The language of the Letter to the Galatians is strong indeed. Yesterday, we heard St. Paul call the Galatians “stupid.” In any culture, that word makes our pulse run rapid. Today’s reading speaks of blessings and curses. Could any two things be further apart? Yet St. Paul insists that anyone who puts their faith in the law is cursed.
Think about it for a moment. Each of us knows that we have sinned in the past. Each of us knows that there is every likelihood that we will sin again even though we try to avoid it. However, there were those who were teaching that salvation came through obedience to the Law. Because we are all sinners, being saved by observance of the Law just doesn’t make any sense. However, if we have faith in Jesus and in his death and resurrection, we know that even though we might sin, God will forgive us. Jesus has already paid the price for our sins.
There was a great deal of tension in the early community over the issue of opening it to participation by the Gentiles. That tension revolved a great deal around the observance of the traditions of the Jews with regard to circumcision and their dietary rules. So when we hear St. Paul telling us that obedience to the Law will not save us, he really is speaking about the issue of converting Gentiles to Judaism before allowing them to be Christians. He never intended to disparage the so-called “Ten Commandments.” In fact, those commandments are specifically endorsed by Jesus in the Gospels.
The issue here is really about placing our faith in Jesus. As St. Paul clearly states, if we place our faith in Jesus, then we are already children of Abraham.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator