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

Homily on Romans 6:19-23

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 17, 2017

EPISTLE. Rom. 6: 19-23. Brethren! speak a human thing, because of the infirmity of your flesh. For as you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity unto iniquity; so now yield your members to serve justice unto sanctification. For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from justice. What fruit therefore had you then in those things, of which you are now ashamed ? For the end of them is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life ever lasting. For the wages of sin is death : but the grace of God, life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord.

SIN AND JUSTICE.

St. Paul begins the lesson of this day, which is an extract from his epistle to the Romans, in these words: Brethren, I speak a human thing, because of the infirmity of your flesh. What does the Apostle mean to say in these words ? That it is no exaggerated demand when he requires Christians to rid themselves now and for evermore of the servitude of sin and serve God, because the service of God does not impose upon them a heavier burden than the service of sin. St. Paul encourages the Christians at Rome, who had only lately abandoned Paganism with its excesses and vices to stand firm in the service of God and not to be deterred from it by imaginary difficulties. We will consider a little more closely the points touched upon by St. Paul, viz.

I. The service of justice and sin;
II. The fruits of sin;
III. The fruits of justice.

PART I

As you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity unto iniquity, so now yield your members to serve justice unto sanctification.

1. The Gentiles, especially in the time of Christ and his Apostles, were given to all vices. The Apostle describes them as men filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, covetousness, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, and says of them that they were detractors hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, with out mercy. Rom. 1:24-31. The Christians at Rome had once been such pagans, more or less sunk in vice. Having become Christians they indeed renounced the pagan abominations, and resolved to serve God in justice and holiness. But as from youth they had been accustomed to the vicious life of the Gentiles, and were only recently converted, it can easily be imagined that it
gave them much trouble to eradicate their bad habits and vices and to lead a holy Christian life. Therefore the Apostle tells them in earnest but affectionate words, that now, having become Christians, they should yield no longer to the service of sin, but serve God in justice. Consider, he means to say, that as pagans you have defiled yourselves with many sins and vices, but you must now, being Christians, lead a blameless, pure and holy life, serving God at least with as much devotion and fervor as you formerly served your idols, endeavoring to repair your former
viciousness by virtue and piety.

This admonition concerns us too. We have not grown up in Paganism, but in Christianity, we have obliged ourselves in the first hours of our life, when we received holy baptism, to renounce for ever the devil and all his works and pomps, and to dedicate ourselves to the service of God; but I do not hesitate to say there are very few among us who have been faithful to their duty ; the majority will be obliged to confess, that from their childhood to this hour they have sinned often and grievously in thought, word and deed and by the omission of many good works. Probably there are many among us who have lived not only for weeks and months but for years in sin and vice. Yes, and many of us even now live in a state of sin and, if God should call us into eternity this moment, we should be condemned to hell. How necessary then is it for all who formerly were sinners, or are still sinners, to make a firm resolution from this very hour to serve God, and to bring forth fruits worthy of penance.

2. The Apostle speaks of a yielding to serve iniquity unto iniquity, and of a yielding to serve justice unto sanctification. What does yielding to serve iniquity unto iniquity mean? It means that the state of man becomes worse the oftener he sins and the longer he remains in the state of sin. The reason is because he becomes more thoughtless ; the fear of God decreases in him more and more, sin is implanted more firmly in his heart and becomes a habit which is seldom or never forsaken, and, finally, because by the accumulation of sins and the delay of repentance he becomes more guilty before God and sinks deeper into vice, so that his conversion can hardly be hoped for. Should not a sinner seriously consider this, at once do penance and serve God with fidelity?

We may say the same of virtue; it is confirmed and brought to greater perfection by diligent and constant practice. If, for instance, we diligently practice the virtues of humility, meekness, purity, obedience, charity, we shall obtain greater facility in so doing, and they will to a certain extent become habits with us, so that we can more easily overcome the obstacles and difficulties connected with them. Therefore Christ says that his yoke is sweet and his burden light. Matt. 11:30. The more zealously we do good, the more perfect we shall become, and the greater will be our reward in heaven, for he who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings. 2 Cor. 9: 6.

PART II.

St. Paul also speaks of the fruits of sin, when he writes: For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from justice. What fruit therefore had you then in those things, of which you are now ashamed? For the end of them is death. According to these words of the Apostle, the service of sin

1. Frees from justice. What does this mean? Man who yields himself to sin disregards God and his holy law, he renounces God and his justice, and becomes the slave of sin and of the devil. Blessed are those Christians who remain united with God and walk in the way of justice. God loves them as his children and is pleased with them; they possess sanctifying grace, that treasure which is more valuable than the world with all its treasures, because it is the price of the precious blood of Christ; all their good works and even the indifferent actions which they perform with a good intention are meritorious before God and eternal beatitude awaits them in heaven. Those who renounce God and his justice and serve sin forfeit all these graces. They deprive themselves of the love and friendship of God, lose sanctifying grace, and with it all merits previously acquired by good works, according to the prophet: If the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity … all his justices which he had done shall not be remembered Ezek. 18; 24. Neither are they able to do anything meritorious for eternal life. They will perish eternally, unless they do penance and return to God.

2. Brings shame and disgrace.

(a.) Every man, even the most abandoned, feels that sin is something abominable ; therefore, he takes good care not to do evil in public: he does it in secret and keeps it out of the sight of men as much as possible. Sin is something so base that many Christians cannot even resolve sincerely to accuse themselves of it in the confessional. They know that no forgiveness of sins is possible if they conceal a mortal sin ; they know that they commit a sacrilege and render
themselves guilty of eternal damnation; they know that God according to his infinite mercy will forgive them all sins, even the greatest, if they confess them sincerely and with a contrite heart, and yet they remain silent and dumb such a base thing is sin in their eyes. And have you never heard or read that people whose secret crimes and misdemeanors were brought to light, took away their own life in order, as they thought, to escape shame before the world?

(b.) Sin is also something disgraceful in the eyes of human society. When a wicked deed becomes known, even abandoned people confess that such an act is disgraceful. Thus, the thief, the cheat, the liar and slanderer, the drunkard, the fornicator and adulterer are everywhere in disgrace. And because worldlings and sinners know that sin is disgraceful they try to cover it, as it were, with a mantle, that its heinousness may not be seen. Thus they call pride self-respect; avarice, prudent economy ; impurity, a necessity of human nature ; injustices and frauds in business, good management. In such a way they seek to avert shame and disgrace from themselves and to appear as upright men before the world.

(c.) Zealous penitents particularly recognize and feel that sin is something disgraceful. They never think of their sins but with detestation and sorrow : they are ashamed of them, and say within themselves : Ah, my God, what a wicked sinner I was ; how disgraceful was my conduct ? Thinking of their vices and criminal excesses, they would like to hide themselves, so deep is the sense of shame with which they are penetrated. This sense of shame, however, is something very useful, for it makes us humble, preserves us from relapse into sin, animates our zeal for penance, and urges us to repair to the best of our ability the evil we have done by exercises of penance. Therefore it is right and profitable to keep the detestation of our sins always alive.

3. It draws death after it, that is, eternal death. It is an article of the faith that all who die in mortal sin will be damned for ever, and that one mortal sin is enough to damn us for ever. Christ expressly assures us that the bad shall go into everlasting punishment, and in the Apocalypse we read: the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone. Rev 21:8. The greatest punishment that the temporal authority can inflict upon man is death. This punishment infuses fear even into the greatest malefactors and deters him from crimes. But what is temporal death compared with eternal? This robs man not only of the temporal but also of the eternal life, the everlasting felicity of heaven; it prepares for him not only a transient terror and pain, but an eternal torment and despair in the abyss of hell. Oh, who could seriously think of this death and consent to any temptation to sin? Who could think of death and live in sin? Let us therefore frequently descend in thought into hell whilst we live, that we may not be compelled to descend into it when we die. St. Bernard.

PART III.

Finally, the Apostle comes to speak of the fruits of justice, when he says : But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life ever lasting.

1. St. Paul calls holiness the first fruits of justice. This holiness consists

(a.) In freeing ourselves more and more from small faults. The lowest degree of holiness excludes all mortal sins; it is consistent with venial sins. But he that makes progress in sanctity abstains as much as possible also from venial sins, and never commits one with premeditation. Herein all the saints go before us with their example. St. Anselm and St. Thomas of Aquin repeatedly stated that they would rather burn in hell innocently, than, defiled with a venial sin, triumph in heaven.

(b.) In mortifying ourselves interiorly and exteriorly, not only in unlawful, but sometimes also in lawful things, for without such mortifications holiness can neither be preserved nor increased. Thus we read in the following of Christ: You will advance in good in proportion as you do violence to yourself that is, as you mortify yourself. St. Francis Borgia was accustomed to measure holiness by the degree of mortification. When he heard anyone praised for his piety, he used to say: If he is a mortified man, he is a saint; if he is a very mortified man, he is a great saint.

(c. ) In availing ourselves of the opportunities of doing good. Negligence in doing good is a sign that true holiness is either wanting altogether, or that it is very imperfect and in danger of being lost altogether. Truly pious, zealous Christians hunger and thirst after justice and embrace every opportunity that offers itself for exercises of virtue and good works. They love to pray; they go to mass as often as they can ; they frequently receive the sacraments, and do their fellow -men acts of kindness with a cheerful heart.

(d. ) In doing all good works as perfectly as possible. Zealous Christians who aspire to holiness do not pray in a lukewarm and distracted manner, but they endeavor to say their prayers with recollection and devotion; they listen to the word of God with attention, and resolve to regulate their life accordingly; they al ways prepare themselves well for the reception of the sacraments, sanctify all their actions by a good intention, and do everything quietly, patiently and for the love of God.

(e. ) Finally in dying to the world and living to God. Pious Christians live indeed in the world, but they do not love the world; they are solicitous for earthly things, but set not their hearts and affections on them ; they use the world as if they used it not ; they seek the things that are above and say with the Apostle (Gal. 6: 14): God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our I,ord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. Behold herein consists holiness ; this is the fruit of justice. What a precious fruit ! How ardently should we wish for it, especially since it already renders us happy here below, for much peace have they that love thy law. Ps.
119:165.

2. The last fruit of justice is everlasting life. God does not make us serve him for nothing. He rewards with everlasting life all who walk in the way of justice. Thus Christ himself declares: He that doth the will of my Father, who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 7: 21. And again: If any man minister to me, let him follow me, and where I am, there also shall my minister be. John 12: 26. In what does this everlasting life consist, which awaits the just? It consists–

(a.) In freedom from all sufferings. “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.” Rev. 21:4.

(b.) In an inexpressible joy and felicity. This joy, this felicity is so great that nothing on earth can be compared with it: nay, in comparison with it all earthly joys dwindle to nothing. David says of the blessed: “They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink of the torrent of thy pleasure.”  Ps. 35: 9. And the Apostle says: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Cor. 2: 9. The happiness of heaven," says St. Augustine, can be acquired, but not estimated; it can be merited, but not described.

(c. ) In everlasting joy and happiness. Thus we read in the Book of Wisdom 5: 16 : “The just shall live for ever more, and their reward is with the Lord, and the care of them with the Most High.” And Christ himself says of the elect, that they shall enter “into life everlasting.” Matt. 25 : 46. Thousands and millions of years may pass away, the happiness which the saints enjoy in heaven will never have an end ; like the saints themselves it will be eternal. Oh, what joy, what delight for the saints in heaven when they can say to themselves: We are now in everlasting security ; the happiness which we enjoy will last for ever and ever.

PERORATION.

At the conclusion of the lesson for this day the Apostle repeats what will be the fruit of sin and of justice, in these words: The wages of sin is death, but the grace of God (that is, justice) life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Here the Apostle briefly utters the truth that sin leads to death, i. e., to damnation, and justice is rewarded with everlasting happiness through the merits of Jesus Christ. Oh, let us frequently make this important truth the subject of our meditation, and serve the Lord with unchangeable fidelity in justice and holiness, that we may be found worthy to be admitted into everlasting life. Amen.

 

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