Wednesday, October 17, 2012

First thing first

Another amazing configuration of readings for Mass today (I mean the weekday readings, not the special Gospel for today's mind-bogglingly noble saint).

Paul, the former Pharisee, has to help the Galatians recognize that the religious laws he himself so carefully observed and promoted (and which they found strangely attractive) are not an "end" in themselves: they were enacted to keep a lid on all sorts of anti-social activities (which he then goes on to list for our convenience, but you can find in any day's headlines).  What Paul (and Jesus in today's Gospel) tell us to focus on are not mere observances, but a kind of docility to the action of the Holy Spirit, so that our lives manifest the Spirit's presence in virtues that are beyond human achievements (and which no law can mandate--or repress!): charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness...

Both readings seem to look at the two ends of a perennial pendulum: on the one end, minute, legalistic observance that idolizes rules and regulations; on the other, unrestrained passion--"the lust that is idolatry" (according to Paul, in another letter). In the center, "judgment and the love of God" which upholds both the law and human freedom; a fullness characterized by the abundant "fruits of the Spirit."

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