21 Jun Tuesday June 21
Freedom! It’s one of the most treasured words and ideas of the people of the United States. It remains almost undefinable, very misunderstood, and contentious of words in our theological, ethical, and political vocabulary. The word is spouted and bandied about, yet when questioned, any given individual is almost unable to define it. All this is a good reason to read carefully when Paul has to say about it, first because he is quite clear and his understanding far better than what we get in our country today, when we consider the ideological distance between a catholic bishop and the evangelical preacher.
Paul speaks out of Hellenistic cultural context and its sense of the cosmopolitanism, which is a key to understanding the success of his preaching, writings, and journeys. In other words, Paul seems always to be concerned for the common good in the midst of diversity. For the Greeks the stress was on freedom to serve the common good rather than merely freedom from oppression. His concept here is built around a contrast between the flesh and the Spirit, a favorite theme of Paul’s. The flesh (the world and our embodiment in it) can never be free, regardless of how much money we have, guns, genetics and gender, the “flesh” is never free but grounded in this world. Only life in Christ, in his Spirit is a true freedom, and like Christ, it is a freedom for others.
After this section of his letter, Paul will list a sample of the slavery of the flesh and an opposite list sampling the fruits of the Spirit. One wishes the fruits were part of the reading this Sunday. To relate this to the Gospel, it is the freedom to be clear and decisive about the Spirit, Christ, and discipleship in one’s life. What a challenged for me in this cultural of privilege, entitlement, and monetization.