Scripture Reading for Today: Romans 3:21-30 (read it here)
For Paul, the supreme problem of life is: How can we get into a right relationship with God? How can we feel at peace with God? How can we escape the feeling of estrangement and fear in the presence of God?
Judaism answers: One can attain a right relationship with God by keeping meticulously all that the law lays down. But to say that is equivalent to say that nobody can ever attain a right relationship with God, for no one can keep every commandment of the law.
Against those who might think it is necessary for Gentile Christians converts to keep the Jewish Law to be in right relationship with God, Paul answers that the way to God is not the way of law, but the way of grace, not the way of works, but the way of faith.
To show what he means, Paul uses a metaphor from the law courts of “justification.” This metaphor thinks of a person on trial before God. In Greek “to justify someone” does not mean to prove or show he is just, right, or reasonable; it means to treat, reckon, or account him as “just,” or innocent.
If an innocent man appears before a judge, to treat him as innocent is to acquit him. But the point about a person’ relationship to God is that he is utterly guilty, and yet God, in his amazing mercy, treats him, reckons him, accounts him as if he were innocent. That is what justification means.
Therefore, when Paul says that “God justifies the ungodly,” he means that God treats the ungodly as good people. That is what shocks us to the core of our being. To us to treat the bad person as if he were good is the sign of a wicked judge. But that is precisely what God does.
But how can we know that God is like that? We knowit because Jesus said so. He came to tell us that God loves us—bad as we are. He came to tell us that although we are sinners, we are still dear to God.
When we discover that and believe it,it changes our whole relationship to God. We are conscious of our sin, but we are no longer in terror and no longer estranged. Penitent and brokenhearted, we come to God; and we know that the God we come to is love.
Justification by faith in Jesus Christ, therefore, means that we are in a right relationship with God because we believe with all our hearts that what Jesus told us about God is true. We are no longer terrorized strangers who fear an angry God.
We are children—certainly disobedient children—who trust in their Father’s love for forgiveness. And we could never have found that right relationship with God if Jesus had not come to live and die to tell us how wonderfully he loves us.
It is in the Eucharist that we celebrate Christ’s Death and Resurrection—the cause of our justification.
Let us thank the Lord for his mercy and for treating us as “just” in his sight.
Encouraged by Mary, in our difficulties let us always place our faith and trust in the Lord.
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Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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