15 Pentecost, Year A: Body and Soul Set Free

15 Pentecost, September 10

Ex. 12:1-14 or Ezek. 33:7-11
Ps. 149 or Ps. 119:22-40
Rom. 13:8-14Matt. 18:15-20

However habituated to their own bondage, the children of Israel could not but, in the deepest places of their broken hearts, pray for and hope for deliverance and freedom. They would hope and groan for years and years under the weight of oppression and vile abuse until, as if suddenly, God acted on their behalf. At that moment, everything was to be done with expectancy and haste.

Sacrifice of the Passover Lamb | Lawrence Lew, OP/Flickr

On the tenth day of the first month, a lamb was taken for each family. It was held until the 14th day to ensure that it was spotless. Then, at twilight, it was slaughtered; its blood was applied to the two doorposts and lintel of every home as a sign to ward off the angel of death. To hurry the cooking, the meat was to be roasted. The meat, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs were eaten in precisely this way: “Your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the Passover of the Lord” (Ex. 12:11). The moment of freedom was at hand.

The body must be freed from abuse, individual bodies and the body politic, persons and whole communities. There is, however, another form of bondage caused by internal disturbances and unruly desires, which is no less oppressive than taskmasters. As if possessed by an evil power, people repeat patterns of destructive behavior. St. Paul describes this condition with two long lists of defects: reveling drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness, quarreling, and jealousy (Rom. 13:13); and fornication, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, anger, dissensions, factions, envy, and carousing (Gal. 5:19-21). He warns, “Those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Indeed, those who do such things will not even inherit a measure of peace among other people or in the depths of their own souls.

To be free, we must wake from sleep, “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers” (Rom. 13:11). “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12). Christ is the light, the inner flame that purges the soul of every stain, orders affections to their proper end, and brings illumination and wisdom. In a word, Christ the light sets us free — free in our bodies and free in our souls unto everlasting life. This is a process, it lasts a lifetime, and it involves setbacks as well as advancement.

The light of Christ purges, in part, through prohibitions. “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet” (Rom. 13:9). These “and any other commandment may be summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Remarkably, love is first concerned with what we don’t do. “Love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:10).

Putting on the armor of light, we set out to live honorably as in the day. We so much as begin and we fail, and so we face again our transgressions and the sins that weigh down upon us (Ezek. 33:10). In this situation, we endure two trials: the trial of conscience and the trial of hearing from others a truthful and helpful account of our failings (Matt. 18:15-20). To be known in this way and to face the truth requires deep humility and maturity.

Ultimately, God wants us to turn again and again toward the one true light so that we may be free in body and soul unto the ages of ages, so that the mystery of being, the wonder of beauty, the buoyancy of bliss, may set us upon a freedom march from grace to grace.

Look It Up: The Collect

Think About It: Confide not in your strength. Boast in the mercy of God.


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