Memory of the Church

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Prayer for the unity of the Churches. Particular memory of the Christian communities in Europe and in the Americas.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Romans 9, 1-33

This is the truth and I am speaking in Christ, without pretence, as my conscience testifies for me in the Holy Spirit;

there is great sorrow and unremitting agony in my heart:

I could pray that I myself might be accursed and cut off from Christ, if this could benefit the brothers who are my own flesh and blood.

They are Israelites; it was they who were adopted as children, the glory was theirs and the covenants; to them were given the Law and the worship of God and the promises.

To them belong the fathers and out of them, so far as physical descent is concerned, came Christ who is above all, God, blessed for ever. Amen.

It is not that God's promise has failed. Not all born Israelites belong to Israel,

and not all the descendants of Abraham count as his children, for Isaac is the one through whom your Name will be carried on.

That is, it is not by being children through physical descent that people become children of God; it is the children of the promise that are counted as the heirs.

The actual words of the promise were: I shall come back to you at this season, and Sarah will have a son.

Even more to the point is what was said to Rebecca when she was pregnant by our ancestor, Isaac,

before her children were born, so that neither had yet done anything either good or bad, but in order that it should be God's choice which prevailed

-not human merit, but his call -- she was told: the elder one will serve the younger.

Or as scripture says elsewhere: I loved Jacob but hated Esau.

What should we say, then? That God is unjust? Out of the question!

For speaking to Moses, he said: I am gracious to those to whom I am gracious and I take pity on those on whom I take pity.

So it is not a matter of what any person wants or what any person does, but only of God having mercy.

Scripture says to Pharaoh: I raised you up for this reason, to display my power in you and to have my name talked of throughout the world.

In other words, if God wants to show mercy on someone, he does so, and if he wants to harden someone's heart, he does so.

Then you will ask me, 'How then can he ever blame anyone, since no one can oppose his will?'

But you -- who do you think you, a human being, are, to answer back to God? Something that was made, can it say to its maker: why did you make me this shape?

A potter surely has the right over his clay to make out of the same lump either a pot for special use or one for ordinary use.

But suppose that God, although all the time he wanted to reveal his retribution and demonstrate his power, has with great patience gone on putting up with those who are the instruments of his retribution and designed to be destroyed;

so that he may make known the glorious riches ready for the people who are the instruments of his faithful love and were long ago prepared for that glory.

We are that people, called by him not only out of the Jews but out of the gentiles too.

Just as he says in the book of Hosea: I shall tell those who were not my people, 'You are my people,' and I shall take pity on those on whom I had no pity.

And in the very place where they were told, 'You are not my people,' they will be told that they are 'children of the living God'.

And about Israel, this is what Isaiah cried out: Though the people of Israel are like the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved;

for without hesitation or delay the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth.

As Isaiah foretold: Had the Lord Sabaoth not left us a few survivors, we should be like Sodom, we should be the same as Gomorrah.

What should we say, then? That the gentiles, although they were not looking for saving justice, found it, and this was the saving justice that comes of faith;

while Israel, looking for saving justice by law-keeping, did not succeed in fulfilling the Law.

And why? Because they were trying to find it in actions and not in faith, and so they stumbled over the stumbling-stone-

as it says in scripture: Now I am laying in Zion a stumbling-stone, a rock to trip people up; but he who relies on this will not be brought to disgrace.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After having spoken about God’s saving justice, that makes those who believe just and renders them capable of living according to the spirit, the apostle now turns his attention to the people of Israel and the mystery of their history. He feels profoundly bound to the vicissitudes of the people that God chose for himself at the time of Abraham. With great anguish, he wonders what will become of this people if salvation depends on Jesus’ redemption and not on the law anymore. The bitterness that the apostle feels because his former brothers and sisters in the flesh do not yet delight in the new covenant established by Jesus is obvious: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belongs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs.” In fact, Paul adds, “From them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever.” The people of the first covenant let themselves be taken by surprise, Paul affirms, because of the presumption that they already possessed God’s favour through the law. This conviction led them to stumble on the “stumbling-stone,” that is, to not recognize Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah of his people. Nonetheless – and here the apostle touches on the mystery of God’s faithfulness – “the word of God had [not] failed.” For the apostle the problem is determining who the real Israel is. And he affirms that not all the descendents of Israel can be considered as such. Being descended by flesh and blood is not enough to be friends of God and heirs of the promise: we must hold fast to the Gospel of Jesus with our hearts. Only faith, that is, the free and total commitment of our hearts to God, who frees us through Jesus, can free us from the slavery of the flesh and allow us to participate in salvation. This is why the disciples of Christ also have to be careful not to belong to the community of believers in an exterior, individualistic, and ritualistic way. Only faith marked by love can save.