HOMWF Sisters, welcome to our first study on an entire book of the Bible: Galatians! Paul, an apostle, wrote this letter to the people of Galatia, about 3 years after he had visited them & evangelized to them. As with any letter, it opens with a “from”, a “to”, a “blessing”, and a “praise of God”. This letter of Galatians is from Paul, to the church of Galatia; Paul blesses them with peace and grace, and then praises God for rescuing us (them and Paul, himself) and glorifies God in this.
Next in a typical letter is a note of thanksgiving for the people but as soon as Paul finishes his opening prayer he dives into admonishing them. He tells them how shocked he is that the Galatians are so easily turned from the Gospel he taught to them. Paul had come just a quick three years prior, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them, converting, and preaching to them. So many accepted the call and love of Jesus. Now these same people are accusing Paul of not giving them the “whole truth”, but rather just telling them shortcuts to salvation to flatter them into Christianity. See, “false followers” of Jesus’ gospel were going around, telling the Gentile (never Jewish) Galatians, that in order to be a true follower of Christianity, they had to be circumcised & follow Mosaic laws (laws from Moses) and THEN they will be a true Christian. The false followers made their arguments by attempting to discredit Paul as an apostle of God.
But Paul, in defense of his gospel-sharing efforts rebukes them: “Am I currying favor with human beings or God?” We love this line – curry favor – what a good phrase. To curry favor means to try make someone like or support you by doing or saying something to please them. Paul spends some time (vs 11-24) defending his apostleship under God, not man’s approval.
Paul had an alias. Before converting to Christianity and taking the name of “Paul”, he was born “Saul”, a Roman Jew who made it his career to find & persecute Christians. In today’s news, that would be comparing Saul to a member of ISIS, telling people that they must convert to Judaism or die. But God, through His providence, converts Saul by taking away his eye sight & causing him to finally see God for who He is. God speaks to Saul telling him that “He is Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:5) There is no way to misinterpret this statement from God! God met Saul where he was at, literally, and softened his heart. Then God took that heart and made it explode with an evangelistic kind of love. Paul experienced the grace, healing, and magnificent love of God and was now compelled to not kill but create converts to Christianity. This life-altering event caused Saul to alter his name too, now to be addressed as “Paul”.
Paul was able to take this experience and make it the relational part of his ministry. Verse 23 & 24 of Galatians chapter 1 is quite a statement: “They only kept hearing that ‘the one who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy’. So they glorified God because of me.” In this part of letter, Paul is trying to remind the people of his credibility. Remember, the Galatians were adding precepts to their Christian faith that did not belong and in turn, blaming Paul for not providing the whole enchilada. Paul is reminding them of his previous ways, his personal encounter with the Lord, and that the Lord can “set him apart and call him through His grace” (vs 15) therefore qualifying him to preach God’s salvific plan.
Sisters, are we guilty of “watering down” Jesus just to make Him seem more approachable to non-believers, doubting family members, or fallen away friends? Or how quickly do we turn from the full Gospel of God to a gospel of man because “it sounds better”? Let us not be like the Galatians, looking for more stuff to add to our Christian faith when we forget that we already have the whole enchilada. What may be surprising (or not) is that many people think they’ve never had an immaculate – fall off the horse – encounter with the Living God & tend to struggle with the idea that they are specifically called on by God, into His grace. That they are individually chosen to see the Son of God. That God died for them for their sins. Sisters – we all can encounter the Living God! All of us have, if we’ve ever gone to Mass. Jesus – is fully, wholly within the Eucharist. Every time the priest lifts the Host (large, round, white bread) after he states “This is the Body of Christ” WE ARE FACE TO FACE WITH THE LIVING GOD! God, creator of the universe, redeemer of humanity, bridge to salvation, lover of souls, comes to you & I at every Mass. He comes to encounter us. Why aren’t we falling out of the pews?