I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us... We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:18.22-23)
This week marks the second of four consecutive Sundays that we read from the eighth chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. Last week I attempted a detailed exegesis of the second reading. Today I simply want to focus on something that is rather obvious- that redemption/sanctification is a process. It is Paul's concern throughout the eighth chapter of Romans to highlight the indispensable role suffering plays in what God is doing in our individual lives and in the collective life of Christ's Body, the Church. To avoid the pitfalls of late modern theodicy, God does not cause us to suffer, that is, inflict suffering upon us, in order to test and perfect us. The unavoidable consequences of life as a sinner in a fallen world takes care of that for us. Neither do we need to go in search of opportunities to suffer, inflicting it on ourselves, as it were. But realistically, how else do we overcome our fallen-ness if not through experience?
Furthermore, these groans within ourselves, Paul tells us, looking ahead a few verses, express the depths of our hearts. As we groan inwardly, the Spirit comes to our assistance, just as we implore at the beginning of each liturgical hour of prayer when we say, "O, God, come to my assistance. Lord make haste to help me." The Spirit, the apostle tells us, "comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings" (Rom. 8:26).
"And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will" (Rom. 8:27).