10/20/17 First Reading: Romans 4:1-8 – Some thoughts on Justification by Faith

The Reformation leadersNext Tuesday, October 31st, the world will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation.  It’s important for us as Catholics to attend to it.

As I understand it, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk and scripture scholar, suffered terribly from scruples.  I’ve heard it said he went to confession every day, sometimes for hours.  Neither the Sacrament of Penance nor Eucharist brought him relief from his suffering.

Then, one day, reading from Romans 3:23-28 (or so), the scripture became the ‘two-edged sword’ (letter to the Hebrews) that surgically opened up Luther’s heart to the love and mercy of God.  It transformed him.

since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…  Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith.  For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.

Today’s reading echoes that same theme:
For what does the Scripture say?  Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  A worker’s wage is credited not as a gift, but as something due.  But when one does not work, yet believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness… (Romans 4:2-6)

Here’s a thought based upon over 38 years of hearing confessions.  Many have labored under the illusion (through no fault of their own) that they/we can correct our faults and stop ‘acting out’ by increasing our intentions and applying our will power.  We can succeed by our own efforts.  We secure our place in the driver’s seat and choose how and where to go.

Doesn’t work, does it?

Here’s what I believe Luther rightly points to in human nature, not just in Catholic practice, but the basic human journey.  Like him, once we realize and admit we are unable to control our acting out (in anger, pride, envy, greed, gluttony, lust, and sloth), we can turn to God, get out of the driver’s seat, and surrender our driver’s hat to find the freedom that has terrified us to discover it’s… amazing!

We humans are fearful creatures.  We get in our own way.  We shoot ourselves in the foot continually.  It’s human nature.  Call it concupiscence.  We do have the wherewithal to secure our personal driver’s seat.  However, the way religious principles can be taught encourage that fear.  In this way, good religious people seek to control others.

I have found that the discovery of my own powerlessness over so much in my life leads me to slide out of my driver’s seat… from time to time (!)  And I find it a joy much of the time to surrender every part of me – good and bad – to the care and mercy of Christ.  Less pretense.  Less fear.  More freedom to serve.

Might this be the learning we Catholics can receive from Martin Luther’s experience?  I think so.  Happy 500 years!  –roc,sj

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Early Music Now

Across Borders - Across Time

Gretchen McCulloch

Internet Linguist

joyindestructible

Joy is the product of enduring faith.

anntogether

AM Roselli's art & writing site

lillian the home poet

rejuvenatement - not retirement

The Feels

Feel Good News 24/7

Elihu's Corner

press on to know the lord

karenwriteshere

Hope isn't an emotion, but a daily choice. Keep choosing the path of hope.

symbolreader

Sharing My Love of Symbols

The Lace In My Head Mirrors the Cosmic Mind

The cosmos is also within us. We are made of star dust. We are a way that the cosmos can know itself. Carl Sagan

Disarmed by Love

A force like no other. To be known and loved.

Revealing the Absolute

Where Seeking Ends and Learning Begins

Live the Essentials

Insights from the mishaps and adventures of a religious brother

Post it Notes from my Idiot Boss

delivered directly to my computer monitor on an all too regular basis...

National Media Museum blog

We explore the science, technology and art of the still and moving image, and its impact on our lives.

Envisioning The American Dream

A visual remix of the American Dream as pictured in Mid Century Media

Before the Downbeat

Thoughts on music, creativity, imagination, and exploring the space between the notes.

Pew Theology

Faith | Life | Society

%d bloggers like this: