Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Today, in Mercy, our readings challenge religious and moral hypocrisy.
Paul, in his continuing letter to the Galatians, counsels them about the practice of circumcision. But his counseling is really about freedom in Christ.
In Paul’s time, circumcision had religious significance as a sign of inclusion in the Jewish nation. Some Jewish Christians mistakenly taught that a Gentile must first become a Jew, through the law of circumcision, in order to become a Christian.
Paul condemns this error, reminding the Galatians that the grace given to us in Christ is beyond the Law.
For in Christ Jesus,
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything,
but only faith working through love.
In the Gospel, Jesus condemns any religious practice that is empty and just for show. He compares such rituals to cups, whose clean exterior hides a corrupt interior. Jesus says that the remedy to this hidden nastiness is to give alms, to be merciful.
We are all aware of pharisaical behavior within our religious institutions. We have seen disgusting evidence of it in sexual predation among clergy. We see it when exaggerated religious rituals are substituted for sincere, communal worship. We see it when the small, visible mistakes of others are used to hide the gaping faithlessness of the condemner. Sometimes, we are even caught in the judgmental nets these pretenses spin.
When we are confused by such situations, look to the words of Jesus and Paul today:
Look for faith working through love.
Look for a generous heart that sees and comforts the poor.
If our “religious” observance results in any form of exclusion, prejudice, condemnation or unforgiveness, we can be sure it is not of God.
Music: Purify My Heart ~ Brian Doerksen