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By Virginia Smith

The Bible: Light to My Path

St. Anthony Messenger has invited several biblical experts to contribute to this column in 2002.  Each month, one author will choose a passage that comforts, challenges or seems neglected. He or she will explain how to apply this passage and connect it to everyday life. This month’s guide:

Virginia Smith is coeditor of and a frequent contributor to Scripture From Scratch, a monthly newsletter published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. God for Grownups, her first book, has just been released by Thomas More Publishing. It also addresses scriptural topics.

 

Q U I C K S C A N

Return to Sender
On the List
Biblical Background


None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.

Romans 14:7-8

 

Some years ago, as I was roamin’ through Romans, these two verses leaped off the page at me. As so often happens in my experience of God’s word, it seemed as though some crafty editor had managed to insert them into my Bible the previous night, the better to stun me the next day.

The more I pondered those brief sentences, the more convinced I became that the core of Christian belief is wrapped up in these two verses. They have remained a somewhat long-winded mantra for me ever since, so much so that I had the citation chiseled into a family headstone.

An older New American Bible translation renders the latter portion, “While we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die, we die as his servants. Both in life and in death we are the Lord’s.” What a sense of peace that provides!

All the pesky and, for the most part, petty problems that plague me fall away in the face of the bigger picture. My life is not really mine. I was specifically created by a loving God, provided with particular gifts and turned loose on an unsuspecting world.

Return to Sender

My responsibility is to return those gifts well used when this leg of the journey ends. If that’s a great comfort, it’s also a tremendous challenge.

It is my responsibility to “live for the Lord,” not just float through life without direction or purpose. If I do, I will have no reason for anxiety when it is time to “die for the Lord.” It will simply be time to retire from the job here in order to move into the more fulfilling life I’ve been working toward.

“Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” That has any other retirement plan I’ve ever read about bested completely. Simply put, we belong to God first, last and always. This God emerges from the pages of Scripture as good beyond equal, kind beyond measure, loving beyond reason.

On the List

Every November, the Church focuses our attention on “whether we live or die.” We honor all those saints who will never be canonized. Some of them we know personally.

In our parish during November, we post beautifully lettered lists on the inside back wall of the church. On those lists is the name of every person who has died over the parish’s half-century history.

As a former pastor pointed out, it isn’t as though these people were members of the parish; they are members of the parish. That’s what the Communion of Saints is all about.

One day at Mass, it occurred to me that, at that very moment, someone was being born and someone was dying.

We truly are just passing through, but it doesn’t much matter at which stage of the process we find ourselves or our loved ones at any particular time. “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

I can and should rise each morning I’m given and “live for the Lord,” knowing that whether I live to turn out the light that night or wrap up my earthly sojourn at some point during the day, I am the Lord’s. How is it possible to aspire to more than that?



Biblical Background

When Paul wrote to the fledgling Christian community in Rome around 57 or 58, he had yet to meet them but was most anxious to do so. This letter, by far the longest and most theological of the Pauline correspondence which remains available to us, may have been written by way of introduction. In it, Paul lays out the essence of his understanding of Jesus' teaching in some detail.

It is important to bear in mind that Paul's is often the first voice we hear on these matters since he wrote some years prior to the completion of the first Gospel. Even so, the questions, problems and uncertainties with which his early churches struggled are remarkably similar to our own.

 


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