|Today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans, reminded me of my Ignatian Pilgrimage and the time we spent, while in Rome, visiting the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Tradition holds that this church was built on St. Paul’s burial site. The Basilica we visited was opened in 1840 after a fire, in 1823, destroyed the original structure. My reminiscing led me to recall that the Apostle Paul wrote his Letter to the Romans before visiting that Christian community and while they were suffering under Emperor Claudius. Paul’s Letter was intended to offer comfort and reassurance and a reminder of God’s love. Next, I wondered how Romans 8:31B – 39, might be applied to me.
St. Paul assures us that “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,” is capable of separating us from God. Still, there is one thing that can separate me from God – free will. I can freely turn to God for everything, or I can go my own way. I have the power to reject God, but as a person of faith, I do not perceive this as a rational choice. However, by including the Examen in my daily prayer, I know I make decisions without first consulting God.
When facing something new, or the need to make changes, my default response is, “How am I going to handle this?” As a student of Ignatian Spirituality, I know my starting point should be, “God, how are we going to handle this?” Our culture often says to me that I should be able to make decisions without asking for help. That mindset is foreign to what God wants. God is delighted when I ask for help, and Paul reminds me in Romans 8:34, Jesus Christ will also intercede, if I ask.
I experience Jesus as advocating for me in two ways. First, from Paul’s writing, “He is seated at the right hand of God who indeed intercedes for us,” and secondly, through Gospel examples of Jesus living for God. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus repeatedly shows a preferential concern for the marginalized (women, the poor, the outcast, the sinner, and the afflicted) and anyone that recognizes their dependence on God. He is also compassionate and caring while he keeps his focus on serving God. An example of this is His refusal to listen to the Pharisees’ suggestion to flee from Herod but instead stands firm in his conviction to go to Jerusalem, even though He knows this will involve suffering as Jesus states, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you.”
The Letter to the Romans and the reading from the Gospel of Luke set the tone for how I should treat others and how I should live. That is, I should show compassion and concern, especially for the marginalized, and when making decisions start with, “God, how are we going to handle this?” No matter what I encounter, if I use my free will to remain centered on God, nothing has the power to separate my soul from its destiny to be with God.