God’s justice that was made known through the Law and the Prophets has now been revealed outside the Law, since it is the same justice of God that comes through faith to everyone, Jew and pagan alike, who believes in Jesus Christ. Both Jew and pagan sinned and forfeited God’s glory, and both are justified through the free gift of his grace by being redeemed in Christ Jesus who was appointed by God to sacrifice his life so as to win reconciliation through faith. In this way God makes his justice known; first, for the past, when sins went unpunished because he held his hand, then, for the present age, by showing positively that he is just, and that he justifies everyone who believes in Jesus.
So what becomes of our boasts? There is no room for them. What sort of law excludes them? The sort of law that tells us what to do? On the contrary, it is the law of faith, since, as we see it, a man is justified by faith and not by doing something the Law tells him to do. Is God the God of Jews alone and not of the pagans too? Of the pagans too, most certainly, since there is only one God.
‘Alas for you who build the tombs of the prophets, the men your ancestors killed! In this way you both witness what your ancestors did and approve it; they did the killing, you do the building.
‘And that is why the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles; some they will slaughter and persecute, so that this generation will have to answer for every prophet’s blood that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the sanctuary.” Yes, I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all.
‘Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves, and have prevented others going in who wanted to.’
When he left the house, the scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on him and tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions, setting traps to catch him out in something he might say.
Because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
When we were still Buddhists, my father challenged me with the riddle of the prodigal son when I told him I wanted to be a Christian – “you mean to tell me if a murderer on his deathbed says he believes in Jesus, he is forgiven and goes to heaven? Isn’t that very unfair? And you want to believe in that?” I remember being rendered speechless. I was still a teenager and my faith was even weaker then than it is now, so the words to rebut his logic failed me and I kept silent.
I am still confounded today that “God makes us righteous by means of faith in Jesus, and this is applied to all who believe, without distinction” (Romans 3:22-24). My father’s analogy back then was a bit extreme but he wasn’t far off. We are in God’s grace by faith, not because of our deeds and adherence to traditions. I think I have yet to fully grasp this.
I am like the eldest son, in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), who obeys with a closed heart and a closed mind. If I was brutally honest, with myself I think I still hold on to the mindset of serving with the hope of being rewarded. I push myself to find the time for His work, because I think it will help me ‘win’ God’s favor. In my puny mind and my puny heart, there are times when I think that if I worked His cause as hard as I can, He’ll listen more intently to my prayers. I feel like if I slip in doing His work, I will be punished and He will withdraw His blessings from me.
I find my insecurity compounds when my litany of prayers and requests for favors don’t get answered. When that happens, I push even harder. As a result, I live in a state of constant fear and insecurity. I don’t think that is how we are supposed to walk with faith.
I think what stops me from having a deeper, more meaningful, more trusting relationship with God… is me, my fear and my pride. If all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but God makes us righteous and worthy by means of faith in Jesus, then why should I still fear? If His grace is applied to all who believe without distinction, then why am I still afraid? Why am I still afraid that I am not doing enough when all fall short and can never hope to do enough?
“Then no more fear; you did not receive a spirit of slavery, but the Spirit that makes you sons and daughters and every time we cry “Abba Father!” the Spritis assures us that we are sons and daughters of God” – Romans 8:15. So why should I continue to be a slave to my own fear, pride and insecurities?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for God’s mercy and compassion, for the times when we’re fearful, doubting, insecure and floundering. We pray for His compassion when we’re lost. We pray for Him to find us because we cannot ourselves, find our way back to Him.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the times that God has brought us back to the straight road, when we’ve gone astray. We give thanks for all the times God has allowed us to return, prodigal sons and daughters, back to His fold.
Fri, 14 Oct – Romans 4:1-8; Luke 12:1-7; Memorial for St Callistus I, Pope & Martyr
Sat, 15 Oct – Romans 4:13.16-18; Luke 12:8-12; Memorial for St Teresa of Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church
Sun, 16 Oct – Isaiah 45:1.4-6; Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21; Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time