Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blessed The People The LORD Has Chosen To Be His Own.

Wednesday of the Twenty-second Week
in Ordinary Time
Reading I
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Brothers and sisters,
I could not talk to you as spiritual people,
but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ.
I fed you milk, not solid food,
because you were unable to take it.
Indeed, you are still not able, even now,
for you are still of the flesh.
While there is jealousy and rivalry among you,
are you not of the flesh, and walking
according to the manner of man?
Whenever someone says, "I belong to Paul,"
and another,"I belong to Apollos,"
are you not merely men?

What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul?
Ministers through whom you became believers,
just as the Lord assigned each one.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.
Therefore, neither the one who plants
nor the one who waters is anything,
but only God, who causes the growth.
He who plants and he who waters are one,
and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor.
For we are God's co-workers;
you are God's field, God's building.
Paul continues his thoughts on the nature of the truly spiritual person.

With regret he cannot call the Corinthian Christians spiritual people. They are still sensual, governed by their bodily desires and still “infants in Christ”. They are still “of the flesh”, like worldly people rather people of God. They are living by purely human standards. And so, up to this time, he has treated them like infants, giving them milk rather than solid food.

They are not ready yet to hear the Gospel in its fullness because they are still so un-spiritual.

On what does he base this evaluation? It is clear from “all the jealousy and wranglings” that divide them so badly and which make them in no way different from their non-Christian neighbours. They are divided into factions, one rooting for Paul and another for Apollos.

To Paul this makes no sense at all. Paul and Apollos were merely the agents by which the faith message was brought to them. And the different ways in which they did that was based, not on a preferred style of operating, but on the different roles that they had been given by the Lord. Their different roles could not be compared with each other.

As Paul puts it, his role was to do the planting while Apollos did the watering. In other words, it was Paul’s role to found, to set up from scratch the Christian community in Corinth, starting something which had never existed before. Apollos, on the other hand, was working in a church already begun and building on the foundation that had been laid by Paul. But the actual growth of the community is the work of God alone and of no one else. Without God, the sower and the waterer are nothing.

So it does not matter who plants or who waters. Each one will be rewarded according as he is doing the task assigned to him. Paul sums up by saying that he and Apollos are fellow-workers with God. They are partners, each one contributing something special, to the whole work.

The people, for their part, are God’s farm, the soil in which he works and all growth is attributable to him alone. And they are God’s building, the place where he takes up his abode; he lives in them. That is what makes them ‘holy’ (hagioi), a people set apart from those around them. Later in the letter Paul will speak of the Christian community as a ‘temple’, the place where the Lord is to be found in a real way.

And so they belong to God and not to Paul or Apollos. They are God’s people and not Paul’s or Apollos’. So, for people to say they belong to Paul or to Apollos makes no sense.

It is certainly not for us to point an accusing finger at the Christians of Corinth for we see the same kind of factionalism at many levels dividing Christians today, both inter-denominational and intra-denominational.

The divisions among the Christian churches, which are often expressed in the most regrettable and un-Christian forms, must be a matter of shame for all of us, especially when we read Jesus’ prayer for unity in John’s gospel (chapter 17), not to mention a source of scandal and confusion among non-Christians.

There are also divisions in our own Catholic Church at many levels from high up to low down. We should especially take cognisance of divisions in the communities to which we personally belong - our parishes, organisations and groups within parishes, our families…

Instead, we should be making sure that we do not say or do anything which contributes to such divisions and, where we can do so, let us try to be agents of healing and reconciliation. “By this will all know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for another” (John 14:35).*
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Psalm 33
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
From his fixed throne he beholds
all who dwell on the earth,
He who fashioned the heart of each,
he who knows all their works.
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
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Luke 4:38-44
After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon.
Simon's mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever,
and they interceded with him about her.
He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her.
She got up immediately and waited on them.

At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases
brought them to him.
He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.
And demons also came out from many,
shouting, "You are the Son of God."
But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak
because they knew that he was the Christ.

At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place.
The crowds went looking for him,
and when they came to him,
they tried to prevent him from leaving them.
But he said to them, "To the other towns also
I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God,
because for this purpose I have been sent."
And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
After the scene in the synagogue where Jesus healed a man possessed by an evil spirit, he goes straight to Peter’s house. It was a sabbath day so Jesus could not move around or do any major activity. He seems to have used this house as his base when in Capernaum and that part of Galilee. (Jesus had “nowhere to lay his head”, no dwelling of his own, but it seems clear that he was not a streetsleeper. There were always people ready to offer him hospitality - a custom of the Middle East and a model for Christians of every age and place.) 

Peter’s mother-in-law was in the grip of a fever and the disciples begged Jesus to do something for her. (We might remember that the first pope was married.) Jesus stood over her and, with a word, cured her. Immediately she got up and began to serve Jesus and his group.

There is a lesson here. Health and healing are not just for the individual. Her healing immediately restored her to the community and the duty of serving that community. (And not just because she was a woman! If it had been the father-in-law, the same would apply.) As long as we are in health our energies are meant to be directed to the building up of the community and not simply for our personal enjoyment.

“Now when the sun was setting” - we need to remember it was a sabbath. The sabbath went from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday (so Jesus could not be properly buried on the Friday evening when he died). According to the traditions, Jews could not travel more than two-thirds of a mile or carry any load. Only after sunset could the sick be brought to Jesus. 

As soon as the sabbath was over, large numbers brought their sick to him. He “laid his hands on every one of them” and healed them all. As Jesus had announced in the synagogue at Nazareth, the Kingdom of God had arrived and was entering the lives of people, bringing them health and wholeness.

Many were also liberated from the power of evil spirits. These spirits shouted at Jesus “You are the Son of God”. As we mentioned earlier, by using Jesus’ title they hoped to exert control over him. It did not work, of course. Whether these were actual cases of possession or were psychological or moral disorders which made people behave in abnormal ways and perhaps ways harmful to themselves and others is not clear. But clearly the presence of the Kingdom is being felt.

At daybreak - Jesus had been working the whole night for the people - he went off into a quiet place. The desert is the place where God is to be found and very likely, as Mark tells us, Jesus went there to pray and to be alone. The people, who had seen what he did for them, wanted him to stay with them. Their attitude is in marked contrast to the people of Nazareth.

But he could and would not. “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; that is why I have been sent.” And so we are told that he was now preaching in the synagogues of Judea - in the south of the country, although the term may simply refer to the whole of Jewish territory.

No place could have a monopoly on his attentions. We need to attach ourselves to Jesus and keep close to him but we cannot cling to him in a way that prevents others from experiencing his healing touch.

On the contrary, it is our task as his disciples to see that as many as possible come to know and experience his love, his compassion and his healing.*

The Irish Jesuits

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

In Nazareth Jesus proclaimed Himself the Messiah and was rejected. In Capernaum demons proclaimed who He was and the people believed. The people of Nazareth wanted - literally - to throw him out, while the people of Capernaum wouldn't let him go. Was no-one sick or possessed in Nazareth? Maybe Our Lord's home town was like the still eye at the centre of a spiritual storm. If we are not aware of anything we want to be saved from, the arrival of a saviour can be an unwelcome challenge to our assumptions, like someone telling us to board up our houses when we believe the hurricane has passed.