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MAY WE NOT REJECT YOU

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Gal. 4:22-24, 26-27, 31 – 5:1 & Lk. 11:29-32

Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians has been called the 'Charter of Christian freedom'. But it might more accurately be called 'Charter of Christian identity' because it emphasizes the Cross of Jesus Christ as our sole source of salvation.

This letter was written in the heat of controversy and we must be careful not to take Paul’s reaction to the claims of the 'Judaizers' as an indictment of Judaism. His high regard for Judaism and its role as a precursor of Christ is shown in chapter nine of his Letter to the Romans.

Here, Paul is concerned about the Galatians diminishing the power of Christ's redemption on the Cross, for if the Cross needs any supplementation, then it is deficient, incomplete and emptied of power. If the Galatians adopt the practices of the old law, they are selling themselves into slavery and surrendering the freedom they have in Christ. It is not that the Jewish practices are wrong but for the Christian they are not necessary.

Paul uses the life of Abraham to make a point. He had two sons, one a slave from the servant Hagar and the other the child of promise from his wife Sarah. Hagar stands for the old covenant of attachment to Jewish practices. Sarah represents the promised New Jerusalem in which salvation flows freely through faith in Christ alone. The old covenant could only show the need for salvation. Christ brings salvation. Do the Galatians want to know the need or receive the gift?

Only Christ brings salvation. We should put from our lives anything that diminishes our complete and total trust in Jesus Christ. If we become spiritual slaves to anything other than Christ, we will have sold our souls into a new bondage.

Would it not have been easier for Jesus to give in to the people's demand in today's Gospel for a 'sign' since He could have performed some amazing feat to display His divinity and silence His opposition? Instead Jesus rebuked the crowd with harsh comparisons. "The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgement with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold something greater than Jonah is here.”

If only the people could have seen Jesus with eyes of faith! Then they would have known the joy of witnessing the very sign they wanted. For the sign of Jonah was none other than Jesus Himself. Like Jonah, He preached repentance from sin, calling God's people to reform their lives and welcome the inauguration of the kingdom of God. Through Jonah, God revealed His mercy to Nineveh, just as Jesus unveiled His Father's endless mercy to everyone who came to Him in humility and repentance. Through His parables of redemption and restoration, Jesus taught us all about the prodigious love of His Father; and He lived His message of mercy every time He sat down at table with tax collectors and sinners, and mixed among lepers and Samaritans.

It is worth noting that Jesus did perform many miraculous works for the people to see. His signs, however, were not awesome works of magic but demonstrations of His Father's compassion for the suffering and needy, His desire to save us from sin and death. Nevertheless, Jesus was rejected by so many, and still is, precisely because He refused to reduce His ministry to one of working magic tricks.

Jesus was a new Jonah and much more, for He was swallowed by death itself, yet He emerged victorious three days later as the ultimate sign of God's presence and power among us. Now He beckons people in every age to accept the sign of His Cross and come to Him. Only then will the mighty works of God's Spirit be released from within the soul and move outward, transforming each of us into another sign of God's action on Earth.

Lord Jesus, You are the sign guiding us to the Father. Transform us by Your Spirit to become Your people, recipients of Your love and mercy.

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