For the past several years I have enjoyed listening to the homilies of Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon on Ancient Faith Radio (for those of you unfamiliar with him, he is a an Antiochian Orthodox priest in Chicago; I believe he was originally Catholic. I highly recommend his Christ in the Psalms, a book with short meditations on the Psalms.)
Fr. Reardon’s most recent podcast [you can find it above], for Meatfare Sunday (also known as Sunday of the Last Judgement) – the penultimate Sunday before Lent starts in the Byzantine calendar – was quite insightful. What especially stayed with me was the explanation of the latin term munus.
Father says that munus is a rich concept, which expresses both gift and task. The most obvious example, on a natural level, is that of children: they are God’s gift to parents, yet they are also a task, as God has entrusted their upbringing to the parents. He also mentions that being a human being is a great responsibility, that it is an honor that God bestows on no other creature; that if we have been given this great gift, then we have the obligation/responsibility to live a virtuous life; that rights without obligations are meaningless, and that we have the former so that we can fulfill the latter. I can’t do justice to the homily, so I recommend listening to it (also, Fr. Reardon’s deep voice is also quite pleasant to listen to 😉 ).
We hear a lot about God’s love being a free gift. And this is true – God’s love for us is free, i.e., we have done nothing to merit it. But it isn’t free in a no-strings-attached kind of way, as it is implied by society around us (when it is even acknowledged), or by watered-down approaches to our Faith. God’s love for us is munus – it is a gift which, if accepted, demands a response. If we accept this free gift of God’s love then we have the obligation of conversation morum, of conversion of life; if we want to love Him back, then we must show that love in concrete ways, by living a virtuous life, united to His Son’s Mystical Body.