Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
(Romans 4:1-8; Luke 12:1-7)
The French philosopher Albert Camus made a hero out of the rogue mythological king Sisyphus. In Camus’ story Sisyphus temporarily redeems humanity by putting Death itself in chains. As a punishment for his deception, the gods assign Sisyphus the task of pushing up a mountain a boulder which falls to the bottom as soon as Sisyphus approaches the summit. Sisyphus must repeat the quest forever.
Sisyphus’ fate is not unlike the dilemma of humans without Christ. Try as they might, humans on their own could never be justified before God. The Law pointed them in the right direction, but proved to be more than any person on his or her own could fulfill. St. Paul tells us today that justification comes by faith as it did in the case of Abraham of old. In the coming days we will hear Paul proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection as the definitive content of faith. To be justified, Paul will say, we must believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.
The news of salvation through faith is too grand for a grim realist like Albert Camus to bear. Camus thought that the best humans could do is to achieve integrity and, perhaps, an esprit de corps in carrying on the daily struggle of life until death. But we Christians dare to hope for much more because of the testimony of those like Paul. The apostles’ encounter with the risen Jesus changed their lives and sent them testifying until their bloody deaths his message of everlasting life.