Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pick One

As we move into the 5th chapter of Galatians, St. Paul is reminding his audience that what they have is a choice: be Jewish, or be what we now refer to as Christian. If they chose to be Jewish then they are bound to the Law (Torah) in its entirety.

Entering into a covenant with God is not a matter of picking and choosing which religious practices we like and which we don't, and constructing the religion we want. Some among the Galatians clearly believed it worked that way. They could keep the Jewish traditions that they liked, but abandoned the burdensome and inconvenient ones.

A covent is not a contract where we negotiate the terms. As Paul describes it, there are two covenants and a person must choose. We enter into the covenant, we take it as it is, in its entirety. Whichever covenant we choose, we embrace all of its obligations.

The "new and eternal covenant", as we refer to it every time we celebrate mass, is summed up in 4 words at the end of verse 6

Faith working through love

Notice that once more it is the Christian both/and. We need both faith and works.

In the Letter of James we are told plainly that faith without works is dead (nekros).

Works of charity without faith is at most philanthropy.

A true Christian faith is always at work, and working in a particular way.

through love (agape).

Once more it is not our choice. Agape is not what we feel for friends and family. It is not a love for people we like. It is not natural affection. It is the love we call a theological virtue, because is comes from God. It is a super-natural love. Agape is the reason you cannot be a Christian separated from the Church. The phrase individual Christian is an oxymoron. Yes ours is a personal faith, but one lived in community.

When we enter this covenant we not only accept Jesus and all of the commands of the New Testament, but we accept all of our new brothers and sisters. Every single one of them in the whole world, and all the ones who have gone before us in faith, including ones who may have wronged us.

As people of the new covenant, as we walk through this day, let us monitor our words and actions, and at the end of the day when we look back on what we said and did we need only ask one question, was it faith working through love?