The second reading at Sunday mass for the next few weeks, the first weeks of Ordinary Time, is always taken from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Why is that? I believe it is because the problems faced by the 1st century Corinthian Christian community are very similar to those faced by your average Catholic parish community.
The Corinthian community was rife with divisiveness, selfishness, immaturity, turf wars, insularity and pride. Take our second reading for this weekend’s Mass, for instance. The Corinthian community was rich in the spiritual gifts Paul mentions here, but people seemed to have been thinking of the gifts as personal possessions resulting in pride for one’s own gifts and jealousy or comparison to the gifts of others. The gifts were being used in a divisive manner rather than to unite the community.
Paul emphasizes that every gift comes from God first and foremost, so is not an excuse for someone to boast as if they had created this gift themselves. Secondly, Paul says that the gifts are given by God through the Holy Spirit for the building up of the community, not for someone’s own personal crusade. Each person receives gifts different from the next person, not for a comparative, but for a complementary purpose. By speaking about “the same Spirit”…”the same Lord”…and “the same God“, Paul is pointing to the relationships within the Holy Trinity, where there is no one-up-manship, or divisiveness, or competitiveness, going on between the different members of the Trinity, but each one works in perfect harmony with the other. This harmony and unity-with-diversity provides the model for the Christian community. How are we doing in our parish communities to follow this model?