Acknowledging the Lord

Jesus said to his disciples: 
“I tell you,
everyone who acknowledges me before others
the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.
But whoever denies me before others
will be denied before the angels of God.

“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven.
When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities,
do not worry about how or what your defense will be
or about what you are to say. 
For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”
(Luke 12:8-12)   

Scripture Study

12:8–9. This follows logically from Christ’s previous teaching: worse than physical evils, worse even than death, are evils of the soul, that is, sin. Those who out of fear of temporal suffering deny our Lord and are unfaithful to the demands of the faith will fall into a greater evil still: they will be denied by Christ himself on the Day of Judgment; whereas those who are penalized in this life because of their faithfulness to Christ will receive the eternal reward of being recognized by him and will come to share his glory.

12:10. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists in maliciously attributing to the devil actions that have God as their origin. A person who does that prevents God’s pardon from reaching him: that is why he cannot obtain forgiveness (cf. Mt 12:31; Mk 3:28–30). Jesus understands and excuses the weakness of a person who makes a moral mistake, but he is not similarly indulgent to someone who shuts his eyes and his heart to the wonderful things the Spirit does; that was the way these Pharisees acted who accused Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul; it is the way unbelieving people act who refuse to see in Christ’s work a sign of the goodness of God, who reject the invitation God offers them and who thereby put themselves outside the reach of salvation (cf. Heb 6:4–6; 10:26–31).[1]

Reflection

“I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.”

Jesus encourages the disciples to be faithful to their Christian commitment and to their faith in Christ as Lord. When we publicly acknowledge Jesus as Christ and Lord, Jesus too will acknowledge us as his faithful disciple. Of course, it will be difficult during times of abuse and persecution but they must always be ready to acknowledge their allegiance to Jesus. To deny that allegiance may win them a reprieve in this life but not in the next. “He who saves his life will lose it,” as Jesus said on an earlier occasion. The word for ‘deny’ here is the same word used in Peter’s denial and disowning of his Master (Luke 22:34 and 61).

Most of us will not have to suffer severely for our faith. But there will likely be times when we may find our religious beliefs and practices ridiculed and made fun of. We can be tempted at such times to go into hiding, to conceal our Christian identity. We may even fail to come to the support of people who are under attack, refuse to stand by them, refuse to stand up and be counted as committed followers of the Gospel.

If that has happened in the past, let us ask forgiveness. Let us pray that in future we may have the courage and integrity in word and deed to let people know who we are and what we stand for.

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 121–122.

Our Inheritance

Brothers and sisters:
In Christ we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.
In him you also, who have heard the word of truth,
the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him,
were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
which is the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.
(Ephesians 1:11-14)   

Scripture Study

1:12–13 Here and elsewhere Paul alternates between we and you. Among the options, (1) “we” could refer to Jewish Christians (us, 2:14), and “you” to Gentile Christians (2:11); or (2) “we” might refer to Christians known by Paul, and “you” to those unacquainted with Paul personally (1:15; 3:2); or (3) “we” might refer to believers long since converted (1:12), and “you” to more recent converts. None of these possibilities is mutually exclusive of another, so it is quite possible the groups in question fall into more than one category.

1:13 sealed: In the ancient world, seals were marks of ownership and protection (4:30; Ezek 9:4–6; Rev 7:4). Believers are divinely sealed by the Spirit. The Church Fathers employed this language to describe the indelible mark impressed upon the soul in Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders (CCC 698, 1272–74, 1296). See note on 2 Cor 1:22. In Pauline theology, Baptism does to the soul what circumcision did to body: it marks it with the sign and seal of the covenant (Rom 4:11).

1:14 guarantee: An expression derived from a Hebrew term meaning “pledge” or “down payment” (Gen 38:17–18). The Spirit received in Baptism (Acts 2:38) is thus a first installment of the fullness of God’s life and blessing we hope to possess in heaven (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; CCC 1107).[1]

Reflection 

were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance.”

Whose inheritance? God’s! The Christian community is God’s possession. What is the Christian’s possession? The same God whose possession is the Christian. There is a deep and a wonderful relation between the believing soul and God, and however different must be the two sides of that relation, the resemblance is greater than the difference. Surely that is the deepest, most blessed, and most strength-giving conception of the Christian life. My faith corresponds to His faithfulness and veracity. My obedience corresponds to His authority. My We possess God, and God possesses us, and it is the same set of facts which are set forth in the two thoughts, ‘We were made an inheritance, … the earnest of our inheritance.’

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church
[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 346.

Adopted

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
to the holy ones who are in Ephesus
and faithful in Christ Jesus:
grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.

In Christ we have redemption by his Blood,
the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.
In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us
the mystery of his will in accord with his favor
that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times,
to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.
(Ephesians 1:1-10)   

Scripture Study

1:2 Father: The preeminent title for God in Ephesians (1:3, 17; 2:18; 3:14; 4:6; 5:20; 6:23).

1:3 in Christ: A description of our union with Jesus through grace. Similar expressions of incorporation punctuate the letter and culminate in Paul’s vision of Christ as the “head” of his mystical “body”, the Church (1:22–23; 2:16; 5:23). the heavenly places: I.e., the spiritual realm where believers sit enthroned with Christ (1:20; 2:6) and where angels and demons move about unseen (3:10; 6:12).

1:4 holy and blameless: The standard of spiritual perfection that God desires for his children (5:27; Col 1:22). ● Paul employs cultic terminology from the OT, where holy means “set apart” for the Lord and blameless means “unblemished” or “fit for sacrifice”. This recalls how animals were set apart for priestly inspection, and only those free of physical defects could be sacrificed to Yahweh (Lev 1:3, 10). These offerings were mere shadows of the Christian vocation to offer ourselves as holy and living sacrifices to the Father (Rom 12:1) (CCC 1426, 2807).

1:5 He destined us: The Father predestined believers for divine adoption (1:4). This eternal decree springs from his love and unfolds in history as the elect are saved by grace (Gal 4:5) and eventually brought to glory (Rom 8:23). Because the doctrine of predestination holds together two mysteries, one of divine sovereignty and one of human freedom, it should be an incentive for Christians to confirm their election through works of righteousness (2 Pet 1:10), rather than an excuse for spiritual indifference or moral laxity. We cannot gain access to God’s hidden plan, but we do know the precepts he has revealed for our salvation (Deut 29:29). As with the election of Israel, God took no consideration of our merits or worthiness when he predetermined our adoption in Christ (Deut 7:7; Rom 9:10–11) (CCC 381, 600). See note on Rom 8:29. ● Predestination can have no other cause than the will of God alone. And the sole motive for God’s predestinating will is to communicate his divine goodness to others (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Ephesians 1, 1).

1:7 redemption: Freedom purchased for a slave or prisoner by a ransom price. Christ redeemed us from sin and for divine sonship (Gal 4:5) at the expense of his own blood (Rev 5:9; CCC 517). ● Divine redemption is first displayed in the Bible in the Exodus (Ex 15:13; Deut 7:8). We participate in a new and spiritual Exodus when Christ rescues us from the bondage of guilt and the tyranny of the devil (Rom 6:15–18).

1:9 the mystery: A central theme in Ephesians, introduced here and developed more fully in 3:1–19.[1]

Reflection

In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ.”

Among the blessings God bestows on us in Christ is the blessing of adoption. We have been brought into God’s family and made God’s children. From God we have received “the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father’” (Rom. 8:15). As far as our status is concerned, we are no longer “strangers and aliens” to the people of God but “members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). The Christians in Ephesus may have no natural affinity to the descendants of Abraham, but God in His grace has addressed the issue of their spiritual alienation from His covenant by making them His sons and daughters.

It used to thrill me when my children were younger to hear one of our boys say, “I want to be like my dad.” I know of nothing that better evidences our adoption into God’s family than to wish, more than anything else in the world, that we could be more like our Father. That’s why He adopted us, after all.

– Ian Campbell

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church

[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 345.

Live in the Spirit

Brothers and sisters:
If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry,
sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy,
outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness,
dissensions, factions, occasions of envy,
drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Against such there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh
with its passions and desires.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:18-25)   

Scripture Study

Paul alerts readers that a hidden war is waged in the heart of every Christian. It is a struggle between the Spirit and our flesh, i.e., our fallen nature that inclines us toward evil (Rom 8:5–8). Unless we follow the Spirit’s lead, the lusts of the flesh (concupiscence) will dominate our lives and enslave us in sin. When we respond to grace, we enable the Spirit to work powerfully in us by clearing out the vices that lead us away from God. Because of our weaknesses, victory in this struggle is possible but not easy (1 Cor 9:25–27) (CCC 2515–16; 1426; 2744).

5:19 works of the flesh: The sins of the flesh include more than just sins of the body (5:19–21). They consist of every act of immorality and injustice that stems from a disordered love of the world (Jas 4:1–5; 1 Jn 2:15–17). These grave sins sever offenders from Christ (Gal 5:4) and will block their entrance into heaven if repentance is neglected (CCC 1470, 1855).

5:21 shall not inherit the kingdom: Even Christians can forfeit their salvation if they stifle the Spirit and submit to the flesh (Rom 6:15–16). Paul posts this warning in several of his letters (Rom 8:12–13; 1 Cor 6:9–10; Eph 5:5).

5:22 the fruit of the Spirit: The indwelling of the Spirit produces holiness in the lives of believers (Mt 12:33; Jn 15:1–6). The first fruit of this divine presence is love, the source of all that is good and the virtue upon which others are built (Rom 5:5; 2 Cor 1:22). It may be significant that Paul says “fruit” (singular) instead of “fruits” (plural), suggesting that life in the Spirit is integrated and whole, not fragmented or divided (CCC 736, 1695, 1832).

5:24 crucified the flesh: Baptism unites believers with the saving death of Jesus, so much so that Paul says we are “crucified with Christ” (2:20; cf. Rom 6:3–4). In addition to receiving forgiveness, we die to our former way of life through the Spirit, who gives us new strength to master our passions and selfish desires (Rom 7:21–8:2) (CCC 2543, 2848).[1]

Reflection 

If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.”

When someone lets himself be led by his instincts he is said to be leading an “animal life”; whereas, if he acts as his reason advises, he is leading a rational, human, life. Similarly, when one allows the Holy Spirit to act, one’s life becomes life according to the Spirit—a supernatural life, a life which is no longer simply human but divine. This is what happens when a person is in the state of grace and is mindful of the treasure he bears within.

“Alone! You are not alone. We are keeping you close company from afar. Besides …, the Holy Spirit, living in your soul in grace—God with you—is giving a supernatural tone to all your thoughts, desires and actions” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 273).

The soul then becomes a good tree which is known by its fruits. Its actions reveal the presence of the Paraclete, and because of the spiritual delight they give the soul, these actions are called fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1–2, 70, 1).

“Those blessed fruits enumerated by the Apostle (Gal 5:22) the Spirit produces and shows forth in the just, even in this mortal life—fruits replete with all sweetness and joy. Such must, indeed, be from the Spirit ‘who in the Trinity is the love of the Father and the Son, filling all creatures with immeasurable sweetness’ (St Augustine, De Trinitate, 6, 9)” (Leo XIII, Divinum illud munus, 12).[2]

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church
[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 340–341.

[2] Saint Paul’s Letters to the Romans & Galatians, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 169–170.

Cleansing

After Jesus had spoken,
a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.
He entered and reclined at table to eat.
The Pharisee was amazed to see
that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
(Luke 11:37-41)  

Scripture Study

11:38 did not first wash: Jesus disregards Pharisaic customs of cleansing. These washing rituals were religious in nature, not hygienic. These religious customs were manufactured by the Pharisees and added to the Mosaic Law. Sometimes called the oral Law, this body of rituals was designed to supplement God’s written Law and intensify its requirements of ritual purity.

11:39 cleanse the outside: The religious zeal of the Pharisees focused on the exterior of the body and often failed to penetrate to the heart.[1]

Reflection

“Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.”

In this passage (one of the most severe in the Gospel) Jesus determinedly unmasks the vice which was largely responsible for official Judaism’s rejection of his teaching—hypocrisy cloaked in legalism. There are many people who, under the guise of doing good, keeping the mere letter of the law, fail to keep its spirit; they close themselves to the love of God and neighbor; they harden their hearts and, though apparently very upright, turn others away from fervent pursuit of God—making virtue distasteful. Jesus’ criticism is vehement because they are worse than open enemies: against open enemies one can defend oneself, but these are enemies it is almost impossible to deal with.

It is not easy to work out what these verses mean. Probably our Lord is using the idea of cleaning the inside and outside of dishes to teach that a person’s heart is much more important than what appears on the surface—whereas the Pharisees got it the wrong way round, as so many people tend to do. Jesus is warning us not to be so concerned about “the outside” but rather to give importance to “the inside”. Applying this to the case of alms: we have to be generous with those things we are inclined to hoard; in other words, it is not enough just to give a little money (that could be a purely formal, external gesture); love is what we have to give others—love and understanding, refinement, respect for their freedom, deep concern for their spiritual and material welfare; this is something we cannot do unless our interior dispositions are right.

 

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 131.
[2] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 118–119.

Set Free

Brothers and sisters:
It is written that Abraham had two sons,
one by the slave woman and the other by the freeborn woman.
The son of the slave woman was born naturally,
the son of the freeborn through a promise.
Now this is an allegory.
These women represent two covenants.
One was from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery;
this is Hagar.
But the Jerusalem above is freeborn, and she is our mother.
For it is written:

Rejoice, you barren one who bore no children;
break forth and shout, you who were not in labor;
for more numerous are the children of the deserted one
than of her who has a husband.

Therefore, brothers and sisters,
we are children not of the slave woman
but of the freeborn woman.

For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm
and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

(Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1)   

Scripture Study

The Law of Moses, which was divinely revealed, was something good; it suited the circumstances of the time. Christ came to bring this Law to perfection (cf. notes on Mt 5:17–19 and Gal 5:14–15). All the elaborate legal and ritual prescriptions in the Mosaic Law were laid down by God for a specific stage in salvation history, that is, the stage that ended with the coming of Christ. Christians are under no obligation to follow the letter of that Law (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1–2, 108, 3 ad 3).

Although in this letter to the Galatians the Apostle is emphasizing, as we have seen, freedom from the Law of Moses, obviously this liberation cannot be entirely disconnected from freedom in general. If someone submits to circumcision after being baptized, it amounts to subjecting oneself to a series of practices which have now no value, and to depriving oneself of the fruits of Christ’s Redemption. In other words, subjection to the Law brings with it a loss of freedom in general. Paul is using the full might of his apostolic authority when he says, “If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” Christ’s Redemption alone is effective; it has no need of the rites of the Old Testament.[1]

Reflection

For freedom Christ set us free.”

How do we define personal freedom? Is it about having the ability to do whatever we want whenever we want to? Does this type of freedom truly set us free? How can such an inward, self-focused view of life set us free? Do we not become a ‘slave’ to our insatiable desires? “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.” (I Cor 6:12)

Christ asks us to see freedom from an externally focused lens, set on being free from selfishness and living a life of selfless love. We are set free when we understand that true freedom comes in living the love of Christ in all that we are – through our words and actions. 

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Saint Paul’s Letters to the Romans & Galatians, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 166.

Faithfulness

Beloved:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David:
such is my gospel, for which I am suffering,
even to the point of chains, like a criminal.
But the word of God is not chained.
Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen,
so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, 
together with eternal glory.
This saying is trustworthy:
If we have died with him
we shall also live with him;
if we persevere
we shall also reign with him.
But if we deny him
he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny himself.
(2 Timothy 2:8-13)   

Scripture Study

2:8 Remember Jesus: Christ is the center of Paul’s gospel. Through his natural birth in the line of King David and his miraculous rebirth in the Resurrection, the Jesus that Paul preaches is none other than the Messiah (CCC 436–37). ● In Paul’s mind, Jesus fulfills God’s covenant oath to raise up the Messiah from David’s descendants and enthrone him over an eternal kingdom (2 Sam 7:12–16; Ps 89:3–4; 110:1; Lk 1:32–33).

2:9 the word … not chained: Paul himself is shackled in prison, but his saving message continues to spread through trustworthy preachers such as Timothy. In this context, the “word of God” is equivalent to the gospel proclaimed by word of mouth (1 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:25).

2:10 eternal glory: Everlasting life in heaven, where the saints enter the fullness of their inheritance (Mt 25:34; Col 3:23–24).

2:11–13 Possibly an excerpt from an ancient Christian hymn (CCC 2641). It sets forth in conditional propositions the blessings and curses that await us at the Judgment: those who persevere in faith will live and reign with Christ, but those who deny him will be disowned and disgraced in the end. Our ultimate certainty is that Christ will follow through on his promises and threats and so exercise his justice and mercy in perfect faithfulness to the terms of the New Covenant. Several of these statements echo Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels (Mt 25:31–46; Mk 8:38; 13:13).

2:11 If we have died: Refers (1) to Baptism, where we die to sin and are filled with new life (Rom 6:2–4; CCC 1262–64), (2) to the Christian life, where we struggle with God’s help to put to death our selfish and sinful inclinations (Rom 8:13), and (3) to death itself, which admits us into the presence of Christ our Judge (Phil 1:21) (CCC 1010).[1]

Reflection

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful.”

The act of faith is more than merely an act of belief. We believe many things—for example, that the Rangers will still beat the Blue Jays, that a sunrise is beautiful, that cauliflower really taste better than it smells – but we are not willing to die for these beliefs, nor can we live them every moment.

Faith begins in that obscure mysterious center of our being that Scripture calls the “heart.” Heart in Scripture does not mean feeling or sentiment or emotion, but the absolute center of the soul, as the physical heart is at the center of the body. The heart is where God the Holy Spirit works in us.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance,” advised Solomon, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov 4:23). With the heart we choose our “fundamental option” of faithfulness to God, and thereby determine our eternal identity and destiny.[2]

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

CCC Catechism of the Catholic Church
[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 398.[2] Adapted from Kreeft and Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics

Patience and Obedience

While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
“Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed.”
He replied, “Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it.”
(Luke 11:27-28)  

Scripture Study

These words proclaim and praise the Blessed Virgin’s basic attitude of soul. As the Second Vatican Council explains: “In the course of her Son’s preaching she [Mary] received the words whereby, in extolling a Kingdom beyond the concerns and ties of flesh and blood, he declared blessed those who heard and kept the word of God (cf. Mk 3:35; Lk 11:27–28) as she was faithfully doing (cf. Lk 2:19, 51)” (Lumen gentium, 58). Therefore, by replying in this way Jesus is not rejecting the warm praise this good lady renders his Mother; he accepts it and goes further, explaining that Mary is blessed particularly because she has been good and faithful in putting the word of God into practice. “It was a compliment to his Mother on her fiat, her ‘be it done’ (Lk 1:38). She lived it sincerely, unstintingly, fulfilling its every consequence, but never amid fanfare, rather in the hidden and silent sacrifice of each day” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 172).[1] 

Reflection

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Our challenge and opportunity in discipleship (driven by your individual perspective) is as St Paul said, to “fight the good fight of the faith” each day. The Blessed Mother showed us through her lived life how she daily set her heart on obeying God’s ordinances and words to her. This is what the Lord is asking each of us to focus on each day – the observance of his commandment to love God and our neighbor to the best of our ability.

We all stumble in this effort. While its necessary to reflect on these lapses, we should not allow them to hold us back from continuing our daily efforts. In keeping our eyes fixed on the eternal prize, we are strengthened through God’s grace to walk in obedience to his Word, always trusting in his patience with us.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 117.

The Blessings of Abraham

Brothers and sisters:
Realize that it is those who have faith
who are children of Abraham.
Scripture, which saw in advance that God
would justify the Gentiles by faith,
foretold the good news to Abraham, saying,
Through you shall all the nations be blessed.
Consequently, those who have faith are blessed
along with Abraham who had faith.
For all who depend on works of the law are under a curse;
for it is written, Cursed be everyone
who does not persevere in doing all the things
written in the book of the law.

And that no one is justified before God by the law is clear,
for the one who is righteous by faith will live.
But the law does not depend on faith;
rather, the one who does these things will live by them.
Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,
for it is written, Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,
that the blessing of Abraham might be extended
to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,
so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
(Galatians 3:7-14)   

Scripture Study

3:10–12. At what is called the Council of Jerusalem, St Peter had said, “Why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10): the Jews could not, despite their efforts, keep the Mosaic Law—the Law which they thought justified them in God’s sight. Therefore, those who place their hope of salvation in the Law are subject to the curse which the Law itself places on those who infringe it: “Cursed be he who does not confirm the words of the Law by doing them” (Deut 27:26).

The curse of the Law falls on anyone who fails to keep it, given that every commandment involves a penalty for its transgressor. That is why the Apostle argues that those who rely only on the Law are subject to the risk of being cursed, of being punished—“are under a curse”. He then goes on to recall once more the passage in Habakkuk which says that “the righteous shall live by his faith” (2:4; cf. note on Rom 1:17). If the righteous or justified man lives by faith, the Apostle concludes, he does not live by the Law, for the Law does not call for faith but for fulfillment of its precepts.

3:13–14. Christ, who was innocent, wished to offer the Father perfect atonement and thereby blot out our sin. To this end he voluntarily turned upon himself the curse that the Law laid on its transgressors. He bore the curse of the Law on our behalf and thereby set us free from the curse. What was for our Lord punishment was for us salvation. As St Jerome puts it, “the injury suffered by the Lord is our glory. He died so that we might live; he descended into hell so that we might ascend into heaven. He became folly so that we might be reaffirmed in wisdom. He emptied himself of the fullness and form of God, taking the form of a slave, so that this divine fullness might dwell in us and we might be changed from slaves into lords. He was nailed on the the cross so that the sin committed at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil might be blotted out, once he was hung on the tree of the cross”.

With our Lord’s death, the world’s redemption is achieved, God’s promise is fulfilled and the blessing he gave to Abraham multiplies his posterity, making them more numerous than the stars of heaven or the sand of the seashore (cf. Gen 15:5–6; 22:17),[1]

Reflection

“those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith”

Do we realize that we are also the children of Abraham, inheriting the blessing from God given to him? The Lord wants each of us to be a blessing but we must be open to receiving it. We receive the blessing by doing what Abraham did – listening for the voice of the Lord. He has promised this to all of his children but we must be persistent and patient in our prayer life to hear his direction.

Seek the Lord – listen for his voice – and let the blessings flow.   

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

[1] Saint Paul’s Letters to the Romans & Galatians, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 154–155.

Trusting God

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,’
and he says in reply from within,
‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit
to those who ask him?”
(Luke 11:5-13)  

Scripture Study

One of the essential features of prayer is trusting perseverance. By this simple example and others like it (cf. Lk 18:1–8) our Lord encourages us not to desist in asking God to hear us. “Persevere in prayer. Persevere even when your efforts seem sterile. Prayer is always fruitful” (St J. Escrivá, The Way, 101).

 “Do you see the effectiveness of prayer when it is done properly? Are you not convinced like me that, if we do not obtain what we ask God for, it is because we are not praying with faith, with a heart pure enough, with enough confidence, or that we are not persevering in prayer the way we should? God has never refused, nor will ever refuse, anything to those who ask for his graces in the way they should. Prayer is the great recourse available to us to get out of sin, to persevere in grace, to move God’s heart and to draw upon us all kinds of blessings from heaven, whether for the souls or to meet our temporal needs” (St John Mary Vianney, Selected Sermons, Fifth Sunday after Easter).

Our Lord uses the example of human parenthood as a comparison to stress again the wonderful fact that God is our Father, for God’s fatherhood is the source of parenthood in heaven and on earth (cf. Eph 3:15). “The God of our faith is not a distant being who contemplates indifferently the fate of men—their desires, their struggles, their sufferings. He is a Father who loves his children so much that he sends the Word, the Second Person of the most Blessed Trinity, so that by taking on the nature of man he may die to redeem us. He is the loving Father who now leads us gently to himself, through the action of the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 84).[1]

Reflection

“We can swallow God not giving us what we ask for when we’re asking for a Ferrari, a new house or for our favorite team to win the big game. But it gets real when our health, or the health of someone we love, begins to fail, or when we’ve been looking for employment for months and the bills are due. These are the moments when God’s answers are hard to accept. So hard, that we reject His answer.

But our prayers should be reminders of our trust in God and His wisdom, of our belief that nothing is happening that He is not aware of, or even allowing.

Trusting God is an admission of our limited perspective. God is good. And He is the giver of good gifts. Trusting Him through His answers that don’t make us feel great provides us an opportunity to show that we can love and trust Him despite the hurt from painful circumstances.

After all, that’s the way He loves us.”

– Antwuan Malone in Relevent

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 115.