‘Put to death, therefore, your members which are on the earth’

17 January 2023

Today’s Epistle reading deals with life and death. Not the life and death of a particular person, but with the life of Christ and the death of who we were.

Beginning with the words of Christ that he himself is our life, Saint Paul explains to the Christians of the Church of the Colossians, and through them to Christians throughout the ages, how they can become sharers in the life of Christ, how they can take Christ’s life. ‘Put to death your members which are on earth’. This, my brothers and sisters, is the way that the epistle points to. ‘Put to death your members which are on earth’, is what he says.

This is the way for Saint Paul. This is the requirement if Christ is to give us his life. It may seem paradoxical, but it’s the truth declared by Christ and his apostle.

The life of Christ isn’t the life given to us by God when we come into the world. This life is the merest smidgeon of the life for which God created us, i.e. eternal life, the life of which we were deprived when our first ancestors disobeyed God’s commandment and he allowed death to enter our lives so that the evil wouldn’t last forever. The life of Christ is what gives us the opportunity to become sharers in eternal life, provided we experience it during our life on earth. And since we can’t live two lives at the same time- our own life and that of Christ- Saint Paul calls upon us to deliberately deny our own, in order to live that of Christ.

Naturally, he doesn’t require  us to die, but to put to death our members on earth, that is to say those features of our life which prevent us from living the life of Christ. He doesn’t ask us to put to death the human members which the Lord gave us to serve our needs, to communicate with others and to enjoy the nature given us by God. He asks us to put to death, to extinguish, expunge and root out everything that prevents us experiencing the life of Christ; everything that’s an obstacle to the life of Christ being born in us and existing within us. This means our passions and weaknesses, our faults and badness, the sinful desires and wicked thoughts which preoccupy our mind and soul. It’s all those things which take over our inner person and prevent Christ from abiding within us, regenerating our soul and life. It’s all those things which are firmly opposed to Christ’s presence  within us, because they don’t want to lose the predominance they enjoy. It’s everything that attempts to separate us from God, instead of impelling us towards good, instead of urging us to live in accordance with his commandments. They try to lure us into spiritual lethargy and sloth. They try to convince us that it doesn’t matter if we’re not too observant as regards the teachings of the Gospel and the Church; that it doesn’t matter if we neglect our obligations towards God; if we break his commandments; if we do the opposite to what God wants and what he teaches.

All of this, my brothers and sisters, prevents the life of Christ from being born within our soul. This is why Saint Paul urges us to put all of it to death, so that we can become sharers in the life of Christ. We have to put all of these things to death before they do the same to our soul and bring us to spiritual death and the loss of eternal life. We must put them to death before we reach the end of our earthly life, so that we, too, may be permitted, as sharers in the life of Christ, to become inheritors of his eternal life.