Monday, October 09, 2006

Monday word

For the next eight weekdays the liturgy of the word presents us with St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. His letter is a snapshot of him at his most difficult and his most exhilarating. Paul brought the gospel to non-Jewish unbelievers, who accepted it and received [him] as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.1

Others followed Paul; they seemed to have considered torah--the revelation to Israel both of God’s covenantal love and the way to make the qualities of God their own--as ultimate, not Jesus Messiah. The revelation of God in Messiah Jesus and his empowering gift of their Holy Spirit fulfilled torah and reduced its former ultimate standing. Turning to a different gospel was Paul’s way of saying what the Galatians knew by experience: they turned to torah as ultimate not to Jesus Messiah. Torah revealed powers and habits which limited humans and enslaved them; Messiah Jesus and his Spirit freed them to live as children of God.

Thus Paul departed from his, and the Greek-speaking custom, of beginning a letter with some fond remembrance and thanksgiving. Turning to a different gospel in which Christ was not the ultimate norm left Paul astonished not grateful.

Jesus’ perhaps-all-too-familiar parable of the Good Samaritan expressed practicing what is ultimate. Early Christians recalled Jesus had taught by deed and word that love of neighbor was love of God. As time passed, Christians found themselves, like Jews did, in a difficult situation: who is my neighbor? Jesus responded to the who-question with a how-answer, which astonishes ultimately.

The age-old expression which many of us can recall learning, accept Christ in each person, has roots in Paul’s experience, who was angel of God, as Christ Jesus. If we make our own Jesus’ compassion and live it, we are truly free and entertain angels and our Messiah Jesus even without being aware.

1. Galatians 4.14

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