Grace to you!
Emeka (not his real name) had to justify to the elders of his community that his father had given a gift of a piece of land in perpetuity to one of their relatives (Andy). The gift was given fifty years before he (Emeka) documented the facts and handed the land papers to Andy. His siblings wanted the land back, arguing that since their father didn’t write it down before he died, it was null and void.
Emeka’s argument against the position of his siblings was that in justice, since their father told them about the land he had given to Andy on numerous occasions, it must be obliged. As the eldest in the family, who, by their custom, has to make the call as to the proper interpretation of the oral and written will of their father, Emeka had to document the facts.
For those not familiar with oral traditions, this may not seem right for Emeka to do. However, in cultures where oral tradition is highly respected, Emeka was arguing for what is just.
The elders ruled in favor of Emeka, and Andy retained the right of ownership of the piece of land. “That land is properly a gift from Emeka’s dad to Andy, whether it was documented years after the fact or not,” the elders concluded.
Emeka is an incredibly just man. Andy is a recipient of a gift. He had received the gifts even before it was documented and had owned the gifts over fifty years before the elders came together to make the final verdict.
It was not the verdict that gave him the gift in the first place, nor was it the after-the-fact documentation. It was given to him orally and without his merit by Emeka’s dad and Emeka’s confirmation.
I use the above analogy to relate to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (4:13, 16-18). Here the Apostle is reminding us (and the believers of the early time of Christianity), that Abraham received Divine Promise of being the father of a multitude (Gen 15:5-6) many centuries before the Torah (The Law) was given through Moses. Abraham was justified before The Law was born, meaning he had already received the gift before the stipulation of its conditions in writing.
By making this bold claim, Saint Paul is pointing to us the uniqueness of Christian faith. It is not simply the knowledge about God. One could know about God, but without the grace of relationship with God which comes through faith, such knowledge isn’t justification. The person carries in his or her head facts, but God’s life is not breathing within him or her.
Many times I hear people say, I know so much about my faith but I do not live it. Our faith is such that if we truly have it, what we know becomes part of us because the grace of God invites us into that justifying life, justifying grace that translates head knowledge to a heart in love. When God’s Word (in Scripture and Sacred Tradition) which we read or are engaged with remains in our head, as head-knowledge or mere paperwork, and we don’t allow the power of its grace to become our life (new creation, the life of grace), we aren’t living this gift to the fullest.
Faith-life is an incredible gift, a gift given to the educated and the unlettered. In fact, when we listen to some people who don’t know how to read or write share their experience of God’s Word with such profound depth and purity, one has to be grateful for this gift, which is not because it is simply documented, but it is given by God himself.
I pray that we grow in the knowledge and love of God and be grateful for the gift of faith we’ve received. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 28 Ordinary Time A: Rom 4:13, 16-18; Lk 12:8-12]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.