It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey – St. Ignatius Loyola
(Phil 3:17—4:1)Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters,
and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us.
For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified Body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved.
In today’s reading, Paul writes to the Philippians from jail. The letter shows the great affection that he had for the people there and their faith and unity since the days that he preached Christ Jesus to them. But all is not well now in the sense that some have come to the Philippians and spread a “gospel” that was foreign to Paul’s original preaching/teaching. He refers to them as “enemies of the cross of Christ,” a strong warning to the Philippians of the danger of following them.
He encourages the people to “stand firm in the Lord.” What a powerful message for all of us to hear. The famous hymn from Philippians just earlier in the letter focuses on the humility and obedience of Christ Jesus, “Though he was in the form of God . . . he emptied himself . . . becoming obedient to death, even death on the cross.” Clearly that’s the way we are invited to live our lives, and, indeed, the saints throughout history became extraordinary in their imitation of Christ.
Realizing that our true home is in heaven shows us how we should live our lives right now. The great saints and spiritual writers of the centuries refer to this holy way of living as "detachment." By not allowing undue affection for created things, detachment keeps our eyes focused on heaven. "Beloved, you are strangers and in exile; hence I urge you not to indulge your carnal desires. By their nature they wage war on the soul" (1 Pt 2:11).
While everything God created is good (Gn 1:31), "no man can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be attentive to one and despise the other" (Mt 6:24). Detachment lets us follow God in total freedom. The Bible and Church history are filled with examples of saints who joyfully gave up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or lands (Mt 19:29).
Focusing on our heavenly citizenship is a great way to die. Yet being detached from “things” so as to more closely follow the Creator is an even greater way to live.