Thursday, January 23, 2014

Is Christ Divided?

Reflections on the Readings

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 26, 2014 - Year A

Is Christ Divided?

What I mean is that each of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apollos," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 

What Would Paul Say Today?

Quite frankly, Paul might find today's Christian divisions blasphemous; an irreverent disregard for the unity of the faith! Paul wrote to the community at Corinth asking them to stop their quarreling. And this is while there was only one Church at Corinth. It's not like there was a church down the road the various factions could join. But endowed with the gift of wisdom Paul wrote the Church at Corinth before it became little splinters of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church all over Corinth. 

Imagine the Church of Paul on one corner and the Church of Peter down the street. Then the Sunday Corinth Times announces that the Church of Apollos is having it's inaugural Mass at 11 a.m. The article might explain the superb theological acumen of Fr. Apollos and how his gift of teaching includes connecting the dots from the baptism of John all the way through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of the Christ. Not to be outdone, next week's Sunday Corinth Times includes a full page display of the newest Church in town; the First Church of Christ. 

Paul's fear was that the Body of Christ in Corinth would become factious and competitive; filled with pride of the unholy sort resulting in the cross of Christ emptied of its power. This was not anything Paul would tolerate. Yet look around you. There are 40,000 Christian denominations, give or take. Let us put this fact along side these words of St. Paul:  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6) 

Let's Do the Math

There's plenty of blame to go around. But pointing fingers and hassling over unimportant and sometimes obvious minutia is not helpful. But I bet we can agree that 1+1+1 = 3. However, God offers a different equation. Do we have the courage to have a child-like faith to believe that in Christ 1+1+1= 1? Three in one and one in three and the one in the middle died for us.

I remember many years ago being in ministry, and craving the unity of the Body of Christ. It is a craving the Holy Spirit wants to give to each one of us. In my imagination I mused how that the Table of the Lord is where we all could find unity in Christ. And then I reflected further and realized that the very thing that should unite us is what we allow to divide us. Not everyone understands the Table the same way. Why? I don't know.

Paul knew. He understood that the Eucharist is the origin and true source of the unity of the faith. Speaking from the revelation given him concerning the Body and Blood of Christ, Paul said, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." Do the the math. One plus one plus one equals one. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17) 

Keep Your Eyes on the Cross

Paul asks, "Was I crucified for you?" Implied in his question is that neither had Cephas, nor Apollos died for the Corinthians. Uppermost in Paul's mind is that the cross of Christ not be emptied of its power. He saw in the preaching of the cross the opportunity to expound on the great love of God for the whole world. Paul grasped that understanding with a particular conviction. In his preaching he understood that for some the cross is an enigma; it is mere folly. But for those whose lives were touched by the selfless sacrifice of Christ, the cross is the power of God. 

For those being saved the cross is a demonstration of the power of God. Some may find it a display of utter destitution and weakness. They remain to be convinced. But all things are possible with God. And Paul remained convinced until death of the efficacy and power of the cross knowing that it pleased God through the folly of what he preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

So from the cross shines the great Light of the World for all who live in darkness. And the more united we are, the more in love with Jesus and loving toward each other we are, the greater the Light of the cross shines. Our Christian mission is to take the Light of the cross into our families and into our jobs and wherever there is darkness. 

I know some have a problem with a crucifix. But remember that your Catholic brothers and sisters know that Jesus rose from the dead. The crucifix for us is a visual reminder of the great Love-Light that shined from a hill faraway. We remember also he was  reviled, and cursed, and that mockers fitted his head with a crown of thorns. When this Holy Light declared his work finished and bowed his head a soldier pierced his side with a spear from which flowed blood and water - our dear Jesus in whom we have forgiveness of sins and in whose heart we are one. May it please God to help us to believe it starting with me. Amen.  

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at:

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