14 Oct, Friday of Week 28
Rom 4:1ff. When one believes believes in the provident God who takes care of us, this faith is credited as justice. This is how Abraham was justified.
Lk 12:1ff. Do not be fearful. What you hear or say in secret, proclaim from the rooftops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot touch your soul.
God’s Chosen Ones?
Romans tends to be sober and cautious due to the atmosphere of controversy. Paul is still battling against the “Judaizers” of the early Church who demanded the full observance of the Mosaic law from every disciple of Jesus. He turns to the example of Abraham, to illustrate that justification is by faith rather than by works. Not only does the Torah state clearly, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as justice,” but it is also an indisputable fact that Abraham preceded Moses by hundreds of years, and therefore did not observe the Mosaic law. If this part of Paul’s argument is so obvious that he may seem guilty of overkill, it may be meant to counter a tradition that Abraham knew in advance by revelation the entire Mosaic law, obeyed it and so was blessed. Such seems to be the position of the sage, Ben Sirach, “Abraham, father of many peoples,… observed the precepts of the Most High,… and when tested,he was found loyal. Therefore, God promised him with an oath that in his descendants the nations would be blessed (Sir 44:19-21).
Paul disdains this later tradition and takes his case back to Genesis. First came God’s choice and call (Gen 12), then Abraham’s faith (Gen 15) and only later did he demand circumcision (Gen 17) and prove himself faithful in the test (Gen 22). If God’s gift to Abraham, and like Abraham now to the gentiles, was so freely bestowed, then Paul and ourselves need no longer think of past sins. Nor will we be concerned about offenses against a law that is no longer binding on us.
Exuberance and liberty of spirit are found in today’s gospel. What was said in the dark we are to proclaim from rooftops. If our merciful God is concerned about sparrows, then “fear nothing. You are more precious than a whole flock of sparrows.” Justification by faith in this God liberates us more than from the law. It makes us free, confident and already part-way to heaven.
First Reading: Romans 4:1-8
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”
Gospel: Luke 12:1-7
Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.