The first passage for today comes from the Prophet Baruch:
27 “‘Yet thou hast dealt with us, O Lord our God, in all thy kindness and in all thy great compassion, 28 as thou didst speak by thy servant Moses on the day when thou didst command him to write thy law in the presence of the people of Israel, saying, 29 “If you will not obey my voice, this very great multitude will surely turn into a small number among the nations, where I will scatter them. 30 For I know that they will not obey me, for they are a stiff-necked people. But in the land of their exile they will come to themselves, 31 and they will know that I am the Lord their God. I will give them a heart that obeys and ears that hear; 32 and they will praise me in the land of their exile, and will remember my name, 33 and will turn from their stubbornness and their wicked deeds; for they will remember the ways of their fathers, who sinned before the Lord. 34 I will bring them again into the land which I swore to give to their fathers, to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, and they will rule over it; and I will increase them, and they will not be diminished. 35 I will make an everlasting covenant with them to be their God and they shall be my people; and I will never again remove my people Israel from the land which I have given them.”
I came across this passage during my review of the Old Testament. It drew my attention because of the language at the end- that of an everlasting covenant, and the people Israel not being removed from the land. It occurred to me that the prophet Baruch here was presaging the new Covenant of Jesus, and the New Israel in the form of the Church. He surely wasn’t speaking of the descendants of Judah, or at least them alone and in total, given how many didn’t reform their lives.
Speaking of reforming one’s life, a key step to that is living by the Spirit. St. Paul explains for us how we are to live:
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.
What is important about this passage is that it presents a clear choice: our lives are either guided by the desires of the flesh, or by the desires of the Spirit. There is no “Third Way.” No neutrality. Our Lord and Savior explained this to us as well:
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
We have two masters we can serve: God, or the Adversary. And it is our choice whom to serve:
Do not say, “Because of the Lord I left the right way”;
for he will not do what he hates.
12 Do not say, “It was he who led me astray”;
for he had no need of a sinful man.
13 The Lord hates all abominations,
and they are not loved by those who fear him.
14 It was he who created man in the beginning,
and he left him in the power of his own inclination.
15 If you will, you can keep the commandments,
and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.
16 He has placed before you fire and water:
stretch out your hand for whichever you wish.
17 Before a man are life and death,
and whichever he chooses will be given to him.
18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is mighty in power and sees everything;
19 his eyes are on those who fear him,
and he knows every deed of man.
20 He has not commanded any one to be ungodly,
and he has not given any one permission to sin.
We all face this choice. Whether or not we recognize it, we are given ample opportunity to serve either master. Given the consequences which will result from this choice, we would all do well to choose wisely.