Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Paul’s frontal against the Galatians – “O stupid Galatians, who has bewitched you?” – makes us wonder what kind of people would tolerate such criticism. Most likely Paul is addressing a community of Christians he founded in the northern part of the province of Galatia. The fair-haired and light complexioned inhabitants of that area migrated in the third century before Christ from the region of the Pyrenees separationg what is presently France and Spain. “Galatians” comes from the same root as the Latin word Gallia which refers to the expansive tract of Western Europe that includes modern France.
In Paul’s day Galatians were considered something like the Brobdingnagians of Jonathan Swift’s famous novel Gulliver’s Travels. One author describes them: “large, unpredictable simpletons, instinctively generous, ferocious and highly dangerous when angry, but without stamina and easy to trick.” Paul evidently considered them good-hearted enough to accept his sharp disapproval without rejecting his message. He probably had developed a deep rapport with them when ill health caused him to stay with them for a protracted amount of time.
Paul’s language, however, reveals more about himself than about the Galatians. For Paul the single, most important fact of life was God’s redemption of humanity in Jesus Christ. For some mysterious reason Christ had commissioned him to preach this truth to non-Jews. He did not mean to subjugate anyone but only to express his love for his hearers as Christ showed his love for all by his death on the cross. If strong language was necessary for a people to accept redemption, he would use it. If refined rhetoric would do the job, he would argue with great sophistication. As he himself would write to the Corinthians, “I have become all things to all, so that I might save at least some” (I Cor 9:22).