Grace to you!
A woman was uneasy reading Romans 6, where Saint Paul talks about believers being “slaves of righteousness” (vs. 18). Such a concept seems inappropriate she said, given the reality of the terrible memories of slavery and all sorts of slave labor in our world.
Honestly, I was uncomfortable with the concept myself. Years back, whenever we had bible study around such concepts, I felt unequipped to contribute. Nevertheless, God has a way of teaching us, to see in our unique ways what He is communicating to us through His Word.
My first insight into a different understanding came through the reading of True Devotion to Mary by Louis Marie De Montfort. I highly recommend this book for those who wish to develop the kind of Maria spirituality that is solidly built on Christ himself in the most intimate way of a mother-child relationship. It’s not a fluffy read though, and some of the content may sound shocking, and may challenge you even more.
I found that Saint Montfort took the idea of slavery of righteousness and called it holy slavery (slave of love) in which someone would be willing to offer oneself, one’s life and will to Jesus through Mary. The person does so, not out of compulsion, but willingly and intentionally, so that even when the person isn’t thinking about it, the merits of their good works, like sweet fragrances, are dispensed for many in need. There is much more to this idea than I can describe in this reflection.
The most shocking of the discovery I made was to realize that one could as well be completely detached from one’s virtuous acts in such a way the person asks Mother Mary to be the one who is to dispose of them for the intention of the Son. This made matters worse for me.
Then I started to read the lesser version of the same Marian spirituality, 33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC. The book brings together four great examples of Marian spirituality, which are solidly Christ-centered, in dialogue with each other. They include the models of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Theresa of Calcutta and Pope Saint John Paul II. As I read this work, I started to gain more insight into the concept of “holy slavery.”
I went back again to read Romans 6. Then I began to feel a different way concerning the text. I saw what Saint Paul wrote as “slaves of righteousness” as an inspiring word to be what I'm made to be: Glorify God and love my neighbor as well as myself as I’m loved by God. None of which makes me less or subjugates me like a slave or makes me a prisoner of sin. Actually, justification makes us free to be free. Sounds like a tautology (repetition) or a play on words, but it isn't.
How free am I if I can’t live the ideal of my ultimate goal in life? How free am I if I can't live the life of one who has been set free? The grace of God gives me the inner strength to freely choose what is true, good and beautiful. I become so loyal to the cause of holiness like a bond-slave is loyal to his master. It is in the willful, unforced loyalty that this holy slavery lies.
So, what the Lord has done for us is liberating if we realize we are free to live to the fullest what is expected of our nature as humans. The opposite is slavery to what doesn't align with our calling. Such sinful behaviors, or unfreedom as St. Ignatius of Loyola calls it, actually lead to lack of fulfillment and salvation.
We may not need to travel too far to hear from addicts the pain it causes them not to become sober. If one is to be addicted, how about choose to be addicted to virtuous life. Such an addiction sounds liberating after all. Therefore, it isn’t an addiction but a chosen path of benediction.
I pray we live for why we are here. “For freedom, Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1), may we continue to celebrate it. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday Week 29 A: Rom 6:19-23; Lk 12:49-53]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural 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.