Scripture: Lectionary # 468 Tuesday. Romans 1:16-25. Psalm 19:2-3.4-5. Luke 11:37-41
Paul continues to open up the world of faith through his inspired Epistle. He has spent years on meditating upon what he has learned after his conversion and now in his most mature years he gives us the best insights that are possible about the realm of the Spirit and that of faith. We touch upon the major theme of Romans today in our first reading. It may be summed up in what he has chosen from the prophetic words of Habakkuk 2:4: “For the upright person shall live by faith.”
This faith is handed on to us through those who preach the Gospel and those who receive their message with a listening heart. The Benedictine Rule contains this idea in its introductory pages by reminding the monks to let the ears of their heart listen to the Gospel. Paul is certainly telling us that faith is a generous gift of God given to us and is the gift that develops within us our holiness, our wholesomeness, and our uprightness. Paul develops this especially in chapter ten of Romans where he is clearly speaking of “faith of the heart.”
Habakkuk 2:4 is translated from the Hebrew in the following way: “But the righteous shall live by his faith.” It is worthwhile adding the following commentary on this verse which Paul alters from the original Hebrew and the Septuagint showing us the variety of translating and understanding the texts which are inspired. Even the inspired writers have nuances that differ from one another! Holy Scripture is far from being a field of literalism; it is an unfathomable sea of wonderful divine meanings for life which even the Scriptures attest to through the different authors. Now back to the Hebrew interpreter: “The Hebrew word (for “faith” is emunah from Amen) does not signify faith in the Bible but ‘steadfastness, faithfulness.’ It is used of Moses’ uplifted hands which were steady (Exodus 12:16), and of men in charge of money who dealt faithfully (II Kings 12:16). What is here intended is : the righteous Israelite, who remains unswervingly loyal to the moral precepts, will endure, although he has to suffer for his principles; whereas the wicked, who enjoy a temporary ascendancy through their violation of right, are in the end overthrown and humbled. The Talmud records the famous remark of Rabbi Simmlai (Makkot 23b),’Moses gave Israel 613 commandments. David reduced them to 10, Isaiah to 2, but Habakkuk to one: the righteous shall live by his faith.”(A.Cohen).
Psalm 19 is perfectly in harmony with what Paul is saying about proclaiming the Gospel and listening to it with our hearts rather than with just our ears and mind. The Psalm is used on feasts dedicated to the Apostles and Paul is among the greatest of them.
The excerpt from Luke’s Gospel shows that there is no pride in a faithful and steadfast person who has a listening heart of faith. We learn we are to clean not only the outside but also the inside by being sincere and transparent to what is happening within when we listen with our dedicated hearts. We are to make the interior the essential but it has to be a purified interior so that our hearts really hear the living voice of Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit. We, therefore, pray as Isaiah did, “Lord, cleanse my heart and my lips.” Amen.