Freedom That Flows From an Obedient Heart
“We are slaves to our vices; freedom is found in goodness” ~ Saint Augustine of Hippo
Over the course of his storied career, Bob Dylan has had dalliances with Christianity from time to time, telling a reporter back in 2001 that “I believe the whole Bible” this despite being born into Judaism (his real last name is Zimmerman).
In the interview, he went on to say that he has always had a God-given sense of destiny and that playing music is what he was put on Earth to do. Nowhere is Dylan’s recognition of the divine more notable than on his iconic album “Slow Train Coming,” which was released in August of 1979. One track in particular comes to mind, a song entitled “Gotta Serve Somebody” wherein Dylan opens with this verse:
”You may be an ambassador to England or France. You may like to gamble, you might like to dance. You may be the heavyweight champion of the world. You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls, but you're gonna have to serve somebody. Indeed you're gonna have to serve somebody. Well it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody.”
Saint Paul in our 1st Reading today (Romans 6:12-18) shares the same sentiment. He knows that we are all bound to serve somebody. So with that in mind, he urges us to present ourselves ~ by our own choice mind you ~ as “slaves of righteousness,” explaining that God’s grace not only trumps sin, but the very law itself. He speaks of an obedience of heart that we must all strive to attain, for in doing so we break the shackles of sin that would otherwise prevail in our lives.
Now of course Paul is not promoting lawlessness. He goes on to say as much in this passage (6:15). But he knows that adherence to Jewish Law would not result in the salvation of a single soul. This is why grace supersedes the law; it is an eternal gift freely given by God through his son Jesus that opens the door to those things that are lasting, those things that are virtuous and wrought with goodness.
An obedient heart is one which bears the fruits of the Holy Spirit, for it has been fueled and nurtured by the very gifts of the Spirit. As Paul teaches us (Galatians 5:22) “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.” Once again, I draw your attention to the final sentence of this passage.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans is considered by many Biblical Scholars to be his penultimate work. Over the last 10 days or so we have read from it during the celebration of the Daily Mass and we will continue to do so throughout the remainder of the month, apart from a few exceptions. I would urge you to read a passage or two from it every day for the next few days and to encourage your friends, Christian or otherwise, to do the same. Resonating throughout this letter is the notion that serving God freely is one of the greatest gifts we can offer him.
......a gift that brings with it a heavenly return.