Some of this passage, the verses 11-14, is proclaimed on the First Sunday of Advent, cycle A. In my opinion, this is one of the best possible choices for an Advent communal service.
Some people might focus on the commandments–this part won’t get proclaimed at Sunday Mass this weekend. Others are drawn to that early Advent sense of preparation. Me, I was struck by the first line. It strikes me as an ideal approach to the penance or act of satisfaction–not as something owed to those sinned against, or as a debt repaid to God. Just a simple
gesture life of love.
Owe nothing to anyone,
except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
“You shall not commit adultery;
you shall not kill;
you shall not steal;
you shall not covet,”
and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this saying,
namely “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no evil to the neighbor;
hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.
And do this because you know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,
not in orgies and drunkenness,
not in promiscuity and licentiousness,
not in rivalry and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
When Saint Paul offers up advice, usually toward the end of his letters, one can get the impression of a deep fatherly affection. This is a glimmer of the affection God holds for us. Don’t worry about your sense of debt, my people. Just love.
Dress for success, too, we are told–maybe what a mother would say. Not to nag, but just to suggest we toss aside a ratty old coat that doesn’t really serve us well. Dress in something bright. We are literally clothing ourselves with the Lord Jesus. In so doing we are inspired to act properly, and also be comforted and enfolded in the love of God in doing so.