by Father Mike Stubbs
We always wish to share what we value with those we love. Parents who are baseball fans will share their enthusiasm for that sport with their children. When I see a film that really impresses me, I tell my friends all about it.
We wish to share what we value with those we love. That is the process at work in Sunday’s second reading, Rom 11:13-15, 29- 32. St. Paul highly values his faith in Jesus and wishes to share that faith with his fellow Jews, whom he deeply loves.
In last Sunday’s second reading, St. Paul went so far as to write: “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” (Rom 9:3). In other words, he would be willing to lose his own faith, if that meant that his fellow Jews would find it.
Specifically, in this Sunday’s second reading, St. Paul is writing about how the Gentiles and the Jews may have started from different places, but how both will arrive at the same salvation. Because initially many of the Jews had not recognized Jesus as the Messiah, St. Paul turned instead to the Gentiles. In fact, he describes himself in this letter as “the apostle to the Gentiles.”
His work among the Gentiles resulted in many of them believing in Jesus, and thus believing in God. That is why St. Paul writes that “their (the Jews’) rejection is the reconciliation of the world.” The world in question is the Gentile world. The Jews’ loss had resulted in the Gentiles’ gain.
At the same time, St. Paul does not believe that this state of affairs will last forever. That is why he adds that “what will their (the Jews’) acceptance be but life from the dead?” St. Paul hopes that eventually his fellow Jews will also arrive at faith in Jesus.
According to St. Paul, that cataclysmic event would turn the world upside down. It will result in the end of the world as we know it. Christ will return in glory, to raise the dead to life. The phrase “life from the dead” refers to the general resurrection.
The imminent second coming of Christ that St. Paul anticipated has not yet happened, nearly 2,000 years later. Similarly, the Jews’ acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, which St. Paul so deeply desired, has not materialized. So, what can we learn from St. Paul’s message? What can still speak to us in the 21st century?
Come what may, St. Paul affirms that God desires salvation for all: “For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.” God made the offer of salvation initially to Israel, and God will not withdraw that offer: “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”
St. Paul holds to his hope that eventually his fellow Jews will also accept Jesus as the Messiah. He wishes them to share in the joy he has found in that faith. After all, we wish to share what we value with those we love.
Meanwhile, St. Paul maintains that God continues to extend to the Jews his mercy and love, the mercy and love which the Gentiles have also discovered in Jesus Christ.