Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Saint Paul astutely observes that when we commit sin, we receive wages. In fact, it seems that when we do things for ourselves, we often demand a wage. It seems a basic requirement of justice that we receive a wage for our work. This has its place: for example, it is especially pressing, if one is raising a family, that one receive wages for work that one can use to provide for one’s children. Such work, motivated out of love for others, deserves its wage. Here, though, Paul speaks of the wages of sin. It is interesting that, if we reflect on our lives, we demand compensation for our work even (perhaps especially) when it is not done out of love. Are we not angry when we think that we’ve outsmarted everyone else (perhaps trying to “jump the line” or get some special privilege) only to discover that we have not only not obtained the advantage that we hoped for, but in fact find ourselves at a greater disadvantage? Perhaps we find ourselves even angrier in such situations than we would be if we had just followed the rules. We go and demand our “rights” (which, in this case, might actually be an undue privilege). And if we get these “rights,” we might go home self-satisfied, thinking that we have gotten our due. But this due does not truly satisfy us and we end up more agitated than we were before. For anyone who earnestly discerns spirits as a form of Christian discipleship—as opposed to “discernment” as a type of self-seeking path to “peace” and “fulfillment”—none of this should be surprising. After all, as Paul says, the wages of sin is death. We demand our wages and presume that “fulfillment” for which we have sinned will be a life better than what love would have given us, but it is actually death.
What is the life that love would have given us? It may seem ordinary, maybe even boring, when compared to the fast-paced life of sin. But the fabulous life of a sinner is far more boring than the hidden life of love and duty lived by the Mother of the Lord. The key thing to note, though, is that in today’s reading from Paul, love does not demand a wage. Rather, it gratefully receives whatever free gifts love offers, and does not see them as deserved. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”