Sunday Vigil

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Galatians 4, 1-11

What I am saying is this: an heir, during the time while he is still under age, is no different from a slave, even though he is the owner of all the property;

he is under the control of guardians and administrators until the time fixed by his father.

So too with us, as long as we were still under age, we were enslaved to the elemental principles of this world;

but when the completion of the time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law,

to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption as sons.

As you are sons, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son crying, 'Abba, Father';

and so you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir, by God's own act.

But formerly when you did not know God, you were kept in slavery to things which are not really gods at all,

whereas now that you have come to recognise God -- or rather, be recognised by God -- how can you now turn back again to those powerless and bankrupt elements whose slaves you now want to be all over again?

You are keeping special days, and months, and seasons and years-

I am beginning to be afraid that I may, after all, have wasted my efforts on you.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In order to talk about the heir of the promise, Paul chooses an image taken from civil law: the "heir who is a minor." He uses this comparison to describe the guardianship under which both Jews and Gentiles live ("we" he writes). We were all "minors’: the Jews because they were under the guardianship of the law and the gentiles because they were subjected to the "elemental spirits" (the common egocentric way of thinking). It does not matter if, as Paul observes, the "minor" is the legal heir because of the human dignity received from the Creator. Adulthood, that is, the full ownership of the inheritance, only comes with "fullness of time," when God "sent" (the text literally says "sent out") His Son, "born of a woman" and "under the law" (meaning sharing in the historical condition). God sent his Son into the world to free men and women from slavery so that they might receive "adoption as children." Paul addresses the Galatians personally and tells them that their adoption came about when the Spirit of the Son was sent into the heart of every believer. We are pervaded with the Spirit of Jesus Christ in the most intimate part of our being. And the "Spirit of adoption" (Rom 8:14ff) cries from the depths of our hearts, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit is the creative force that makes us capable of this childlike cry of prayer. The invocation "Father" that the Spirit raises from the depths of our hearts attests to the fact that we "are no longer slaves, but children." And whoever is a child is "also an heir." All of this comes "through God" and not from our works or our merits. The awareness of having been freed from the slavery of sin should keep the Galatians from turning back to their old habits and from growing lazy in their personal traditions (symbolized for Paul by the old pagan rites). Reminding them of his apostolic passion and his love for them, Paul calls on the Galatians not to let his work be wasted.