The Responsorial Psalm invites us to look at what “redemption” really is: “With the Lord there is mercy, and
fullness of redemption” (Psalm 130).
In Romans 3: 21-29 Paul teaches that we are not made holy by keeping laws. The laws Paul has in mind are mostly the ritualistic observances of Jewish culture. Some of these, like circumcision, dietary restrictions and the minute observances of the Sabbath, were important elements of the Covenant God made with the Jews. But the Church had decided (Acts 15: 1-29) that under the new law of Christ these sacred traditions did not apply to non-Jewish converts, or to any Christians. The inflexible conservatives among the Christians who grew up as Jews could not accept this. They condemned anyone who did not observe the Jewish laws. They were dividing the Church, just as Catholics who do not accept the changes or doctrinal vision of Vatican II are dividing the Church today.
Paul is saying that holiness comes from personal knowledge and love of Jesus Christ; and this is a gift of grace. He is not against observing laws, but he says our focus should be on what is essential: growing in faith and love through personal interaction with God. This is how we experience that “with the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.”
In Luke 11: 47-54, Jesus condemns the “examiners of the law” because they take peoples’ focus off of the mind and heart of God and focus them on rules instead. “You have taken away the key of knowledge,” he charges them: “You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
We see this spirit today in people who themselves will not enter into the spirit of Vatican Council II — they will not read the documents reflectively or listen to people explain them — and who try to keep everyone else from entering. Why? Because, like the “judaizing party” that opposed Paul, they are clinging blindly to the past. They do not understand what is new, any more than the defenders of Jewish customs in the early Church understood the “good news” of Jesus. And like the scribes and Pharisees who “began to be very hostile toward Jesus and to cross-examine him about many things,” they “lie in wait” for anyone who preaches or teaches the renewal called for by the Council “to catch him in something he might say.” These are the legalists, the true descendants of the scribes and Pharisees. If they would use the gift of faith to give up their fear they would experience that “With the Lord there is fullness of redemption.”
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Use faith to know Christ and lose fear.