For this Sunday, I have decided to focus on the Gospel from St. Luke 14:1-11 (for a comment on the Epistle from Ephesians 4, see last year's post). In St. Luke 14, we see some common themes in Christ's teaching concerning the Pharisaic approach to religion.
First, we have the case of the man sick with dropsy or fluid retention. Even though it is the sabbath and some types of medical care were considered work which was unlawful on the sabbath., Jesus does not hesitate to heal the man. He then points out His reason: human beings are certainly more important than beasts of burden, and the Law of Moses honored by the Pharisees allowed acts of mercy on the sabbath even for beasts.
Secondly, Jesus notices how His table companions are concerned about getting the most honored seats. He relates this petty behavior to a common symbol of the Messianic age, the wedding feast. In social situations, real honor is bestowed by the host, not acquired by some brazen self-assertion. Likewise in spiritual matters, the faithful are dependent upon God's grace instead of pride and self-promotion.
Both these cases show the narrowness of some people's religion (not just first century Pharisees). First, although having some rules is necessary, there is a human tendency to get too caught up in picky details and forget the underlying purpose. Good rules, especially God's basic commands like observing a day of rest and prayer, are designed to improve the quality of life. People tend to forget that truth in opposing ways. Some are lawless and ignore all restrictions while others keep the details and ignore the higher purpose. Secondly, along withavoiding legalism, we must avoid pride and egotism. We must not focus on our own importance. Rather we must humbly look to God's gracious invitation to have fellowship with Him.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Friday, September 21, 2012
The Epistle for this Sunday is from Ephesians 3:13-21. This is a passage rich in many topics, but this time, I would focus on verses 16 and 17a: "that he [God the Father]would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith...." Here we see the interaction of the Holy Trinity for our salvation and sanctification. The Father works in a transcendent way as He sends the Holy Spirit to work upon our inner selves, and this work of the Spirit enables Christ to dwell in the hearts of those who have faith. Remaining aware of both the outward and inner working of God often seems difficult for human beings. There is an external objective work of God in the universe and upon human beings which we must not ignore. Yet, this external work also needs to be accompanied by an internal and personal or subjective influence in believers. If we neglect either aspect, we do not benefit from the full biblical concept of divine action.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
From the Epistle to the Galatians, let us highlight a key verse. Galatians 6:14 says, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." The Apostle Paul had a great religious heritage and a great intellect. He worked extremely hard and endured much for the cause of Christ. Yet, despite such great advantages, he saw that he had no personal reason to glory. For the Christian believer, there is ultimately only one reason for glory: the cross of Christ. Through what Christ accomplished on the cross, those who have faith and are joined to Him in Baptism die to worldly life in order to share in eternal life. In the long run, that is source of any glory in the Christian life.