Sunday, June 22, 2014

Byzantine: 2nd Sunday after Pentecost (6/22/14)

Notes for Reading/Hearing:

Today we begin the series of Sunday readings from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans and the Gospel according to St. Matthew. This will be so for more or less the next several weeks. So, because you'll only hear selections from these writings at the Divine Liturgy, I heartily encourage reading the entire works. That way you'll gain an idea of the context of the weekly reading and be somewhat more familiar with it already.

Apostol: Romans 2:10-16


In the Apostolic reading for this week, St. Paul has just finished a discourse on how humanity basically dug itself into a hole through sin. Then, he gives us the even worse news: "[God] will render to every man according to his works" (Rom 2:6). Verses 7 and 8 outline the respective rewards and punishments for those who do good and evil. Then we have verse 9, which is the beginning of the sentence finished in verse 10. Below, the normal text is where the reading for today picks up:
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Rom 2:9-10)
Good news: those who do good get rewarded in kind. Bad news: those who do evil also get rewarded in kind. And we've all done evil things.
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. (Rom 2:13)
The ICSB indicates that this verse applies to Jews who have the Torah, but does it not remain valid for Christians? Sure, we know the commandments, but do we keep them? This forms a big part of the next bit of Romans: the Jews, who had the law revealed to them, failed to keep it. Moreover, there were Gentiles who did keep the law: though it had not been revealed to them as it was to the Jews, yet they had the voice of conscience to guide them. So, no one is excused from following the natural law: we have it in a divinely revealed manner, but everyone has these principles in a natural way, written on his heart (CCC 1860). We can expect people to behave in accordance with the moral law, as it is not only the law for Christians and Jews, but the law for all mankind. Sure, we only expect Christians to be in church on Sundays, but we can (and do) expect everyone not to kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, etc. These are not specifically Christian: you don't have to be a Christian to know these commandments!

However, though we are accountable for following the law, we do not have the power to do it by ourselves. We need the grace of God. It is heresy (Pelagianism, to be precise) to say that by our own efforts, with no need of divine grace, we can become saints. But, the good news is, there is grace! On our own, we are lost. But we are not on our own. That is what St. Paul is building up to. Continue reading the letter.


Last week, we heard from the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapters 10 and 19. This week, we're jumping back a good deal to when Jesus was just beginning His public ministry. So, we've had the Nativity, the Baptism in the Jordan, and the temptation in the desert, and Jesus is beginning to preach.

It's interesting that the way things fall this year, we hear about St. Peter's call to follow Jesus exactly one week before we celebrate his feast. That's pretty cool, right?

After our great celebration of the Lord's victory, the Church brings us back to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, once again to hear the Lord calling His first disciples. And so here we are, beginning again the journey from the shores of Galilee, through Israel and Samaria, to Jerusalem, to the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, and to our own sainthood. Ready?


All Scripture quotations are from the ICSB, which uses the RSV-2CE.

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