Saturday, September 09, 2006

22nd Saturday in Ordinary Time (II)
Fools for the Sake of Christ

Readings: 1 Corinthians 4:6-15; Psalm 145; Luke 6:1-5

I’ve sometimes (often?) been struck by how easy it is for conflicts to erupt between otherwise very good and God-fearing people. I don’t mean the kind of conflicts that result from obvious selfishness. I have in mind, for example, the kind of disagreements that occur when people come together to work for the common good. I think for example of church groups, committees and communities. Everyone seems to be trying to do the right thing, the best thing. But all too often, legitimate differences of opinion very quickly escalate into heated arguments, arguments lead to the formation of opposing factions, and factionalism festers into long-lasting grudges and resentments. Groups break up. People become disillusioned and unhappy. What begins as an attempt to render some service to the community ends in a painful wound infecting the rest of the Body.

Paul seems to be addressing a similar problem in the Corinthian church. We might learn from what is found in today’s readings. First, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, we need to keep to what is written. We have all received a Tradition of teaching that comes from Christ. This is our common heritage. Whatever legitimate differences we might have should have to do with differing interpretations of what we have received. We do not make things up on our own.

Something more is required. Instead of being filled with our own importance, we need also to be humble enough to entertain the possibility that others’ opinions, though different from ours, may also be legitimate interpretations of Christ’s teaching. In fact, it may even be possible that their interpretation is more appropriate, closer to the truth, than ours in the given circumstances. Consider, for example, the incident in the gospel. Although Jesus and his disciples seem at first to be breaking the law concerning Sabbath observance, they are actually observing it in a deeper sense. And Jesus himself is able to find a precedent for his disciples’ actions in the practice of King David.

Finally, two phrases in today’s readings require particular attention. To be faithful to the received teaching means less the keeping of a static legal code as it does being faithful to the crucified and risen Christ. For the Son of Man is master of the Sabbath. As such, we need to allow the living Christ to challenge us when our observance of the received teaching threatens to become dead and static. We may, for example, be drawn to listen to and empathize with others before making judgments, because we wish to know what Christ is saying to us through them. Of course, by doing this we may seem to become less sure of ourselves. But that is for the best. The Pharisees were very sure of themselves. Yet they were also surely wrong. In contrast, our tentativeness and eagerness to listen can be one way in which we are called to imitate Paul’s example, one way in which we can be fools for the sake of Christ.

How can we better work together in ways that build up the Body of Christ?

1 comment:

  1. Dear Fr. Chris,
    Your reflection strikes a chord within me. I have had such experiences myself and at times the guilty party.