Fr. Dale Matson
Putting On Our New Self
My homily is based on our Epistle and Gospel Lessons. Let me begin with our Epistle reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians but I want to back up a bit to provide a better context to what Paul is saying.
Therefore, generally follows a previous statement yet we have our reading beginning with Therefore. Therefore, I want to go back a few verses to make sense of what follows in our reading. Our reading starts with Chapter 4 verse 25 but I want to begin with verse 21.
“Assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, [Where does renewal take place? It takes place in our minds.] Our thinking is changed. As we are sanctified (made holy) by the inworking of the Holy Spirit, we change the way we see the world. At one time I thought abortion was a reasonable solution to overpopulation. When I returned to Christ in later life it became obvious to me how wrong it was to take the life of an unborn child. 24 and to put on the new self [in verse 22 Paul states to put off the old self], created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. So the converted thief goes from taking from others to giving to others. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
At this point I want to talk further about both the cognitive (the way we think) and the affective (the way we feel) issues Paul is discussing. In verse 23 he talks about being renewed in your mind. Paul discusses the renewing of your mind often and it is an important topic. For example, we have these verses also.
1. Romans 12:2-4 English Standard Version (ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, [a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
2. Philippians 2:5 King James Version (KJV) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
3. 1 Corinthians 2:16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
We think differently because we are gradually taking on our Savior Christ’s way of thinking. This is brought about by the witness of God the Holy Spirit. We hear the Spirit’s voice in what I would call our 3rd ear. The Spirit speaks to us as we listen to our brothers and sisters. The Holy Spirit speaks to us as we read Scripture and the Spirit speaks to us as we go about the activities of daily living commonly called the ADLs. Paul said in verse 29 that as we talk to our brothers and sisters, we are administering grace to them.
In verse 30 Paul talks about the danger of grieving the Holy Spirit. Paul talks elsewhere of quenching the Holy Spirt. In the latter case, think of God The Holy Spirit as a fire within us and quenching the Holy Spirit means doing things that would put out this fire. We think a lot about this with all the wildfires going on around us but in the case of the Holy Spirit, it is not a good thing.
The Holy Spirit is a Person and only a person can be grieved. In verse 31 Paul gives examples of ways we grieve the Spirit. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor (uproar) and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Let’s talk about anger more since Paul mentions it twice. The first time he states “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Here is a public confession. Most of the time when I am angry, it is a self-righteous anger. Someone stepped on my ego. How often have we sinned because of our anger? It happens but as mature Christians we realize that being angry with someone makes us crazy inside. It really does give a place for the devil. But Paul finishes this verse with “…don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Anger can become a mood and a mood can become a disposition and a disposition can overwhelm a personality. I believe our brother Gary referred to me as “crabby”. I can be crabby and Gary can be good at bringing this crabby part of me out, especially when he says to me after most of my homilies, “Nice speech Padre.”
In the Epistle of James, it states “My dear brothers, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:20) Some folks use their anger as a means of controlling others. When I was younger, bigger and stronger I would answer someone, who was angry with me with even more anger. It was like an emotional poker game with me willing to up the ante. Often now I think of the phrase from Proverbs (15:1). “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” It is absolutely true. What is it going to be for you the next time? Will it be a soft answer or a harsh answer? We are called to be peacemakers but the choice is really yours.
When high carbon steel is treated for making tools, it is both hardened and tempered in a multistep process. The steel is hardened against wear, such as the tip of a screw driver, by heating and quick cooling. The problem is that while it is hard, the tip is also brittle. The screwdriver tip is then reheated and allowed to cool at a slower rate to temper it so that it is not brittle.
When we become angry, it is called losing our temper. Like steel our temper is that quality which makes us strong but not brittle. For me, there is something about love which makes me see things so much differently and in a less threatening way. Love is the virtuous temper in temperament. Anger is that which distorts my thinking so much that rational thought or speech escapes me. It is as if the pilot light is always lit on my anger too. It is one of my primary faults and even at a lower temperature, sarcasm and impatience flows. Being cut off in traffic is a quick source of anger for me but less likely if I have allowed plenty of time to get to my destination.
Is there righteous anger? Yes, Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple and there is no doubt he was angry when he did it. It was described as zeal for his father’s house. When we see an injustice, anger may motivate the righting of a wrong. We must be careful not to become angry on behalf of someone who does not see themselves threatened or angry. It would be a signal that we too easily look for opportunities to be angry. Are we putting ourselves in situations that lead to resentment simply because we refuse to construct personal boundaries? Are we trying to prove to ourselves that others are not trustworthy?
I honestly believe that anger is a symptom of a deeper problem of fear and fear is a response to an even more basic problem of mistrust. Jesus said we should be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Wisdom and innocence for me translate to trust with discernment. This is not being gullible and easily taken in. As I reflect on this, the roots of anger can be deep within the individual. Some have been deeply disappointed in a period of life when they were totally dependent on others. This is an emotional bruising and makes it difficult for some Christians to trust even God. It is the theological virtue of love that can mend this torn fabric of trust. A failure to trust is a failure to love.
“There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18)
I would like to examine our Gospel lesson in order to understand better, the relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Who reveals the Father? Answer, the Son but who reveals the Son?
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is? “They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. “Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17)
Peter’s confession indicates that it is the Father that reveals the Son.
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
So, what does the Holy Spirit do? From our Gospel Lesson today we hear this. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. So, it is the Holy Spirit that Sanctifies, teaches us and Glorifies Jesus Christ. (John 16:12). In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.