The word of the day is “hope.” In today’s reading, Paul describes the suffering of the world. He writes, “The whole creation groans…” (OSB vs. 22). Indeed, we hear the moans of the earth in the chronicles of destruction, disorder, and devastation of every newscast. According to the media, the earth is plunging into disaster without hope of recovery. Yet in today’s reading of Romans 8:22-27, Paul writes, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope… But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (OSB vs. 24). Today our reflection will encourage us to hope that the Almighty will deliver us and all creation from the spiritual corruption that enslaves the planet (vs. 20).
Our media treats us as spectators of the world’s struggles. But we are not immune from the earth’s suffering. All of us have a share of hardships and trials. Yet, our outlook is different than those who doubt that anything can correct the wayward course of the world.
The World’s Agonies Are Birth Pangs
Yes, we also mourn with the world as it staggers under the load of sinfulness and death. Yet Paul teaches us to view the agony of the world as the travails of childbirth. We do not despair because we believe that good will be born from this present evil.
Thus Paul proclaims, “We were saved in this hope” (Romans 8:24). What hope? Paul answers that it is the hope of the “redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). Remember that the apostle has cried out, “Who will save me from this body of sin” (Romans 7:24)? The apostle was referring to the body that is corrupted by death and weakened by sin.
We find in today’s reading that the answer to Paul’s cry is not the destruction of the body. It is the body’s “ransom,” its liberation from its captivity to sin and death. That release from the bondage to mortality and decay will occur when “…the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable [body] must be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal [body] with immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52b-53).
The Birth of a New Being
When the Lord raises our bodies to incorruption and immortality, our “adoption” as sons and daughters of God will be complete. The pangs we are now suffering will give birth to a “new being,” a resurrected spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44) that God will adopt as His own everlasting child. When we reach that state of divine adoption, the entire earth will benefit from our redemption. When the Almighty frees our bodies from corruption, God will deliver the whole creation from its present bondage to decay and death.
In this hope, we have two divine gifts to fortify and comfort us in our present distress. The first is the down payment on our hope, the Holy Spirit. And second is the gift of prayer. These two aids come together in St. Paul’s thought that the Holy Spirit prays for us (Romans 8:27) and in us (Galatians 4:6).
With the help of prayer and the Spirit, we now have a part to play in the saving work of God. The apostle writes that our role is to wait with patience for the fulfillment of our salvation in Christ. The word that The Orthodox Study Bible translates as “perseverance” is derived from the literal sense of “abiding under.” That is, it is patience and endurance (Strong’s #5281, 259-60). Our “synergy,” our cooperation with God’s redeeming action, is to offer the world our hope in the midst of its hopelessness and the persistence of our faith amid its pervasive despair.
Certainly, we must do what we can to “make the world a better place.” But to cure the world of its corruption and to free the world from its subjection to sin and death is not within our power. On this earth, we must endure rather than conquer. But we should not persevere in resignation but in hope of the transformation of ourselves and the world into the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1).