Romans 8:35, 37-39

My reading for today’s mass is about looking beyond obstacles that separate one from peace and harmony.

Brothers and sisters:

What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The charge to overcome adversity and obtain the Enlightenment of heaven and salvation is the main theme of Christianity overall, and at the center for all the the Church’s teachings of conduct and philosophy. We are goal-oriented animals, surely: without the objective to acquire a greater height, we would find no motivation to stretch our wings. Yet, sometimes it seems we act against ourselves, preventing ourselves from reaching our goals by creating obstacles, complicating our path, and rejecting things that will make us happy. This doesn’t need to be about religion or God; people do this to themselves all the time, despite religious beliefs. I know I am guilty of making things difficult for myself and for others, sometimes finding myself stuck in a spiraling vortex, ver plunging downward from my insistence on being miserable. That’s personal, but it’s personal for a lot of people.

Something I find really interesting about this reading is in the last paragraph, where the readers are soothed that not even angels can keep God’s love away. This statement demonstrates the sometimes incongruity (or maybe its elegant discord) between the Old Testament and the New Testament: in the Book of Genesis, when God expelled Adam and Eve from Eden as punishment for their disobedience, he placed a seraph at the gates to paradise to block their way so that they could never return. He armed the seraph with a flaming sword and sent Adam and Eve far away.

The Expulsion of Adam and Eve, Michelangelo (1512), Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

But, in this epistle to the Romans from St. Paul, we are told that seraphim and angels are not obstacles to reaching God and obtaining peace and paradise with Him. They are listed among those things we are told we can overcome. What is the message here? If God has placed this obstacle between us and paradise, but then we are told we cannot be thwarted by these obstacles, are we meant to transgress (again) against God’s wishes? Perhaps the seraph at the gate to paradise with the flaming sword is a manifestation of the actions and deeds of Adam and Eve, perhaps God did not place this deadly angel in their way back, but instead provided an inescapable emblem of their own rejection of God’s grace and harmony. These are the natural consequences of sin. Yet, we shall not succumb to our own imperfections and misdeeds. God is ready to accept us back, always, as long as we are willing to surmount the challenges we have created for ourselves.

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