Grace to you!
Yesterday, we reflected on Philippians 2:12-18 where Saint Paul reminded us to do our part (work) in response to the grace we have received. In today’s reflection, the apostle talks to his beloved Church of the Philippians as he talks to us about the need that our renewal will spring from within the heart, not just be a mere physical mark or ritual.
You may have noticed that after baptism, or after the reception of any sacrament, nothing changes in our physical appearance. We still look the same. Our color and facial appearances look the same. We have the same feelings and emotions we use to have. Yet something has changed from within. The power of God’s grace changes us from the inside. We become new persons (2 Cor 5:17).
Whenever we truly receive the Lord, such as when we receive him in the Eucharist in a worthy manner, we are renewed from within. Conversion, inner transformation of the heart or deeper life in Christ, is what circumcision means for the Christian believer.
We are born again through baptism. Baptism essentially gives us the first gift of faith. It is through this faith, born in the heart, that one is born anew in Christ. This is in line with what Saint Paul was talking about while writing to the Philippians (3:1-8).
Some early Christian believers who were members of Judaism had insisted that physical circumcision is necessary for one to be saved. They were trying to impose the Jewish ritual on Christians and by so doing forcing others who weren’t Jews to practice the Jewish rite of initiation as if it were an essential Christian faith requirement. By so doing, they miss the point of the ritual of circumcision which, in the Christian way of understanding, is a physical sign of one’s willingness to follow and obey God’s ordinances (metanoia—conversion). They forget that though the ritual was prescribed in Gen 17:10, God’s word has also pointed to its central meaning in Deuteronomy 10:16 and Jeremiah 4:4. It is the renewal of the heart (circumcision of the heart).
Sometimes, in our worship and practice we do similar things to others who aren’t members of our culture or unique ways of prayer/worship. The point is that in many of our private spiritual exercises or prayers, for us to live the faith in greater fervor it has to reflect our true selves renewed from within.
As Saint Paul said, we are not circumcised according to the flesh. We are “circumcised of Christ” (Phil 3:11). In another place he called it “circumcision of the heart in the spirit” (Rm 2:29). Such a circumcision is not concerned with external or physical conditions to faith life to the detriment of the Spirit. Rather, it measures the physical based on what God has granted us in the Spirit.
So, in my spiritual life, how do I measure my faith life? Is it my physical observances that tell me how holy I have become or my deeper, spiritual renewal that informs my physical practices?
I pray that in all our religious observances, we be renewed from within, so our words and actions will be enlivened by the power of God. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday Week 31 Ordinary Time: Phil 3:3-8; Lk 15:1-10]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.