(Romans 12: 6-14)
The words that come to us from St. Paul, in today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans, serve as a guide for our daily lives. He encourages us to make good use of the gifts that God has given us, and shows us how to offer our love effectively, for the benefit of both ourselves and others.
It is often the case that we are faced with the temptation to envy others for their gifts, and complain to God, asking Him why He did not bless us in the same way. The Holy Apostle points out that the gifts we have differ, “according to the grace that is given to us" (verse 6). God gives us what we can handle. He knows what each of us need, what we can do with the gift, and how it will benefit us spiritually. How much God gives and how it is perceived by others is not important. What matters is what we do with what God has blessed us with. The Parable of the Talents is important to remember, as the lazy and cunning servant buried his talent (charisma) in the ground, rather than put it to use (see Matthew 25:14-30). St. Paul instructs us to use our gifts with simplicity, zeal, and kindness (see verse 6-8).
The passage then goes on, with St. Paul giving us wonderful suggestions in making use of our love to benefit all. These words provide a solid rule for Christian behavior:
"Let love be without hypocrisy."(verse 9): False love that is tainted by self-interest, empty promises, and hollow words is a mockery of the genuine love that Christ taught and manifested in His life.
-"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love,"(verse 10): As parents show spontaneous love to their child born of tenderness and a deep affection in their hearts, so too can we express such love to others. This is very different from the cold, obligatory “love” that we can show, fulfilling our “Christian duty.”
- “…in honor giving preference to one another" (verse 10): Let us be the first to express our gratitude and appreciation for others, not waiting for (or expecting) the same. St. John Chrysostom says that nothing else creates a close friendship more than trying be first in appreciating the other.
-“distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality” (verse 13): It happens often that we (or someone we know) can end up in great need. Whether it is from illness, unemployment, losing our homes or financial ruin, a person can find themselves destitute. We can be blind to the misery of others, and not understand their needs. Since they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be willing to help them as best we can.
St. Paul goes further in his reminding us that this love is not only for those close to us, but for our enemies as well. Our Lord spoke on this very point (see Matthew 5:44).
- "Bless those who persecute you ; bless and do not curse". (verse 14): It is truly difficult to think well of our persecutors, and be interested in their well-being. For those who have hurt us, lied to us, and taken from us. This is why we must submit ourselves fully to the will of Christ, and draw strength from His example. On the Cross, Our Lord prayed for His Father to forgive those who had crucified Him, blasphemed Him, and mocked Him (see Luke 23:34).
Finally, the Great Apostle has this to say:
-"rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;" (verse 12).
The great hope that Our Lord will fulfill all of His promises to those who look to Him, is nourishment in times of trial. This hope gives us joy and patience, as we face the struggle of living by His will every day. We can never forget that we do nothing on our own. This is why we can pray with a warm heart and certainty, that even if God seems late to us, His answer comes at the right time.
May the inspired words we heard today stay with us as we go forward in our lives. Amen.