The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
Saint Paul’s epistle to the Romans is considered the most profound of all his epistles. The breadth of themes and the depth to which he explores them is profound. Today’s First Reading from the seventh chapter of Romans explores how the human person experiences division within himself. St. Paul describes this as “the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.”
Perhaps the most intriguing phrase in today’s First Reading is St. Paul’s admission that “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” His words call out the division in fallen man between what the “I” wants, and what it wills. This is not a mere putting of one’s wants and desires to the side, and acting in spite of them. St. Paul speaks of what modern thought might term a “compulsion” that drives the ego. However, he ascribes this acting out of evil to the work of “sin that dwells in me.”
St. Paul is not seeking to cast blame away from himself. He’s not trying to say, “The devil made me do it.” He does indeed admit that this struggle is within his very self: “I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin”. Regardless of how fierce this struggle is, or how deep the division it causes, the remedy is clear and at hand. St. Paul’s entire epistle to the Romans is full of thanksgiving to God for the grace of Christ our Savior.