Year C: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Second Reading: based on St Paul’s letter to the Galatians 6: 14-18
This is Paul’s postscript - his final message and signature to the letter that has gone before - this may well have been dictated to a scribe - but here, Paul is writing for himself.
We heard a few weeks ago that the community in Galatia had a few trouble-makers who were saying that the early Christians should observe Jewish Law as well - including the practice of circumcision.
Paul is quite clear that it is not what we do that matters - but what God does for us. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the “world” - here meaning the things that separate us from God - has been crucified for us. All that could stand between us and God has been destroyed in the death of Jesus. In His resurrection, we join His new life - we too become new creations. This, Paul says is the fundamental rule. Those who follow this rule form the new “Israel” - not a state or nation but a people - the People of God.
Some people have wondered whether the marks that Paul refers to on his body were the “stigmata” - the marks of Jesus’ Passion carried by several saints and others who lived lives of great holiness. They may be so - but may also be the marks left by the sufferings Paul himself has endured - the floggings - the stonings - the deprivations - all would have left permanent marks on his body. Although they might not be exact replicas of the marks of the Passion, such marks would show Paul’s willingness to enter into the mystery of the Passion of Jesus. Another possible way of understanding this would be that of the custom of the time - to brand (or otherwise mark) a slave or animal with the owner’s symbol to claim ownership. What Paul may also be suggesting is that the marks represent those of Jesus’ “ownership” - that he belongs to Christ.
At the end of his life, Paul says that all he can boast about is the cross of Jesus Christ - and yet, this fills him with no regrets but rather a deep peace and satisfaction.
There will come a moment of truth for all of us - as we look back over our lives and see what we have accomplished - and see the true worth of things.
What does it mean for me?
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