Ordinary Time 06, Year B-2009
- For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Jn. 3:16)
Noting an unhealthy and death-bearing development in the Christian community in Corinth, the apostle Paul appeals to tradition. He tells the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:23-26):
- For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus,
- on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
- broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance
- of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the
- new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance
- of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim
- the death of the Lord until he comes.
Division in terms of the well-off going ahead with their food and drink before the have-nots arrive and so end up hungry is not, according to St. Paul, the way to show reverence for the church of God and respect for those who have nothing. Such a way of being exclusive reveals lack of fundamental discernment of the body of Christ and hence makes a travesty of the body and blood of the Lord. Exclusiveness such as this betrays failure to grasp the fundamental meaning of the Lord’s Supper as his self-giving for others.
The tradition, then, that goes back to the Lord and to St. Paul is one of reaching out of oneself toward others. Christian tradition represents inclusiveness: identifying with other so that one has feelings not just for oneself but also for others; being moved with pity from the very depths of one’s being by the sorry plight of others; stretching out one’ hand to those crying out for help and touching even the untouchables; doing whatever is within one’s power, by God’s grace, to bring relief to others. Pauline tradition spells imitation of Christ who both attended to the whole town of Capernaum and found time to pray (Mk. 1:33-35): doing everything for the glory of God, the absolute Other; avoiding giving offense to anyone; trying to please everyone in every way; not seeking one’s own benefit but that of many in view of their salvation.
And the Christian and Pauline tradition of outreach and of bringing the outsiders in, it must further be pointed out, carries the cost of exclusion for one who seeks the inclusion of others. Thus, for reaching out to the leper, Jesus ended up remaining outside. In due time, he would suffer outside the gate (cf. Heb. 12:2). St. Paul, for his part, suffered repeated rejection and was run out of one town after another (cf. 2 Cor. 11:25 ff.; Phil. 3:8; Acts 16:22-23; 17:5, 13; 18:6; 20:3; 21:30; 23:12 ff.).
Yet outside in deserted places is the place of prayer and of ministry too. Out there is where God reveals himself and especially protects his people (Ex. 3; Dt. 8:15; Jer. 2:6). In the wilderness is faith tested, so that it may be purified, and special divine instruction and favors given (cf. Ex. 16; 17; 20; 1 Kgs. 19:8; Hos. 2:19; Mt. 3:1; 4:1 ff.; Acts 7:36, 41; 13:18; 1 Cor. 10:5, 11; Heb. 3:8). So then, being outside, as Jews and Gentiles take it, is really, for those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, being inside (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23-25).
The Lord, who was handed over, led out of the city and lifted up, now calls and draws everyone to himself, and makes good on his teaching, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am”(Jn. 8:28; 12:34). Thus finally is the saving secret revealed that the Anointed One is proven authentic in his self-giving and suffering service (cf. “Pontiff Reflects on Messianic Secret” at ).
St. Vincent de Paul, needless to say, understood such secret of success. And he challenged his followers to make it more openly and effectively known lest it continue to be called “the Church’ best kept secret.” He said in his May 30, 1659 conference: “What! To be a Christian and see a brother afflicted without weeping with him, without being sick with him, would be to be without charity, to be a mere picture of a Christian, to be without humanity, to be worse than the brute beasts!” No doubt, St. Vincent lived, and expects us to live, according to the tradition St. Paul received and, in turn, handed on to us.