There is an old story about a monk who was bothered by the insults from his fellow brothers, so he went to the wise abbot and asked what he should do to overcome these feelings of hurt, resentment, and anger. The old man looked at the young monk and instructed him to go to the monastery cemetery and, every day for a week, insult each grave there. The young monk obeyed.
The next week, the abbot instructed the young monk to repeat this act of obedience, but instead of insulting each grave, praise each one. So, the young man did as he was instructed and lavished flattery on each grave.
At the end of this unusual obedience, the young man visited the abbot and asked what was the point of these past two weeks. And the abbot smiled and asked “Were those in the grave upset by insult?” “No, father, they are dead,” answered the young man. “Were those in the grave flattered by your praise?” The young man again answered “No, father. They are dead.” “Then this is your path to freedom from your anger, hurt, and resentment. Become dead to words of insult and praise and you will be free.”
In our Epistle Lesson today, St. Paul instructs the Church in Rome on how to deal with their old life before Christ came and made them free from the slavery of sin and death. He teaches them that, by one man’s act of disobedience (Adam’s sin) was the whole human race wounded and made weak and susceptible to sin and death. But by one Man’s act of obedience (our Lord Jesus living and dying and living again for us!) was the whole human race invited to the freedom of liberty from sin and death.
But is this liberty given to us by Christ meant to say we can now do anything we want and still be free? Not at all. It turns out that if my “wants” aren’t changed from the selfish and self serving habits of mere temporary desires, I will do those things that perpetuate my slavery to my desires and not live in the freedom I have been offered by Christ. My desires have to be changed. I have to learn how to “want” what I truly need and not merely what this or that passion desires at a given moment.
And how does this wonderful liberty from short sighted selfishness occur? I’m glad you asked!
Look at Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Our answer is to grasp the Good News that no matter what the temptation that comes to us, we are called to enter into the freedom of the Lord’s New Life by realizing that we have “died” to our old life of slavery to our passions. And no matter how much you tempt a corpse, they won’t respond!
Today, has the New Life that Christ has given you so changed you that you are “dead” to the temptations that use to so easily trip you up and knock you off your faithful path? The answer to allowing that Good News to make you “dead” to those old temptations lies within your willingness to actively pursue the New Life of Christ in faithful practice of the Christian Life. Being so busy following the path makes all the old temptations simply not part of your busy “spiritual” calendar. You simply don’t have the time for sin! You are really “dead” to that old way of thinking and behaving!
Can you see areas in your life where those old temptations just don’t trip you up anymore? Those are the places where you really have become “dead” to sinful behavior and “alive” in Christ!