One of the opportunities I have as Assistant Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), is to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.
Reflections on the Word | Saturday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time – Year 2 | October 13, 2018
The reasoned argument Paul provides in today’s first reading and the straightforward proclamation of Jesus in today’s Gospel from Luke point to the same truth:
Being attentive to God’s word whenever and however it comes to us is a most blessed moment, and responding to God’s grace in our lives gives God the best glory we can.
Paul is providing a long presentation to the church in Galatia who have begun to question the salvation through grace that Paul preached to them. Some other Jewish believers have come from the outside and stirred up trouble; they want the Galatian church – many of whom were Jews – to return to observance of the Mosaic law (or Torah). Perhaps they saw the early Christian preaching as a corruption of the Jewish faith and wanted to restore proper practice; maybe they were opposed to Paul.
Either way, Paul says that the Galatians shouldn’t follow that path. The Torah was important, and indeed essential, to remind people of the commandments of God but it also at times was used to divide people and was used as a punishment when the observance wasn’t strictly kept.
Of course, that was not God’s intention with the Torah. The Law was there to guide people into a loving and committed covenant community who followed the example of God who saved the Israelites from Egypt.
But we human beings are sinners, as Paul reminds us, and those who observed the Law sometimes turned something that the Jewish faith has always seen as a joyful observance – because they love the one who commands – into a ‘disciplinarian’ that divided and separated.
But Paul recognizes – in one of the most beautiful passages in the New Testament – that the grace of God in Christ is different. Grace goes beyond any divisions people create and brings us into a deep unity with all of humanity, so that the divisions we think are so intractable, so insurmountable, fall away to dust in the grace of Christ.
And Jesus seeks to say much the same thing in a more pithy way, and equally beautiful. If the body of Mary is blessed because it carried and cared for Jesus, she and all of us are even more blessed when we hear God’s word and observe it. The grace that Jesus brings doesn’t exempt us from doing good; it is the constant reminder of the fact that we live united with all people and that good we do is an expression of the overflowing and undeserved grace of salvation that God gives to us. And it is a reminder that God’s grace is never a source of arbitrary division, but an invitation to overcome those and draw people together in God’s love.
God’s word has come through the Torah – and indeed many of our Jewish brothers and sisters see the observance of the Torah as “LIFE” because it connects them – even to this day – to the God of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Ruth, Moses, Miriam, and all the prophets of the Old Testament. Our church deeply affirms this ‘originating covenant’ of God with the Jewish people.
At the same time, Christians see the Word of God become flesh in Jesus Christ and the grace that he gives us. This ‘new covenant’ in the dying and rising of Jesus saves us with amazing grace and we spend our days in this life giving God’s praise in word and deed and that our lives are destined for union with the God who has so lavishly graced us.
God give you peace!