October 15, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

Today's Readings

As we continue to read from the beginning of his Letter to the Romans, we see St. Paul proving that a religion based on faith is actually older than one based on the law. The Jews felt that they could not just abandon their religion, the laws given by Moses, for some newfangled religion founded on faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. St. Paul is pointing out that Christianity is actually older than Judaism, in the sense that Abraham lived 500 years before the law. Abraham never had the law. Indeed, even the limited law that he did have, the law of circumcision, came relatively late in his life. Faith is the original religion.

The law served an important role for a time. In another letter, St. Paul calls it the “babysitter”. The law prepared the people for the coming of Jesus Christ. The law taught the people about the power of God; then God came as Jesus Christ. The law revealed to the people their sinfulness, but Jesus brought forgiveness. The law revealed their weakness, since no one ever could keep it, but Jesus brought strength by the power of the Holy Spirit. The law served the purpose of God, but faith existed before the law and it continues in existence now that the law no longer has any power over us.

It is not that the law has changed or passed away. As Jesus once said, the law will not pass away until heaven and earth pass away. The law remains, but it remains without power. The law reveals to us that we are sinners worthy of death. The law is an accusation, and the accusation is true. We have failed and we do fail to honor our parents and love God above all else. Who here has not coveted their neighbor’s stuff?

We are not righteous according to the law. The accusation is true, but it has no power. We do not claim to be righteous according to the law. We claim righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ. Not that he will save us without making us good! We believe in the fullness of redemption, including justification. The difference is whom we are relying on: we do not rely on our own ability; we rely on Jesus Christ. God has shown us through the law that we cannot be good without him, so we stopped trying. Instead, we are going to be good with him.