A Disciple’s Work is Never Done
Dueling banjos. Paul and Jesus really go at it today! Our readings deliver their message with energy, peaceful assurance and challenge.
Paul must be frustrated. The seeds he has sown among the gentiles have blossomed into communities, but as he moves along proclaiming the Gospel, he hears from his gentile friends, “We didn’t know we accepted all of this by accepting Jesus. Are these teachers correct?” Now he has to contend with the ‘Judizers’, the Jewish-Christians coming in his wake and telling the gentiles that to have life they must follow the law, the rituals and Jewish festivals. This is necessary to be descendants of Abraham.
Paul’s responds, it is not the law that gives life, rather it is Jesus. In fact, the law is a curse. No one can fulfill it. As for being descendants of Abraham, God promised Abraham that all the nations would be blessed in him. In a hidden way he was announcing the coming of Jesus. Believing in Christ you receive Abraham’s blessing. You have become the sons and daughter of Abraham through the Holy Spirit.
As for the law, Jesus by being crucified bore the curse of the law and frees us from the law. That law is replaced by a new commandment, the law of love. Please don’t put yourself back under the curse of the law when you have chosen the freedom that Christ has given to us, says Paul.
Jesus is also doing battle. He proclaims the Kingdom of God and describes the opposition from the Kingdom of Satan. In this section of the Gospel Jesus is forming the disciples, and in the previous verses has taught them to pray. We see our prayer to the Father is contradicted by those who stand against the Kingdom of God. We ask for the Spirit from heaven, they ask for a signs from above, we pray not to be put to the test but they put Jesus to a test, rather than ask pardon they accuse, and they refuse to see Jesus as the Son, instead accusing him of doing the work of Satan.
The banjo is strumming…and Our Lord gives a reassuring picture. He is the Stronger One, he has broken into the Kingdom of Satan and takes the spoils. Stand with me, he says, don’t scatter. The victory is assured and it is ours.
We end with a parody that may have lightens the tension and gives a challenge. Chased away an evicted person sees his former dwelling fixed up and empty. He returns with friends and becomes a bigger problem. Emptiness provides no opposition. So, our challenge: choose your Kingdom, your Lord. We know the harvest is great. Before leaving the Kingdom, your King has entrusted you with his gifts to invest. Don’t be idle, be committed.
Today’s reading accompanies yesterday’s ‘Our Father’ and can make our most familiar prayer come to life as a call to action.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.