The USCCB daily readings over the last two days have given me occasion to stray from my meditations on words over the last posts and into the realm of sin and righteousness. Reading St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans I came across this passage: “I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin.”
As I continue to refine the story of how I came to make a lifetime commitment to Catholicism, it occurred to me that this passage would be a better heading for the section where I quote Ernest Becker’s “Man is a worm and food for worms.” If I haven’t made very much sense, up to this point, allow me to elaborate.
In that section, I describe how one of the central conflicts of human existence, or at least my existence, is reconciling our infinite minds with our finite bodies. I dwell on “man is a worm and food for worms” because it’s a useful description of the terror and ugliness of our finite existence on this earth. The Word, however, always has a way of communicate Truth in it’s entirety with more succinctness. In a single sentence, St. Paul, describes this central conflict better than I ever could.
I’m told in the notes of my New Oxford Annotated Bible, that “[St.] Paul speaks not of two different laws, but of God’s law experienced under two opposing dominions, of sin and of righteousness.” Another way to say this is that the flesh or the “spirit of death” is the dominion of sin and the mind or the “Spirit of life” is the dominion of righteousness.
There’s a lot of wisdom in defining this central conflict of human existence in this way. I have always found the dirt of this life, which I have to consume and excrete, very confining. While I have to learn to find joy in that dirt, these Words from St. Paul seem to confirm to me that it is not wrong to be drawn to the dominion of the mind. I could just be reflecting my own shadows by writing that out, but it gives me great comfort this morning.
I also realized something else, this morning. As I reread my post on Psalm 19, I realized that I forgot to mention that the verse 19:15 are quoted in the song the “Rivers of Babylon.” I think 19:15 is easily going to become one of my favorite prayers, and I’d like to close all my public writings, starting with this one, in that way:
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, by acceptable in Thy sight.”