Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II
St. Patrick’s Church
October 22, 2015
- Paul speaks in no uncertain terms: we were slaves to sin and are now to be slaves of God for sanctification and eternal life (Cf. Rom 6:20-22).
- Our modern sensibilities find this idea almost repulsive; we do not want to be slaves to anyone, neither God nor man. Mankind has left the evil institution of slavery behind. We are people of a free society, free persons.
- We can even find support from Jesus to this effect. Recall that in John’s gospel Jesus does not call the disciples slaves, but friends, for a slave does not know what his master is doing (Cf. John 15:15).
- Yet Paul is quite insistent about this slavery to God. He even begins his letter to the Romans identifying himself as a slave of Christ Jesus (Cf. Rom 1:1).
- Even Pope St. John Paul II in his devotion to the Mother of God considered himself a slave of Mary according to the consecration set forth by St. Louis de Montforte. Thus his Papal motto Totus Tuus, everything is yours.
- At the heart of slavery is possession; someone other than yourself owns you. This is what challenges our dignity and self-worth.
- Yet in God’s love, there is a sacramental dynamic in which He takes possession of things. In baptism, He claims each one of us as His own beloved son or daughter: “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” In confirmation, He anoints us as His prophet, chosen to carry His Word into the world. In the Eucharist, He takes bread and wine and transforms them into Himself: “This is my body (and blood) which will be given up for you.” In the sacraments, God takes possession of something and identifies Himself with it.
- Thus our enslavement to God consists in this, being possessed by God. We are His favored possession, His sacred treasure. He has taken us in and called us His own, even identifying Himself with us: “you will be my people and I will be your God.”
- Christ the Incarnate Word does not exempt even Himself from this enslavement of God as Paul points out: “though He was in the form of God, [Christ Jesus] did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but emptied Himself and took the form of a slave being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).
- And yet at the end, Paul undoes the analogy, for these slaves receive wages. Those enslaved to sin receive death, while those slaves of God receive eternal life (Cf. Rom 6:23). So rejoice in being slaves of God, His favorite possession and most precious treasure, and reap your reward, eternal life.