By now we are all very familiar with the fact that St. Paul maintains that we are saved by faith rather than by obedience to the Law. Today’s reading from the Letter to the Galatians once again reminds us of that central argument of St. Paul’s preaching. I wonder, however, whether we live our lives convinced of this fact.
Some would maintain that salvation by faith alone is simply “too easy.” I would ask those people whether the opposite isn’t really the case. Isn’t it far easier to live our lives convinced that obedience to the Law will grant us a place in heaven? When we are confronted by the reality of our world and the human situation, when we have to grapple with the fact that sin is very much present in our world, isn’t it far easier to simply place our hope in the fact that while the world seems to have turned away from God, I keep the commandments. I don’t have to worry about whether God’s Kingdom is being established on earth because I don’t stray from obedience and, consequently, am sure that God will welcome me into heaven when I die. In other words, I am relying on my own good works, my sacrifices, and my prayers.
St. Paul preaches that our salvation was won by the redemptive death of Jesus. Those who believe in the fact that Jesus has redeemed the world by his death are challenged each and every day to look at the sorry state of our human condition and rely on Jesus rather than upon ourselves. I have to say, “That ain’t easy.” This means that instead of holding ourselves at arm’s length from the world, we have to engage the world and continue the work of preaching the Gospel to it, knowing that just as the world rejected Jesus, it will probably reject us as well.
Today’s Gospel reading reminds us of how people rejected Jesus and the power he brought into the world. Rather than embracing the good he was trying to do by expelling demons, they chose to believe that he was an ally of Satan. The demons that possess our world are all those things that stand in the way of our personal relationship with God. The hard work of removing those obstacles is the work of faith. They won’t be removed if we simply remove ourselves from the fray and are content to rely upon our own good works.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator