Thursday, October 7, 2010

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

(Galatians 3:1-5; Luke 11:5-13)

Paul’s frontal attack 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 Mountains separating 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 Gulliver’s Travels. One biblical commentator describes them as “large, unpredictable simpletons, instinctively generous, ferocious and highly dangerous when angry, but without stamina and easy to trick.” Paul evidently considers them good-hearted enough to accept his sharp disapproval without rejecting the gospel. He probably developed a deep rapport when ill health caused him to stay with them for a protracted time.

Paul’s language, however, reveals more about himself than about the Galatians. For Paul the single, most important fact of life is God’s redemption of humanity in Jesus Christ. For some mysterious reason Christ commissioned him to preach this truth to non-Jews. He does not mean to subjugate anyone but only to express his love for his hearers by moving them to accept the salvation won by Christ. If strong language is necessary, he would work up the highest indignation. If refined rhetoric would do the job, he would polish his argumentation. 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).