Monday, August 6, 2012

More of Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

Yesterday's second reading in the Catholic church included the following lines from Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

"that you should put away the old self of your former way of life...
...and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and put on the new self,
created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth."

Father Ray pointed out some interesting things about this reading.  First, I'm not quoting verbatim here, but he sort of described Paul as writing the first "self improvement" book.  He talked about the number of books that can be bought and how much money we all pay to read about ways to improve ourselves.  We must be hungering for something.  I'm not different from everyone else in that respect.  I wouldn't need to "nourish the soul" if I were not hungering for something.  And as yesterday's post showed, I also need to nourish the body and even write about that process sometimes.  The part of Paul's letter that we listened to yesterday (4:17, 20-24) was clearly about how to become something new.  

Father Ray also made sure to point out the language of the reading.  It is not about getting rid of one's old self.  It is not about removing one's  old self.  It is not about destroying one's  old self.  It is about putting away one's old self.  Of course, putting away one's old self and "putting on" one's new self implies that we can take the new self off and pull the old self out of the closet.  As I sit here and write, I see that it really all comes back to the Serenity Prayer once again.  I need to have the courage to change the things that I can.  It doesn't mean that things will change right away.  It doesn't mean that I will break any old bad habit the first time I try.  There may even be a series of (to be cliche) one step forward-two steps back issues along the way.  

The key is simply that I have to realize that change is a willful act.  That I can pray all I want for help from God but that without some of my own willpower, some of my own direction, some of my own hope and faith, I will never change.  And it is only as I change that my true self will come out.  Father Ray didn't joke about it as if it were a Dr. Seuss book, but I can imagine, "Take off the old self, Put on the new self, New self--true self, That is the real self, Keep it off the shelf, Keep it on, Keep it on, At dusk and at dawn, Through prayer and thanksgiving, As long as you are living, Be new, Be true, Be you!"  

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