This plight will be familiar to anyone who’s ever found himself unable to put down the ice cream container, or stick to one cocktail, or stop herself from telling someone else’s secret… we know what “right” is in most circumstances, and sometimes we just watch ourselves walk right over to the “wrong” side of town. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
Paul sees two forces at work in himself, two competing laws – the law of God, or spirit, and the law of the mind, or “flesh.” Describing the turmoil wrought by the effort to navigate these skirmishes, he ends up with a cry from the heart we’ve all felt at some point or other:
His answer is close at hand: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
God’s power is right here – power to resist evil, turn away from temptation, turn to life instead of death. The only thing we need do is invoke the power of God: "Jesus, be here now!” That was my prayer once when I’d fallen down a flight of stairs; it should be my prayer every time I struggle with choosing the best course. As any recovering addict will tell you, will power doesn't get us very far; surrender to help allows us to go the distance.
Let’s not forget the loving invitation we’ve been looking at from our Gospel reading this week:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Turning toward Jesus, calling on the power of the Holy Spirit to fill and transform our desires gets easier the more we do it. It takes awhile for anything to become habitual, but with practice, this can become our first response. Just as oxen that are yoked to a cart have to travel together, spirits that are yoked to Christ no longer try to go their separate ways.