Justification   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Romans 3:21-31 (Revised English Bible):

But now, quite independent of law, though with the law and the prophets bearing witness to it, the righteousness of God has been made known; it is effective through faith in Christ for all who have such faith–all, without distinction.  For all alike have sinned, and are deprived of the divine glory; and all are justified by god’s free grace alone, through his act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus.  For God designed him to be the means of expiating sin by his death, effective through faith.  God meant by this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had overlooked the sins of the past–to demonstrate his justice now in the present, showing that he is himself just and also justifies anyone who puts his faith in Jesus.

What room then is left for human pride?  It is excluded.  And on what principle?  The keeping of the law would not exclude it, but faith does.  For our argument is that people are justified by faith quite apart from any question of keeping the law.

Do you suppose that God is the God of the Jews alone?  It he not the God of the Gentiles also?  Certainly, of the Gentiles also.  For if the Lord is indeed one, he will justify the circumcised by their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.  Does this mean that we are using faith to undermine the law?  By no means:  we are upholding the law.

Psalm 130 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2  If you , LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

3  For there is forgiveness with you;

therefore you shall be feared.

4  I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him;

in his word is my hope.

5  My soul waits for the LORD,

more than watchmen in the morning,

more than watchmen in the morning.

6  O Israel, wait for the LORD,

for with the LORD there is mercy;

7  With him there is plenteous redemption,

and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

Luke 11:47-54 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued, rejoining one of the lawyers:]

Alas, you build monuments to the prophets whom your fathers murdered, and so testify that you approve of the deeds your fathers did; they committed the murders and you provide the monuments.

This is why the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and messengers; and some of these they will persecute and kill;’ so that this generation will have to answer for the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world; from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who met his death between the altar and the sanctuary.  I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all.

Alas for you lawyers!  You have taken away the key to knowledge.  You did not go in yourselves, and those who were trying to go in, you prevented.

After he had left the house, the scribes and Pharisees began to assail him fiercely and to ply him with a host of questions, laying snares to catch him with his own words.

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The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Let us be clear about what Paul means by faith, a concept central to today’s reading from Romans.  Faith, here, as I explained two posts ago, is the acceptance of complete reliance on God’s grace, not our actions. Then there is another term:  justification.  This is a legal term indicating being made right with another in relationship.  So Paul is saying that we have a right relationship with God because God makes it right and we accept it.

There is also much confusion about the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church regarding this matter.  So I have consulted the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Paragraph 1987, which one can find in the article on “Grace and Justification,” reads:

The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “by the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism.

Then it quotes Romans 6:8-11.

Paragraph 2018 tells us:

Like conversion, justification has two aspects.  Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, and so accepts forgiveness and righteousness from on high.

Catholic theology, unlike certain Protestant theologies, gives much weight to human free will.  It is important to note that this free will comes from God, so, in Catholic theology, our means of responding favorably to God exists because God has placed it within us.  So everything goes back to God in Catholic theology.

Then there is James 2:24, which, in the Revised English Bible reads,

You see then that it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

This does not contradict today’s reading from Romans because the author of James understands faith to mean intellectual consent to a proposition.  Both action and intellectual assent are part of Paul’s definition of faith, however.  Read the post from two days ago for more material on this topic.

Neither Paul nor the Roman Catholic Church nor the author of the Letter of James contradict each other on this point.

There is nothing we can do, other than accept grace and our need for it, to have a right relationship with God.  This is not Jesus-and-meism, a selfish form of religion by which one does not care about others and the natural order.  I have spoken with some Jesus-and-me Christians and tried unsuccessfully to dissuade them from their apathy regarding this life.  The world might burn, but they have told me that they do not care.  One such person told me that this planet is just her “vacation home.”  No, we have a calling to be good stewards of this planet, which is our home for as long as we are here.  And the welfare others is ours, too, just as ours is theirs.  Loving one’s neighbor as one’s self entails caring deeply about the injustices in the lives of our neighbors then acting accordingly.

Those whom Jesus chastised at one of the more unpleasant dinner parties in the canonical gospels chose not to amend their ways.  I hope that you, O reader, will not be like them, just as I hope I will not be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 5, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HONORATUS OF ARLES AND HILARY OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS, AND SAINTS VENANTIUS OF MODON AND CAPRASIUS OF LERINS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMITS

THE FEAST OF JACOB ALBRIGHT, FOUNDER OF THE EVANGELICAL ASSOCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN HOUGHTON, ROBERT LAWRENCE, AUGUSTINE WEBSTER, HUMPHREY MIDDLEMORE, WILLIAM EXMEW, AND SEBASTIAN NEWDIGATE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/week-of-proper-23-thursday-year-1/

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 23: Thursday, Year 1 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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