Have you ever had a moment, when you think of your relationship with God, where you become quite proud of the works that you have done, because they appear to be successful? Put another way, have you had those moments where you come to believe that your salvation is dependent upon what you do? How many of us hold in our minds an image of the final judgment where the angel comes out with a large scale upon which are set our good works on one side and our sinfulness on the other? What happens is that we believe that if our good works weigh more than our sinfulness we will be saved. Such a belief can only be classified as heresy.
It is heresy, because it posits the belief that somehow we can earn our salvation with God. I do not believe it is all that unusual that people start to think this way. I find sometimes in my own life I am looking at the things that I have accomplished as if these things, of their own accord, will allow me to go to heaven. The real important part of our faith is to understand that everything that we do is only possible because of God’s grace. And secondly, even in those things that we do, our salvation remains a free and undeserved gift.
This is the point that Paul is trying to make with the Galatians. Paul was not always a kind and gentle person. Twice in today’s first reading he refers to the Galatians as stupid. I do not know that we could imagine many instances today where we would feel comfortable and referring to someone we care about as stupid. But that is the case with Paul. It is not that he does not care about the Galatians, for in fact he holds deep affection for them. But he is quite frustrated they still have not understood the basic point I just made about God’s salvation being a free and undeserved gift. They still view the following of the Jewish law as the way in which they will earn their salvation.
The gospel gives us the characteristics of faith. The person who knocks on the door even when the owner does not want to open, is praised for his persistence. The words of Jesus tell us of the importance of knocking, seeking, and asking. In giving the common examples of the love of a father for his son, we are reminded how much greater is God’s love for us.
In order to be people of faith, and not those who rely on our own efforts, means that we must focus upon the tremendous talents and abilities of God. It is God who rewards are faced, the persistence of God in offering a salvation makes it possible for us to be persistent. It is God who answers when we knock , it is God who helps us find whenever we seek, it is God who answers those questions we have when we ask. In every way, when we rely on God’s ability not only to give grace, to love us, and to be deeply present in our lives, we recognize the tremendous gift that is faith.