By Michael Fitzpatrick
A Reading from Romans 8:12-27
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We are encouraged to be our “true selves.” Though there may be both merit and danger in seeking or discovering a “true” self, St. Paul suggests that through the Spirit of God, our deepest identitites can only be given as gift: adopted children in God’s family, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
This inheritance is both now and not yet. Even in human legal codes, inheritance works this way. The heir is someone who possesses the promise now, but has not yet come into it.
St. Paul says first that all non-human reality in the created world is like a mother, “groaning as in the pains of childbirth,” waiting in eager expectation for the liberation that will come when we humans are liberated (v. 21). We as adopted children in God’s family are also like mothers aching for that inheritance to come, for the full revelation of our true identity, that hope which we do not yet have, but wait for patiently.
There are few things in this world more profound than a woman awaiting the birth of her child. Although the “groaning” indicates suffering, it is a suffering that she knows the end of, the apotheosis: the birth of a miracle, a living child. Likewise, it is painful for us to wait, to see around us the constant devastation of sin and suffering. But we know that if we share in the sufferings of Christ, we do so in the hope that we may also share in his glory.
May we pray this week to be like mothers, groaning in expectation for the coming Kingdom of God, and that Christ might give us the courage and the strength of every mother who labors to carry her child to birth.
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Awori (Church of Nigeria)
Jerusalem Peacebuilders, West Brattleboro, Vt.