Daily Reflection
October 9th, 2004
Roc O'Connor, S.J.
Theology and Campus Ministry
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I was privileged to do my theological studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, California in the late 1970's.  Among the many fine professors I studied under, one who stood out was Dr. Robert Goeser.  He died not long ago and I'm delighted to bring forward this memory of such a fine teacher.

Dr. Goeser was on the faculty of the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary at that time.  As I recall, the word was that he was ordained to teach, not to pastor.  He was one of those rare exceptions in the ministry of the Lutheran church. I studied with Dr. Goeser for two quarters of historical theology.  He was most brilliant on teaching Aquinas and Luther.

One of the things he tried to do was to translate theological terms into concepts that might connect with our experience.  So, it's his notions on justification by faith that stood out to me then.  They seemed new and exciting and helpful.

What is the Law?  He began, not with the ten commandments, but with that very human construct that says you have to behave or think a certain way in order to feel approval, security, belonging, or the like.  That's a profound law that many of us can identify in our experience.

Obedience to this law enslaves a person.

Justification by faith means, then, that experience in which the reality dawns on us that we don't have to "win" approval, security, or belonging by doing "the right things."  In other words, it's the grace of God that approves, secures, and connects us to the divine life as a gift, not as a drudge or duty.

Receiving this faith, and living by it, points to the end of the barriers we have constructed that tells us who is approved, who is secure, and who is part of us.  Christ is all in all.  Christ is the One who makes us one.

There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free person,
there is not male and female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Now, it seems to me that this notion, which seemed so revolutionary in the mid-70's, is fairly commonplace now.  At least, it's almost like a doctrine.  But, I still struggle to let in that faith, that gift, that precious light from Christ to let his word and love show me my true identity beyond merely obeying the law of approval, security, and belonging.

How about you?

PS: Thanks, God, for Dr. Robert Goeser.  May he rest in peace.

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