In the first reading today, St. Paul talks about the importance of fulfilling our state in life. He writes, “Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” This term, “state in life,” refers first to our vocations as married, single, or religious and then also to the duties we have in fulfilling this vocation, as a mother, father, daughter, son, or so forth, and also in the work we undertake to support ourselves and our families. St. Paul is reminding us of the importance of fulfilling these basic duties that we have determined to do or that have been determined by God’s will over the course of the events of our life. Fulfilling these duties of our state in life becomes an essential part of how we fulfill God’s will for our lives and pursue holiness.
Holiness is not found only in achieving great works or in religious vocations, but is something God desires for each and every one of us in the myriad of circumstances in which He has planted us. In today’s Gospel, our Lord says, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Fulfilling our state in life gives us the chance each day to die to ourselves, to sacrifice our own wills and what we would prefer to do in serving others.
The message of today’s epistle and gospel, though, is not just self-help advice. The point is not just that we should perform our duties. Rather, our Lord wants us to know that when we perform these duties of our life, we have the opportunity to participate in His death and resurrection and thus to merit to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. St. Paul writes, “The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” When we do good deeds (in this case, fulfilling our state in life) as an offering to God, He, through the power of His grace, works through our actions to bring even more good out of them.
This is a great example of how the Christian life is, to all appearances, much like worldy life, yet at its core is much different. One very early Christian author noted that Christians dressed the same, ate the same, and held the same jobs as other people, yet there was something very different about them. They were more concerned about the poor than their own material well-being, they regarded no person as better than another, they lived chastely, and they faithfully gathered together on the Lord’s Day. Christians live in the world, but we are not of the world. While we must do many of the same tasks as all people, we do them in such a way that sets us apart, offering them to God and carrying them out with diligence, because, in St. Paul’s words, God loves a cheerful giver. When we offer our life’s work to God in this way, He multiplies our good efforts and makes them bear spiritual fruit in our lives.
Written for the radio show “Readings and Reflections” on Redeemer Radio. Originally aired August 10.