In today’s readings, we hear Paul talking about why the Jews were selected to usher in the Messiah. In the process of fulfilling His plan, the Lord had to shape a race of people that were suitable for the task. They had to be unified in their beliefs and follow the rules laid down by the Lord.
Once Jesus was raised from the dead, the plan was complete, and the faith was extended to include all of humanity
Image by Katrina_S
By Lou Occhi
In today’s readings, we hear Paul talking about why the Jews were selected to usher in the Messiah. In the process of fulfilling His plan, the Lord had to shape a race of people that were suitable for the task. They had to be unified in their beliefs and follow the rules laid down by the Lord. Once Jesus was raised from the dead, the plan was complete, and the faith was extended to include all of humanity
Today’s first reading from Galatians begins with, “Before faith came, we were held in custody under the law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed.” In the beginning, the Jews were mostly nomadic and loosely tied together. Their main attribute was that they were monotheistic. Of all the people in the world at that time, God chose them for one specific purpose, to be the source of salvation through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Before that could happen, they had to be shaped into a race that would allow salvation to come.
We often read in the Old Testament how they were blessed when they did the right things and punished when they strayed. The Father in heaven was shaping them into the race that would bring salvation to mankind. In addition, the Jews had to be separated from the rest of the world so that they would not be drawn into the beliefs and traditions of other races of people. This is what Paul meant when he said they “were held in custody under the law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed.”
In ancient Greece, the father of a wealthy household would have a servant become the guardian of his son. This servant would be with the son all day and tasked with the job of teaching the son how to live a proper life. The guardian was to stay with the son at all times. If the son went to school, the guardian would go with him. The guardian was allowed to reward the son for good behavior and punish him when he acted badly. This training continued until the son was old enough to go out alone. Similarly, God shaped and formed the Jews.
Paul says, “Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian. For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.” The Jews were no longer unique in being the people of God. In fact, with the coming of Christ, all people are people of God.
Paul continues, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ and have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female, (nor is there democrat and republican and independent (Okay, I added that last phrase)) for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
There are a couple of things in these verses we need to consider. When we are baptized, we are washed of our sins and are spotless. That is why we are clothed in white for our baptisms. We are also one with all other people in Christ. In a scene from The Chosen, Jesus is talking to the woman at the well. She says that the Samaritans are excluded from the Jews and are not allowed to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus tells her that soon it will not matter where you worship. All people will be able to worship wherever they want.
I wonder if the temple's destruction in 70 AD was to end the center of religious worship in Jerusalem. From then on, believers would have to worship wherever groups of believers could congregate. The Pharisees played a large part in preserving the Jewish faith by conducting religious gatherings in small communities. If not for them, the Jewish faith could very well be lost. Also, the faith was freer to spread throughout the world.
In the last sentence, Paul says, “if you belong to Christ, then you are included as a descendant of Abraham, and heir according to the promise.” The promise was that Abraham would be the father of many nations and kings.
All of Paul’s passages that we are discussing lead to the globalization of Christianity. This is illustrated in the very short passage from Luke’s gospel. A woman calls out, “Blessed the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” She was referring to His mother, Mary.
Jesus corrects her by saying, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” I have heard some say that it seems Jesus is belittling His mother. If any person on earth heard the word of God and observed it, it was His mother. Jesus was not belittling His mother. Instead, He was elevating all those who heard His word and observed it.
So, we are born with free will and can choose to hear the word of God and observe it or not. It is our choice, and we bear the consequences of that choice.