It should be a great consolation for us to remember that the greatest of the saints were as human as we are. Like us they had to struggle, they became discouraged, despondent and confused, and ultimately they had to depend completely on God.
The first reading today clearly shows a man who is struggling hard to become a better person. St. Paul was discouraged by an apparent lack of progress in his spiritual life. Above all he became confused. How could this be, he wondered, when all he wanted to do was good and yet all that seemed to come out of him was evil. I suspect that the same happens to all of us. Perhaps we see clearly enough that we have to be a little more loving towards a particular person or that we must give up our rash judgement of other people and their motives. It may even be that we hate within ourselves a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude without being able to do much to overcome it. Why is it that we seem to make such little progress?
St. Paul cries out: “Who can free me from this body under the power of death?” His answer is only implicit at the conclusion of the passage when he says: “All praise to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” From later parts of the letter it becomes clear that Paul turns in praise to God because he knows that only God can help by the power of the Holy Spirit. The real problem is that we tend to depend too much on ourselves, rather than God, to have the attitude that we are the ones who must accomplish our progress rather than placing ourselves completely in God’s hands.
Ordinary people like us become saints not by our own efforts but by being open to God’s grace. It is God who will make all the difference in our lives if only we are willing to allow him to enter in and do his work within us.