as the Jews were accustomed to bring their victims and present them to the altar for immolation (Lev 16:6; Luke 2:22).

Your bodies. The Christian should consecrate his whole being to the service of God. The Apostle begins with the body, because man’s spiritual ruin began with the bodily organs, the senses.

A living sacrifice, for a sacrifice under the Old Law, the victim had to be living, because the sacrificial act consisted principally in the immolation of the victim; it had to be holy, that is, without defect (Lev 19:2), suitable to be offered to God and pleasing in God’s sight. Likewise the Christian’s body, dead to sin through Baptism, should be living the life of grace which makes it holy and pleasing to God and renders it a fit instrument to be used by the mind and soul in God’s service.

Your reasonable service. These words are in apposition to the whole preceding clause. The Apostle wishes to say that the sacrifice we make to God in offering Him our bodies, living, holy, etc., is a reasonable service, i.e., a real spiritual (Cornely) worship which proceeds from the interior man, and not a mere external sensible worship like the sacrifices of animals in the Old Testament; or that when man gives his body, i.e., his external moral actions to the service of God, he is rendering to God a worship truly reasonable and rational, i.e., suited to the nature of God and of man, unlike the sensible homage which was paid to God by the ancient sacrifices of brute animals (Lagr.). Whether we take “reasonable” (λογικην) here to mean spiritual or rational, it is clear that the offering to God of all our bodily activities and moral actions is a service based on a reasonable consideration of our nature and of God’s nature.

Rom 12:2  And be not conformed to this world: but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and the acceptable and the perfect will of God.

This verse develops the thought of the preceding one, passing from the dispositions of the body to those of the mind. The Christian’s service of God involves a change in his mental attitude. He must no longer adapt himself to the standards and manners, the thoughts and sentiments of this world of sin and corruption; but must, through the assistance of grace, be reformed, i.e., transformed (μεταμορφουσθε) by the renovation of his mind so as to live according to his true, rational, spiritual nature. This change and renovation in man’s higher nature is to the end that man may know what is the good, the acceptable and the perfect will of God (Vulgate); or, as the Greek text has it, that he may know what is the object of God’s will, namely, that it is something morally good (το αγαθον), something well-pleasing (ευαρεστον) to God, something perfect (τελειον). These three adjectives, αγαθον, ευαρεστον, and τελειον are taken substantively (Cornely, Lagr., Zahn, etc.), to explain that which God’s will respects. Hence the “will of God” means not the faculty which wills, but the object of that will, the thing willed.

THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE CONTENTED WITH THE OFFICE HE HAS
RECEIVED, AND SHOULD DISCHARGE HIS DUTIES TO GOD WITH
HUMILITY
Rom 12:3-8.

The sacrifice that we should make of our body and the corresponding renovation of our mind ought to be guarded by humility, which excludes all self-importance and enforces self-restraint in our dealings with one another. Let each Christian, by a faithful discharge of his duties, contribute his part to the common good of the Church.

3. For I say, by the grace that is given me, to all that are among you, not to be more wise than it behoveth to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety, and according as God hath divided to every one the measure of faith.

By the grace, etc., i.e., by my authority as an Apostle (Rom 1:5; 15:15; 1 Cor 3:10; Gal 2:9, etc.).

To all that are among you, i.e., to each individual among you Roman Christians.

Not to be more wise, etc. φρονειν here describes the quality of one’s thought or mind. There is a play in this place, on the words in Greek, which does not appear in Latin or English. The sense is that no one should esteem himself beyond that which is his due, but that each one should esteem himself according to sober-mindedness.

The measure of faith. “Faith” here does not mean the theological virtue, but rather the gratuitous and miraculous gifts that were often conferred on the early Christians at Baptism,—the charismata, of which there is question in the following verses, and in 1 Cor 7:7 (Cornely, Lagr., Zahn, etc.). These gifts were various in kind, and were conferred as the will of God disposed. Each one, therefore, should use the gifts God has bestowed upon him with fidelity and humility, not interfering with the gifts and duties of others.

4. For as in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office:
5. So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

With ancient writers the comparison of a social organism to the body was very common. St. Paul now compares the Christian society to a natural physical body. As in the latter there are many members performing different functions for the benefit of the whole, so in the former, the Church, each member has his proper office and gifts with which he ought to be content, and which he ought to utilize for the good of the entire Church. This thought is much further developed in 1 Cor 12:12-31, where the Apostle considers the Church as a living mystical body, and compares it in detail to a natural physical organism. The unity of the one, as of the other, comes from the soul, and Christ is the soul of His mystical body the Church. In Eph 4:15 St. Paul speaks of Christ as the head, but this is only a different way of showing the mysterious and gracious relations of Christians with Christ and His Spirit.

The faithful are many, but form only one body in Christ, by whose spirit they are united and vivified. All, therefore, are dependent on the life that comes from Christ, their head and soul; and all the members are interdependent one on another, as sharing in the common work to which life in Christ is ordained.

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5 Responses to “Father Callan on Romans 12:1-5 for 1st Sunday After Epiphany”

  1. […] Father Callan on Romans 12:1-5. […]

  2. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 12:1-2. This post is on verses 1-5. […]

  3. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 12:1-2. This post is on verses 1-5. […]

  4. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 12:1-2. This post is on verses 1-5. […]

  5. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 12:1-5. […]

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