No One Can Justify Himself
- Reading I: Romans 1:16-25
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 19
- Gospel Reading: Luke 11:37-41
No One is Justified in God’s Eyes
Romans 1,16-3,20 is the presentation of man’s utter helplessness before God’s Judgment. Whether Gentile (1,18-32) or Jew (2,1-3,8), human beings cannot be saved from the wrath of God. The whole theme of the futility of all human strivings for salvation with the law, is encapsulated in Psalm 14:1-3.
Today’s selection is from Romans 1:16-25 where the Gentiles are considered under God’s judgment. Even the Gentiles who do not have the Law of Moses have, however, the Law inscribed in their hearts.
For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16)
The Gentiles are objects of God’s wrath because, though God "is self-evident" to them, they have exchanged His glory for creatures. For this reason, God has handed them over to impurity and to the degradation of their own selves.
Clean the Inside Too!
The confrontational word of Jesus continues in this section with a rebuke of the Pharisees and the experts of the Law (see following verses). In this first scene, the issue is about what is "outside" and what is "inside (v. 40)" and the occassion is dinner in the house of a Pharisee. The Pharisee’s discomfiture at seeing that Jesus did not clean himself ritually got a rebuke from Jesus himself. All the statements uttered in this section should be understood within the context of ritual purity especially as it touches eating utensils. Cups especially have to be cleaned both outside and inside. When the Pharisee balked at Jesus’ apparent disregard for the law, he and his ilk is rebuked for keeping, as it were, clean outside but not inside (v.39). In this light also, one should understand the saying in verse 40. The RSV translates it thus:
You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?
The rendering is too faithful to the aorist participle poihsaV and indicative forms in this verse. I would translate it as : "Fools! Isn’t it that the one who does the outside, should do the inside too?" (With the verb "to do" having the same nuance as in "to do the windows"). This way, the following verse becomes easy to comprehend:
Fools! Isn’t it that the one who does the outside should do the inside too? Rather, give as alms what is inside (cups and plates) and all will be clean to you!
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