Saved by Faith in Jesus

Homily for Monday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

Galatia was an area rather than a city or community.  It was located in Turkey and was populated by Gentile or pagan people who may have been descendants of the Celts who immigrated to the area in the third century before Christ.  Paul had preached to them in his second missionary journey and had returned to visit them during his third journey.  The letter seems to be a result of what Paul found upon returning to the area after the inhabitants had converted to Christianity.

As was often the case in Paul’s efforts, he was followed by members of the Essene sect of Judaism who had also converted to Christianity.  However, these converts to Christianity also held fast to the traditions of Judaism and the Mosaic Law.  When Paul moved on to preach to a new community, they would come into the newly formed Christian communities and claim that St. Paul had not preached the entire Gospel and that he had left out the part about maintaining the Jewish dietary laws and the necessity for all males to be circumcised.  Word of this would eventually reach Paul who would then vigorously denounce this message.  He would also make clear that the Gospel he had preached was the authentic Gospel that had been passed on to him by Jesus himself even though they had not met in life.

For Paul, the essential part of our faith can be found in the fact that Jesus had died for us on the cross and had been raised from the dead.  Putting our faith in this fact and believing that Jesus was the Son of God was all that was necessary for salvation.  To add on the observance of the Mosaic Law with its dietary restrictions and its ritual mark in the flesh simply diluted the power of the Gospel and the essential nature of faith by which we are saved.  In short, Paul simply would not tolerate the notion that observance of any law would save anyone.  The only Law that Paul acknowledged was the command to love God and to love one’s neighbor, not because we could gain salvation through its observance but simply because God had loved us first.

The Church has made it very clear that salvation comes through faith.  Our good works are simply our response to the gift we have been given through faith.  Grateful people must respond to this gift without any notion of earning salvation.


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