Yes I’ve read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Tell me, how did this book lead you to investigate Catholicism. Concerning the second chapter of Galatians.
“1 Then, after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. 2 And I went up according to revelation and communicated to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles: but apart to them who seemed to be some thing: lest perhaps I should run or had run in vain. 3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Gentile, was compelled to be circumcised”
Saint Paul goes to the elders and original Apostles to compare his preaching of the Gospel to theirs. Paul finds that his teaching is in complete conformity with the others (most notably Peter). Together, they confirm that the Judaizers are in error, and to emphasize this fact he explains that Titus was not circumsized. The Church has always opposed Judaizers. From the beginning, the western Rite was essentially gentile.
“4 But because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privately to spy our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into servitude. 5 To whom we yielded not by subjection: no, not for an hour: that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”
The Judaizing heretics were jealous of the liberty Paul had given to the gentiles. They wanted to force the gentiles to be circumsized and follow the Law. The Church teaches that the Law and its commandments were abolished for Christians on the cross. Paul would not submit to these heretics in the least, and opposed their efforts at every turn.
“6 But of them who seemed to be some thing, (what they were some time it is nothing to me, God accepteth not the person of man): for to me they that seemed to be some thing added nothing. 7 But contrariwise, when they had seen that to me was committed the gospel of the uncircumcision, as to Peter was that of the circumcision. 8 (For he who wrought in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision wrought in me also among the Gentiles.) 9 And when they had known the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship: that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision: 10 Only that we should be mindful of the poor: which same thing also I was careful to do.”
Saint Paul is in complete accord with the other Apostles and the pillars of the See of Jerusalem. They agree that Saint Paul should carry out his ministry to the Gentiles while Peter ministered to the Jews. Nevertheless, this did not permit either of them from also reaching out to the other party. Both were to be mindful of all of the poor and the widows of the Church. In other words, amongst those who had come into the Church, there was to be no distinction. Jew and Gentile were to be treated alike in Christ, because the Old Covenant was passing away.
“11 But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before that some came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision. 13 And to his dissimulation the rest of the Jews consented: so that Barnabas also was led by them into that dissimulation.”
Soon afterwards, Peter breaks his side of the agreement. Under personal pressure from Judaizers associated with James, Peter caves in and accepts their demands. Not wanting to come into conflict with the Jews, Peter withdraws from the gentiles and lives as though he is still under the law. This was false pretense though, and hypocritical on Peter’s part.
“14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly unto the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles and not as the Jews do, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15 We by nature are Jews: and not of the Gentiles, sinners.”
Saint Paul immediately detects Peter’s hypocrisy on this issue and does not hesitate to call him on it.
“16 But knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
Paul explains why Peter was wrong. The Judaizers simply could not accept that the Old Covenant was abolished by Jesus. The basis of the Faith is that God is in no way indebted to us, and only by faith can God be pleased. No one can be justified under the Law because we can not indebt God to us through works, as the Jews sought to do. In the Catholic Faith, we believe that Jesus totally refashioned the Law and placed Christians under a system of grace with new rites, new sacraments, better commandments, forgiveness of sins, and the possibility of a clear conscience.
“17 But if, while we seek to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ then the minister of sin? God forbid! 18 For if I build up again the things which I have destroyed, I make myself a prevaricator. 19 For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I may live to God; with Christ I am nailed to the cross.”
Once again, the Law was nailed to the Cross. Jesus died to set us free of its legal requirements. As Paul tells us here, this does not mean that we should go sin, and we cannot do so and be saved. By abolishing the Law, Jesus did not come to make us sinners set free. Rather, he died to make us free persons in Christ, setting aside our sins. In verse 18, Paul warns of the consequences of continuing to sin. We ‘push our luck’ so to speak, by continuing to sin in the new covenant. It is our task now, under the new covenant, to live for God. The old self has been nailed to the cross with the Law.
“20 And I live, now not I: but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and delivered himself for me. 21 I cast not away the grace of God. For if justice be by the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Justice does not come through the Law but through faith in Jesus Christ as our Blessed Redeemer. In this new faith, the Church teaches, we must obtain the spirit and have Christ live within us. As Saint Seraphim said, “Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian practices, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as an indepensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ’s sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God.” Thus, through the superabundant graces of God, and the merits of Jesus Christ working within us, we can be saved.
I hope that answers your questions. If I didn’t get to what you wanted to know, then please ask. If you are interested in learning more about Catholic Justification then you should read the documents of the Council of Trent, namely the sixth session. On this topic, Canon I of the sixth session states -If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.
In nomen sanctus eius,