The readings are from the Catholic lectionary for daily mass, while the headlines are meant to keep my thinking realistic.
PUTIN WORSHIPPED AS HERCULES IN NEW IMAGES
Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere. In this way the promise can only be given through faith in Jesus Christ and can only be given to those who have this faith.
Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith. Now that that time has come we are no longer under that guardian, and you are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.
When Paul talks about sin he means a spiritual power, generated by human arrogance, which traps humanity in a web of evil. He calls this sin-bound humanity “Adam”, not referring to a historical ancestor but to a socially transmitted wrongfulness to which every person consents to some degree. He shares the realism of Jewish faith about human character which contains the evil tendency, the yetzer hara’, as well as the good, the yetzer hatov. He views sin as universal.
On the other hand he believes in God’s rescue operation which involved choosing one people who would learn Hs ways and transmit them to the world. In Paul’s view this plan, which involved the gift of Torah to Israel was always bound to “fail” as the power of sin would trap even Israel into constant disobedience to the commands of Torah. Paul imagined that God used Torah as a kind of childminder, keeping his children under some control, until the one perfectly obedient human being, the Messiah, God’s son, would reveal a new way, Instead of painstaking and partial obedience to the Torah, human beings were invited to surrender utterly their human egos, their “self of flesh”, their “Adam” and to unite with Jesus Messiah in a new communal identity as children of God.
The limited value of the Torah is exposed by its condemnation of the perfectly obedient Messiah. This is a sign that it is fulfilled, it has done its job, and must now be retired from active service. Its old distinctions between Jew and Gentile, slave and freeman, man and woman, must also be left behind as they are no longer appropriate for the multinational family of equal men and women who are united in Jesus Messiah.
Paul was not preaching a new religion but rather a new humanity; and the profound nature of his blueprint is evident in the extent to which it remains unrealised today. He is not proposing a political programme and is miles away from any crazy optimism about human perfectibility here and now. The way of Messiah Jesus requires trust, humility and love shown in the practicalities of life in a new open community which looked to spread throughout what Greeks called the OIKUMENE, the inhabited world.
It is this “ecumenical” life that the Galatians will lose, says Paul if they go backwards towards the Jewish Torah.
As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’
This is a Roman Catholic mistranslation of the Greek, in which Jesus clearly says, “No, blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Its wee sneaky difference is made to shield Roman Catholic mariolatry from the rebuke of Jesus. Here in this story is an early example of the gushing religiosity which has turned Christianity into a holy huddle rather than a community of people devoted to God’s goodness. Jesus rejected it entirely. He was even less interested in conventional religion than Paul.