I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
Jesus also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain;' and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat;' and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
"And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I ell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny."
Hope is the most difficult major virtue to appreciate and to practice, since in many ways Faith and Love are more obvious. Doctrinal faith can be clarified by studying the Bible and Church documents, while love can clearly be practiced (or not) in our response to the obvious needs of our neighbour. Of the three great virtues, Hope is perhaps the most intangible.
In today's Romans text Paul offers an existential view of hope. The challenges of life are viewed not in calm detachment as though from a distance but from inside, from within his own heart. Paul was a gifted and creative apostle, but also a thorny character for many, especially for Peter and the Jewish Christians. Sometimes he feels frustrated and despondent. At other times he reacts so impulsively that his actions seem to be done against his own will. Paul agonizes at length over this situation: "My inner self agrees with the law of God, but I see in myself another law at war with the law of my mind." This leads him to the impassioned cry, "What a wretch I am. Who can free me from this body under the power of death?"
Self-criticism need not end up in futile moaning but can blossom into an act of thanksgiving, "All praise to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Paul is candidly aware of being conflicted, confused, caught between his ideals and the ever-present danger of arrogance and pride.
Today's gospel shows how impulsiveness can be turned into a necessary virtue. Some chances do not come a second time, and our failure to rise to an occasion could mean losing a golden opportunity. Some graces belong to the day and the hour, the kairos, a favourite biblical term. Kairos is not just an ordinary moment like any other in the long sequence of time (chronos) but a very special moment with vital implications. The moment must be seized, for the sake of love and fidelity. The stakes are high, and not to decide is itself a negative decision.
We tend to talk a lot about the weather in Ireland. We find it a useful thing to talk about when there's nothing much else to say. Because our weather is so variable, there is always something to say about it. It has either been raining or is raining or is about to rain. Even when it doesn't rain for days we consider it worthy of comment.
It seems that Jesus' contemporaries sometimes talked about the weather too. They knew if rain was coming from the direction of the wind; they were able to read the face of the earth and the sky. Our Lord wondered why they were unable to read the times they were living in. They failed to recognize from what He was saying and doing that God was moving among them in a special way. We too can be very aware of the ways of the weather but not so aware of the ways that the Lord is present to us and moving among us. Jesus promised us that he would be with us always until the end of time. The signs of his presence can be subtle and non-dramatic, but, nonetheless, very real. We pray today for the eyes to see the ways the Lord is present to us, especially in and through those whom we meet in the course of our day.