Loss and Gain
- Reading I: Philippians 3:3-8
- Resp. Psalm: Psalm 105:2-3,6-7
- Gospel Reading: Luke 15:1-10
Anyone who thinks that this particular selection from Paul’s letter to the Philippians is about spiritual circumcision is wrong, even if circumcision is mentioned here. Rather, Paul, a Jew who has embraced Christ and all He stands for in the mysterious plan of God, is warning the Philippians to keep away from those who promote the gospel of circumcision (see "dogs" in verse 1). The covenant with Abraham has been superseded by a more perfect one in the blood of Christ. Therefore, what were previously considered credentials before God are now superseded by something greater: knowledge of Christ. It is the knowledge that Paul had of the Risen Christ and the proclamation of the gospel he himself received from the apostles.
The more important part of this selection is Paul’s dividing his life into two parts: before and after Christ. Before, he was confident in the flesh and could boast of his "perfection" with regards to the Law. Now, all that he had before he considers a loss weighed against the huge "profit" he has received in knowing Christ. Verse 8 is followed by a declaration about what Paul expects for the future:
For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things
and I consider them so much rubbish1,that I may gain Christ
and be found in him,
not having any righteousness of my own based on the law
but that which comes through faith in Christ,the righteousness from God,
depending on faith to know him
and the power of his resurrection and
(the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death,
if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Thus, Paul looks at the history of his own life — past, present and future — in the light of Christ.
Philippians 3:8 is quoted in Dei Verbum within the context of the readiing of Scriptures.
The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful, especially Religious, to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the "excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ" (PH 3,8). "For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ."2 Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose and other aids which, in our time, with approval and active support of the shepherds of the Church, are commendably spread everywhere. (DEI VERBUM 25)
The knowledge of Christ that Paul mentions is contrasted in this passage with what Jerome calls "the ignorance of Christ" that derives from an ignorance of Scriptures.
In this passage from Dei Verbum no. 25, we find a particular application of Paul’s expression "knowledge of Christ". The Scriptures after all is the human echo of the one word of God which is Christ. But whether in Paul or in Dei Verbum, such knowledge should have the same effect in the Christian: to make him/her cling more closely to Christ, making Him the main direction of one’s life, as "the Way, the Truth and the Life."3
- Read an explanation of the Gospel reading here: The Parables of the Lost and Found
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- or "… as so much shit" [↩]
- St. Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah, Prol.: PL 24,17. cf. Benedict XV, encyclical "Spiritus Paraclitus:" EB 475-480; Pius XII, encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu : EB 544. [↩]
- This last statement, taken from John, was put here explicitly because of the relationship I see between the Pauline selection and the story of the Healing of the Man Born Blind in John. if you remember the story, it is the knowledge, the experience of Christ, that makes the man healed from congenital blindness take sides with Jesus even before he makes his confession of faith. The knowledge of Christ which Paul speaks of is precisely that: a knowledge that makes us take sides with Christ even if it means the loss of all we had before. [↩]