JESUS: GOD-MADE-VISIBLE TO US
In a rather difficult passage, Paul speaks to us today of freedom: We are born free as Christians, as people of the New Testament. Now that Christ has set us free, we should see to it that we are never enslaved again. Paul himself is a striking example of this “liberating freedom”: he has freed himself from pharisaism and could even take a free stance regarding the other apostles when Christian freedom was at stake. Are we free persons?
Jesus reprimands the Jews for not believing unless they see spectacular signs. But Christ proclaims that faith consists in trust in the word and in the person of the one who is sent. The early Christian community specified further: faith rests in confidence in the risen Christ. The preeminent sign is Jesus Christ himself. We believe not because of this or that wonder or proof but because Jesus makes God visible to us.
Lord our God,
your Son remained a free person
even in the face of death:
Life was not taken from him,
he gave it in freedom to you and to us,
that we might be free people.
Keep us free from slavery in any form,
from the evil of sin first of all,
but also from our own fears and complexes,
the pressures of people, the herd spirit,
that we may be faithful to the gospel
and free for people and for you.
This we ask you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
1 Reading: Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31–5:1
Brothers and sisters: It is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the freeborn woman. The son of the slave woman was born naturally, the son of the freeborn through a promise. Now this is an allegory. These women represent two covenants. One was from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; this is Hagar. But the Jerusalem above is freeborn, and she is our mother. For it is written: Rejoice, you barren one who bore no children; break forth and shout, you who were not in labour; for more numerous are the children of the deserted one than of her who has a husband. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are children not of the slave woman but of the freeborn woman. For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
Responsorial Psalm PS 113:1B-2, 3-4, 5A AND 6-7
R. (cf. 2) Blessed be the name of the Lord forever. or: Alleluia, alleluia.
Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
both now and forever. R.
From the rising to the setting of the sun
is the name of the LORD to be praised.
High above all nations is the LORD;
above the heavens is his glory. R.
Who is like the LORD, our God,
who looks upon the heavens and the earth below?
He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor. R.
Alleluia Psalm 95:8
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Luke 11:29-32
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
Slavery made a slow exit from human history. It played a part in American life until the nineteenth century, and there are still parts of the world in our time that live in social oppression. It certainly played a part in Israelite life. In today’s reading Paul takes up the story of Sarah and Hagar. The former was the free woman, the latter a slave girl. But Paul turns the account on its head. And the key players take on exactly the opposite roles.
There are two covenants involved, one from Mount Sinai, the other from Jerusalem, from above. The Christian is a child of the heavenly covenant, a child of the free woman, a child of the Abraham of faith.
We err indeed if we believe that we have been born into a religion of rules and regulations. We have been born into a community of faith, confident that God has acted on our behalf in his Son. Once a part of that community, we give expression to our gratitude in conduct that renders God’s glory and respects the dignity and worth of every human being. This is the meaning of being a child of the free woman.
– For the leaders of nations, that they may respect and promote human rights and work relentlessly for justice, happiness and freedom for their people, we pray:
– For the oppressed and the exploited, that they may not take their marginal existence as the will of God, but that they may become conscious that they too are called to be free, we pray:
– For this community, that we may not shut up ourselves within little prisons of self-interest, but that we may be truly one and free in Christ as a community of service, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
God our Father,
we come before you and offer you our gifts
as your free sons and daughters.
Give us your Son as our guide
that through him we may win
the relentless struggle
to gain our interior freedom,
so that we may be fully human
and indeed your sons and daughters reborn free
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Lord our God,
strangely enough, we are free
when we are bound to you as your people.
In this Eucharist we have encountered again
your Son Jesus Christ.
With him, we are willing
to be all lifelong apprentices
of the freedom to serve and to love.
Let him go with us on his road
that leads to your land of freedom,
for you are our God for ever and ever. Amen!
Born free, we should never become slaves to anyone or anything. Whatever is said today, we are sons and daughters of the Father, and that is a relationship of love, and therefore of freedom. May almighty God keep you free and bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!