Root out every source of life in the flesh

Kathleen Giffin


14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 6, 2014
Zechariah 9.9-10 | Psalm 145 | Romans 8.9, 11-13 | Matthew 11.25-30
June 23, 2014

The last few years I have had a "growing" problem in my garden. I have a larger than usual lot in town, with more flowerbeds than I actually have time to look after properly.

There are several beds of perennials further away from the house, on the edge of the property, that don't get the same level of attention as the ones next to the house. The result is that whatever weed issue those beds have tend to get more entrenched every year.

The worst of it now is the grass. One bed has fine grass growing up through the hens and chicks and underneath the juniper. Another has tall vigorous grass all along the back, next to the fence.

The last few years I've done a cosmetic job on them, periodically going through and pulling the worst of it so it doesn't show so much. But the roots remain and the roots spread when they are unchecked, resulting in a larger patch of grass each year.

If by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. - Romans 8.13

'If by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.'

Romans 8.13

I fear I am close to the tipping point, that critical place where it goes so far that it takes on a life of its own and becomes a dominant force.

That would not be a good thing so I am very aware I cannot continue to do cosmetic work on the problem. I must get to the roots, remove them and block access to further grass encroachment.

I don't imagine that people read the WCR to hear my gardening woes, so I do have a point to make. Paul's letter to the Romans contains strong language about the incompatibility of the spirit and the flesh.

He earlier describes the flesh as having the concern of "hostility to God, . . . not submitting to the law of God"; and then emphasizes that "if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

If we allow the tendency of the flesh to exist within us, then a self-interested hostility to God will eventually result in death. His solution: Put to death those deeds of the body, put to death that self-interested hostility to God.

Note he does not say "manage the consequences of the flesh," or "keep the evidence of the flesh under control so the neighbours don't see it." No, he says to put it to death.

It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words. As with so many other aspects of the spiritual life, the lessons of nature teach us and remind us of these spiritual truths.

Like my grass problem, I can manage the problem of the flesh for a few years in a careless fashion, a little indifferent to its effect on my spirit and what the long-term consequences might be. But inevitably some kind of a critical time will come, perhaps it could be called a crisis, or a tipping point, when I must attend to this enemy within.

(Kathleen Giffin