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How to live soberly
The homily today is about the challenge to live a disciplined pray life. Going behind the Word unpacks what it means to live soberly.
Going Behind the Word
What does it mean to live soberly? The American Heritage Dictionary offers one definition for the word sober. “Straightforward and serious; not exaggerated, emotional, or silly.” What does this mean when applied to faith, or the way we live?
Let’s look at other biblical verses to see if they offer any clue to what Saint Peter is suggesting in the first reading. Later in his letter, he writes this: “Be free, yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God.” One aspect then may be seeing our actions for the faith in the context for that freedom that allows us to become what it is we are meant to be.
Saint Paul uses a very similar theme. “For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” For Paul, living in this freedom means loving your neighbor and living in the Spirit. Doing this will produce fruits in our lives.
And so there is no doubt what these fruits are, Paul spells it out. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” And our faith in Jesus, our walking in the Spirit should produce these very things. We should find evidence of these things in ourselves and active in our lives.
I would suggest that by telling us to live soberly, then, Saint Peter is admonishing us to avoid the contrast to the fruits of the Spirit by avoiding the fruits of living according to the flesh, as outlined by Saint Paul: “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.”
It seems to me further that these actions tell us that when we experience these things it is not the way to live soberly. Rather, in these actions our bodies and minds tell us these things are harmful. For when we experience these types of things, we do not feel the peace that “surpasses all understanding”.
What are the fruits of your life?
So today’s readings provide us the opportunity to examine our own lives. This seems like the perfect way to assess what we should be focused on doing and praying about during the season of Lent. For if there are more “fruits of the flesh” than there are “fruits of the Spirit” then it becomes cause to ask the Spirit of God to remove these “fruits of the flesh from our lives.
So to live soberly is to open our hearts and lives to the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the flesh are rotten and moldy. The fruits of the Spirit are filled with life. We feel more ourselves, I would suggest, the more the fruits of the Spirit are evident in our lives.
And when they are evident, this is a cause for great joy. When the fruits of the Spirit are evident in our lives, we become more aware of God’s presence in our lives. We also become more awa4re of the gifts that God has placed in our lives. And we come to experience, above all, the love that God has for us.