Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Galatians 3:1-5; Luke 11:5-13)
Fr. Paul Hinnebusch used to teach theology to a charismatic prayer community in Dallas. He said that he did not pray in tongues nor did he particularly care for other forms of charismatic prayer. But he enjoyed being with the community because of their desire to know about the Lord. Fr. Hinnebusch would share St. Paul’s concern about the Galatians in today’s first reading.
It can be assumed that the Galatians had a prayer style similar to what we know as charismatic prayer. Three times Paul mentions the Spirit in the passage. It is the same Spirit that he associates with the gift of tongues in the First Letter to the Corinthians. Evidently the Galatians prayed in ways that are still associated with the Holy Spirit. That is, they sang songs of praise to God and even spoke in tongues. Paul does not criticize them for this. But he twice calls them “stupid” because through a lapse in theology they have assumed Jewish religious practices like circumcision. He tells them almost brutally that they are saved by faith in Christ, not by religious works.
In our desire for salvation we sometimes lapse into thinking that we are saved by our works. We may think that no matter what we do as long as we go to church on Sunday, we will enjoy eternal life. Or perhaps we believe that heaven is the reward of all who help their neighbors. No, as Paul states quite clearly in this same Letter to the Galatians, the only thing that matters is “faith working through love.” We have to peer at the cross and say, “Yes, Lord, you are my Savior; I will follow you.” Of course, then we have to follow through.