Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Memory of St Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, doctor of the Church (295-373)

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Galatians 3, 1-5

You stupid people in Galatia! After you have had a clear picture of Jesus Christ crucified, right in front of your eyes, who has put a spell on you?

There is only one thing I should like you to tell me: How was it that you received the Spirit -- was it by the practice of the Law, or by believing in the message you heard?

Having begun in the Spirit, can you be so stupid as to end in the flesh?

Can all the favours you have received have had no effect at all -- if there really has been no effect?

Would you say, then, that he who so lavishly sends the Spirit to you, and causes the miracles among you, is doing this through your practice of the Law or because you believed the message you heard?


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In the first two chapters of the Letter, Paul defended his apostolic authority, which had been put in danger by the insinuations of false teachers. After having demonstrated that both his apostolate and the Gospel were given to him directly by Christ, he goes on to defend the content of the message. He does so by pointing out the fruits that the Galatians themselves have experienced in their lives through the action of the Holy Spirit. The things that have happened among them are not the work of the law, but the preaching of the Gospel. It is faith that has allowed them to "experience so much" (3:4). The Gospel is indeed an effective word: it frees from sin and gives new life. The incredible strength of the Gospel is attested to in the Scriptures themselves. The apostle begins with the story of Abraham, who was not justified by works but by faith. And he speaks firmly to the Galatians, "You foolish Galatians!" He truly cares about the Galatians. He wants to defend them from foolishness and tells then that there is only one truth to the Gospel: the crucified Christ. Whoever looks at the Crucified One is spared from foolishness because he understands the distance that separates him from a love as extraordinary as Jesus’ love, a love so limitless that it drove him to die for us. Compared to this mystery of love how can we think that our works can save us? It would be like comparing our works, which are always meagre, to Jesus’ love for us. Who among us has loved to the point of dying on a cross? Paul warns that if we forget to preach "Jesus Christ Crucified," pride will once again prevail and with it blindness; we will see our own deeds more than God’s overabundant love. It is the preaching of the Gospel that has made possible the works that Christians accomplish. The Holy Spirit poured out in our hearts works in us and makes us accomplish "great works." Jesus himself says to the disciples, "the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these"(Jn 14:12). We should not be surprised at Jesus’ ambition for us. What is asked of us is to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, who will do great things, even through our smallness. While he was being taken to Rome to be killed as a martyr, Saint Ignatius of Antioch said, "Christianity is not a question of persuasion, but of greatness," that is, of the "great works" of love.