Thursday, September 2, 2010

All Belongs To You, And You To Christ, And Christ To God.

Thursday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading I
1 Corinthians 3:18-23
Brothers and sisters:
Let no one deceive himself.
If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,
for it is written:
God catches the wise in their own ruses,
and again:
The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings,
for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.
Again Paul urges the Corinthians to put aside the “wisdom of the world” and learn to be a fool for Christ in the eyes of that world. To be a fool means to turn away from the ‘wisdom’ of the world, which will make one, in the eyes of many, a fool. It is the first step to real wisdom. It is only when we can recognise in the apparent failure and disaster of the Cross the triumph of God’s love that we begin to have true wisdom.

The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. The wisdom of this world believes in the pursuit of money and material wealth, success and power over others as the ways to fulfilment and happiness. People are even ready to die for these things but in the long run they do not lead to the fulfilment we all long for.

Quoting from the Book of Job (5:12-13), Paul says “The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are.” God’s wisdom, on the other hand, is conveyed to us through the life and death of Jesus.

So, Paul continues, let no one boast on the level of human beings. He picks up again the call to unity which he raised at the beginning of his letter (1:10-13).

For instance, about being one person’s disciple rather than another. The Christian leaders - Paul, Apollos, etc - belong to the whole Church. No group can call one leader its very own. In other words, it was quite wrong - as the Corinthians apparently had been doing - to be investing their whole self in someone like Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas (Peter), or in the world in general, in life or in death, in the present or the future. All of these things are mere servants or agents of God and we can never stop at them.

So let there be no more talk that one group is for Paul and another group for Apollos. For “you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God”. Christians are in union with the Church’s true leaders and with Christ, who in turn is in union with the other members of the Trinity.

All, however they came to be members of the community, can have only Christ as the source of meaning for their lives. And it is through Christ, and only through him and not through any other human agency, that they will find access to God from whom they have come and to whom they are called to be finally united.

If the Corinthians were genuinely wise, their perceptions would be reversed, and they would see everything in the world and all those with whom they live in the church in their true relations with one another. On the level of ownership, one reads: God, Christ, church members, church leaders - in that order. But on the level of service one reads in the opposite direction.

Only when we see Church leadership in terms of service will we avoid the kind of situations which Paul is denouncing. Once we reverse the order we begin to create the factionalism that was hurting the Corinthian church. We might well apply this idea to the situation of our own church be it on the world, national or local level.*
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Psalm 24
To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.
The LORD's are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.
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Luke 5:1-11
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus
and listening to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
"Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch."
Simon said in reply,
"Master, we have worked hard all night
and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets."
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this,
he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
"Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made
seized him and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men."
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.
This is Luke’s version of the first call of Jesus’ disciples. It differs significantly from the parallel versions in Mark and Matthew and is a combination of passages from Mark and John.

We are told that Jesus was standing by the shore of Lake Gennesaret. The other gospel writers call it the Sea of Galilee and John twice refers to it as the Sea of Tiberias.

Because of the large crowds pressing in on him to hear the word of God, Jesus was forced to borrow one of two boats moored near the shore where their owners were washing their nets. “He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon” and “remaining seated, he continued to teach the crowds from the boat”. As we saw in the synagogue at Nazareth (and also in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew), sitting was the usual teaching position. From a practical point of view, by preaching from the boat Jesus could avoid the pressure of the crowd and yet be close enough to speak to them.

It is a simple, straightforward statement and yet there is a symbolism here. Jesus gets into Simon’s boat and teaches from it. The boat, in the Gospel, is frequently a symbol of the church community. It is very meaningful to say that Jesus stepped into that boat, that it was Peter’s boat, and that he taught from there. It is a symbol of what is to come in the near future.

Now comes the lesson and the revelation. At the end of the teaching, Simon is told to go out into the deep water and start fishing. (He will not be called Peter until the next chapter.) “Master, we have been hard at it all night long and have caught nothing; but if you say so, I will lower the nets.” There is here something of the condescension of the expert towards the amateur. “We know there are no fish there but, just to make you happy, we’ll let down the nets.”

But their nets were hardly in the water when they were so full of fish that they were on the point of breaking. They (Peter and those others with him in the boat) had to call their companions in the other boat to come to their help (they do not seem to have caught any fish; only Simon’s boat does). But the two boats together were now so full of fish that they were on the point of sinking.

Peter, just now so arrogant and all-knowing, is totally overcome. He knew there were no fish there. So there was only one explanation. The man standing before him was Someone very special: “Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man.” It is the reaction of a person in the awful presence of God’s overwhelming power and goodness. We see similar reactions by Abraham (Genesis 18:27), Job (42:6) and Isaiah (6:5).

Peter did not belong there; the expert realises he is nothing in the presence of this man. Instead, he becomes so aware of his shortcomings. Paradoxically, it is the saints who are most ready to acknowledge their sinfulness. And his companions, James and John, were equally amazed. There is no mention of Andrew in this version of the story because he would have been in his brother Peter’s boat. And the passage indicates that Peter was not alone in the boat (”We have worked hard all night…”)

Some commentators feel that Luke may have borrowed this story from John’s account of the disciples going fishing at the end of that gospel. It has been noted that Simon calls Jesus ‘Lord’, a post-resurrection title and refers to his sinfulness, which makes more sense after his triple denial during the Passion. It also looks forward to Peter’s leadership which is confirmed in the same chapter of John.

Jesus then reassures Simon and his companions: “Do not be afraid.” They are words they will hear again. Because he is calling them to be his partners in the work of building his Kingdom. The huge catch of fish made by the boat in which Jesus and Peter were is a sign of a much greater catch of people to be made by the new community led by the Spirit of Jesus and under the leadership of Peter.

Unlike the other gospels, Luke has a period of teaching and miracles precede the call of the disciples. This makes their unhesitating response less surprising and more plausible.

They heard the message, they accepted the call and “with that they brought their boats to land, left everything, and become his followers”. In Mark and Matthew they left their nets and boats. In Luke’s gospel especially, the following of Jesus is understood as absolute - one must leave everything and throw in one’s lot totally with Jesus wherever that will lead. Those boats and nets were the security on which the lives of Peter, his companions and their families depended. But they left them and everything else. This is faith, this is trust. Without it, the mission cannot succeed.*

The Irish Jesuits

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

Christ on the Sea of Galilee reminds me of the beginning of Genesis: the Spirit of God moved over the waters. A new creation is underway. The Sea of Galilee could even be described as a mini 'face of the deep'.

Below a certain level, the waters of the Sea of Galilee are supposed to be salty because they come from deep underground springs. The upper waters come from freshwater streams.

The saltiness of its deep waters is another reason why fewer fish would normally be expected down there.