In our first reading, St. Paul, spoke to the baptized Christians in Colossae. He told them that to be true to their baptisms, they must put to death the parts of them that are earthy. He said that included passion, evil desires and greed.
As Christianity moved into the Second Century, the Church was demanding a most thorough preparation for baptism. It was geared toward preparing converts to submit to cruel tests of the faith. Most families had members who had been thrown to the lions or who had been decapitated rather than deny their complete allegiance to Christ.
How different is the church we grew up in? We had priests available for confession every Saturday. It made it easy for us to regularly fall and rise. But, it wasn’t always the case. In the first three centuries private confession was not available to those who fell from grace. Many Christians turned away from Pope Calixtus after he began giving absolution to people guilty of adultery.
In the last major persecution of Christians, that of Emperor Diocletian in 303, everyone in the Roman Empire was obliged to publically offer incense to the Roman gods. Failure to do so was punishable by death. Many Christians fled to the wilderness, staying there until the emperor died two years later. Other Christians, though, offered the incense with their fingers crossed. However, they were later totally rejected by those who fled to the hills. For the next century the descendants of those who burned incense were still rejected.
That was too severe, but it points out how terribly lax we are. To what degree have our lives followed Paul’s advice of totally putting to death the parts of us that are earthly, and not at all heavenly? Have we forgotten the fidelity to God that should be part of our lives as Christians?
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