Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter
(Acts 18:9-18; John 16:20-23)
Karl Barth, one of the twentieth century’s greatest theologians, thought that religion could be the enemy of faith. Seeing how the needs of religious institutions often take priority over trust in God, Barth chastised the former in promotion of a God who demands human faithfulness. Barth wrote cogently over the work of the apostle Paul, who is encountered in today’s first reading as taking a stand quite in line with Barth’s critique.
Paul’s experience of Jesus has led him to claim that only faith in Christ can save one from sin and death. Trying to comply with the Jewish law as the way to salvation - he preaches - avails nothing because it inevitably falls short of its objective. For such a claim the Jews of Corinth take Paul to the Roman administrator Gallio. The statesman wisely stays out of the religious conflict and allows Paul to resume his mission.
We should not abandon our valid religious practices. Properly pursued, they will take us closer to God. Nevertheless, we need to realize that merely going through the motions of religious custom will get us nowhere. We must hang on the words of Christ by imitating his ways and pleading his assistance.