Signpost for Sunday 26 June, 2016: 2 Kgs 2:1-2,6-14; Ps 77:1-2, 11-20; Gal 5:1, 13-25; Luke 9:51-62.
The letter to the Galatians poses problems for some among us. Paul’s main point is the freedom of the Christian as against the slavery of the good faithful Jew, especially the Pharisee. He knows, because this is what happened to him. He was conquered by Christ and is now free. He finds himself in opposition to some in the early Church that we call the Judaisers. They want to have their cake and eat it.
But, as Paul sees it, the Spirit makes us Christians; the Law does not. We do not earn this by the works of the Law, but it is a free gift of God’s love. And in this passage he balances this main contention by adding that the other result of the presence of the Spirit is also love – the love that Christians have for one another and for God, and for their neighbour.
The Judaisers are still at work today in one way or another. Anything that replaces grace, the free gift of the love of God, by any sort of bargain is Judaising. If we think a pilgrimage is about getting close to God, or earning something, if we think that prayer and fasting bring results other than fostering our relationship with the love of God, if we insist that others must conform to our traditional way of living (marriage, same-sex relations, etc.) or if we demand a certain degree of commitment to giving, to worship, to study groups, then we are proclaiming that salvation can be, indeed must be earned, and the love of God is not really free after all.
We worship God because we love God and the company of God’s people. We study alone or together because this helps us in our free Christian life. We undertake spiritual exercises because they express our love to God and through them we feel the love of God more closely. None of them are undertaken in order to buy the grace of God. They all proceed freely from our experience of the free grace of God.