Paul’s last chapter to the Galatians has some advice. Many people feel they have the need to and obligation to correct the church or others in the Church, be it priests, bishops or laity. It is good to remind the faithful and its priests to correct “Gently” (1). When people are correcting another, it is very easy for pride to rear its head.
The person could be in a mode of “I know better, listen to me.” The one receiving the correction will naturally challenge, at least in their mind. It is easy to judge motives in these situations. Correcting should always be done in prayer. Correction is more about the virtue that is needed than the vice. We must all practice the virtues and be attentive to them. That is why Paul is proposing for the faithful to regularly do an examination of conscience (4). Everything starts with ourselves and making sure we ourselves have nothing the devil can turn around on us with. Our enemy is the devil, not merely other humans. Good people do bad things. Always presume the best of intentions. Do not assume ulterior motives, you do not have the ability to read minds or souls. Just because somebody does something does not mean that the results were their intentions.
Some people may pretend to have good intentions. What do you do then? Paul reminds us that though they may deceive humans, God can never be deceived (7). Justice is God’s in the end and they will be repaid for their misconduct. Moreover, the fruit of their actions will come about. Evildoing will always be revealed by its fruit and ends in eternal shame. It will be known for all to see for all eternity.
That is why it is more important for those who believe to persevere in their efforts to always do good (9-10). Our good works will be our crown of glory, but only if it comes from our faith in Jesus Christ as our expression of love for Him. Empty works will be a shameful reminder how we tried to do things by ourselves and made a mess of things in this life. As the old adage says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
Paul concludes by warning them of the hypocrites who wanted the Galatians to circumcise, yet they themselves would not live by the law, whereas Paul gives a simpler path while himself boasting of the cross of Christ (14). But it is not a pointing out to Christ as other, but Paul himself assumes the suffering he endures as associated with Jesus’ suffering by stating, “Through it the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” Paul in fact mentions what many believe to be the stigmata in verse 17, “…for I bear the marks of Jesus in my body.” All Christians are called to suffer in this life. As long as there is sin in this world, we are guaranteed to suffer.
But Paul as an Apostle and leader of the Church that Jesus Himself founded is called to suffer in a particular way. It is a particular gift to those closest to Jesus. It is a sharing of the inner dynamics of the heart of God while He suffered for the world (14).