The first reading is from Paul’s “1st Letter to the Corinthians.” The entirety of the Letter is an admonition to the community. As described in Acts 8, Paul had been with the Corinth community for 18 months, had moved on to establish Christian communities in other places, but had begun to receive letters about problems with the Corinth community. Chapters 1-4 addressed divisions within the community and was part of our readings from last week’s daily Masses. Within that part of his letter, Paul provides a framework by which he advises Corinth to address their internal problems: the division of the world between the Holy and the profane. That which is holy builds and sustains the relationships between God and the community, between the members of the community, and serves as a beacon of light and wisdom to the world.
In Chapters 5-7, Paul addresses another major area in which he has received word of problems: (a) a lack of sexual integrity and (b) the community benign acceptance of those among them whose sexual integirty is pro fanum. The reading starts out with the startling reveal that the community seems to accept a person known to be sleeping with “his father’s wife” something unheard of even among the pagans. And the community allows this to go unaddressed. “And you are inflated with pride.” Pride has tempted the Corinthians to take an “enlightened” view of a very basic disorder, namely, incest. They are “inflated with pride,” no doubt thinking themselves possessed of a knowledge that transcends ethical norms. They consider themselves above the ordinary taboos related to marriage and family, taboos which characterize even the most primitive civilizations. The Corinthians rejoice in their own broadmindedness. Paul forcefully admonishes that the man guilty of incest must be excluded from the community and thus “delivered to Satan.”
The Corinthians are impressed that they are already living a supernatural life that frees them from sin, they seem to delight in the sophistication that suggests that they cannot be harmed by the desires of the flesh. Behavior to the Corinthians does not seem important; only spiritual enlightenment matters. It is their pride that casts a deep shadow over the Wisdom offered by the Gospel.
Paul is against spiritual elitism because it moves away from everyday Christian life led in the body. Paul warns that such “wisdom,” which he characterizes as of this world, breeds division, jealousy, competition. The Corinthians pursued a kind of enlightenment that would give them superiority over those who were considered merely infants. It is such pride that obfuscates that Wisdom of God. As Paul has already pointed out, only the Spirit of God can plumb the depths of God and only the truly spiritual person can receive the revelation of God. God’s is a revelation summed up in the wisdom of the cross. This is a revelation that changes the criteria for judgment, enabling us to put on the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16)
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