Scripture:We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. (Romans 14:7-9)
Reflection:In Pauline thought, individual isolation cannot exist. Paul understands that there is but one body of Christ, composed of many members. Each member has been given a gift for the good of the whole body. That is why he writes to the Romans, telling them it doesn’t matter if one is alive or dead; he or she belongs to the Lord. Nothing can separate a person from the love of God. Therefore, there is no reason to worry about the living or the dead. Through baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ, a person is incorporated in the body of Christ, and nothing – not even death – can separate or isolate one from the body. Therefore, there is no need to worry, because both the living and the dead are linked in an inseparable bond through Jesus Christ, the Lord.
It is impossible for a member of the body of Christ to live only for himself or herself or to die only for himself or herself. A spirituality of mission should be focused on the common good, not on the individual’s good alone. Instead of asking, How will this affect me? a person immersed in the body of Christ first asks, How will this affect others? Is this good for the whole body? The former question leads to isolation. The later questions lead to community.
Paul’s words serve as an antidote in a culture of selfishness. If a person begins with the common good, he or she will make decisions that are different than if the person begins with himself or herself. Instead of considering it OK to drive a car and text, the person who begins with the common good would never think of endangering the lives of others or his or her own by not being attentive to the road. Instead of slowing down when seeing a police car parked along the road or the street, a parent who begins with the common good will always drive the speed limit in order not to teach his or her children that it is OK to speed as long as the driver does not get caught. Such programs as neighborhood watch or neighborhood patrol begin with the common good for a neighborhood; those who participate submit their individual concerns to that of the community. A spirituality of mission teaches that there is no need to worry because the common good trumps the individual’s good.
Journal/Meditation: What difference does living for the common good make in your life? In what instance have you sacrificed what was good for you for the good of the community?
Prayer:Ever-Living God, your Son died and you raised him from the dead so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Keep me focused on the common good, the body of Christ, so that I might live and die for him, who is Lord forever and ever. Amen.