17 September 2008 Wednesday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time
1 Cor 12, 31 – 13, 13 and Luke 7, 31-35
Jesus called his generation as people who ruined or frustrated God’s purpose for them. God had a great plan for all, but due to perversity, the people ruined what good was meant for them. John the Baptist was a holy man, but the scribes and Pharisees regarded him as demon-possessed. We therefore learn today that we can tweak what is good and make it unacceptable or evil; or we can rationalize our faults and come out clean.
The Corinthians claimed to be one united community, only to be discovered as divided among themselves. Each group under different leaders (Paul, Apollos, Cephas, etc). Their division could be attributed to their competitiveness. Let me explain.
There is a Hellenistic literary form in praise of the greatest virtue (U. Schmid) which made its way into Jewish tradition. The Christian community in Corinth was multi-cultural, with many Jewish Christians in it. The Corinthians had high regard for virtues so as to have supreme devotions to spiritual gifts such as tongues, prophecy, knowledge, and helpfulness. At the outset, this regard for the virtues was good and laudable. However, there was also a progression of gifts. The one who possessed the greatest of these gifts acquired a status in society. Thus, the Corinthians attached an undue importance on them because of its potential in bestowing rank and recognition. And Paul corrected this egocentric competitiveness. He said that even if they possessed the highest of these gifts or more of these charisms, but did not have love, that person was nothing (v.3). Love made all the difference.
Rather than defining what love was, Paul used verbs that involved another person (eg. patience and kindness presupposes a recipient). He chose to use these verbs to highlight what he thought the Corinthians have neglected. “The strong were not ‘patient and kind’ (8, 1-13); the sexual ascetics tended to ‘insist on their own way’ (7, 1-40). The community ‘rejoiced at wrong’ (5, 18)… Paul considered the Corinthians ‘childish’ (3,1; 14,20) and desired them to be ‘mature’ (14, 20)” [Jerome Biblical Commentary].
Love contributed to the unity of a community. Its concern was another, therefore love created community. For Paul, only in loving did the Christian existed authentically (1,30).
We therefore reflect on our lives. Have we rationalized some faults we have committed, so as to escape from punishment? Have we tweaked what was good (eg. a person dedicated to a certain job), and bashed on them out of envy or jealousy? Maybe it would be beneficial if we just run through Chapter 13 of Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, and reflect on our struggle in living out these virtues. In other words, how far have we gone in our authentic loving?