Grace to you!
We continue our reflection based on the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. I introduced it previously.
You may have noticed that there seems to be intense competition in families, organizations, or communities where you have highly talented people. Healthy competition is a good thing because it brings the best out of people.
Nevertheless, when the competition is unhealthy, it brings the worst out of us. That's when unhealthy rivalry and disunity erupt and affect the organization's smooth functioning and overall performance. Tied to it is bitter envy.
One of the temptations of gifted people is a competitive spirit. We see this in the spiritual life, just as we see it in our everyday social affairs.
Experience in the pastoral ministry demonstrates this. Experience from teaching in schools, whether at primary, secondary school (high school), college, and graduate school levels, also points to this reality. In those parishes or classes with extraordinary talents, one of the recurrent struggles is dealing with rivalry and unhealthy competition. Sometimes pastors prefer not to work in parishes where you have many power players. Power playing is an example of people with high talents or gifts and may be driven by the desire to have things their way. It often arises from rivalry.
As a highly gifted faith community, the Corinthian Church witnessed similar struggles, which many churches and believers experience today. One of which was an unhealthy rivalry leading to conflicts. They started to pitch one camp against another. As their spiritual father, Saint Paul chose to write to respond to the discord and disunity resulting from unhealthy rivalry.
He offers them one of the critical answers to rivalry, unhealthy ambition, and division. He proposes the Cross of Christ. "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
The Cross of Our Lord is a complete contrast to the ways of the worldly. When we look at the Cross, we see the complete emptying of human pride. We also grasp the surrender to the providence of God.
In describing the self-emptying personified in the Cross, Saint Paul uses the same word he used in Philippians 2:7, where the Lord Jesus was described as "emptying himself "and choosing the form of a servant leading to the most disgraceful way of death, death on the Cross. The emptying was the road to glory.
The Wisdom of the Cross changes the scale of measure. Glory isn't in the triumphalism and self-ostentatious life of how gifted we are or what great "shows" we make of our blessings. It isn't in having things our way without regard to our neighbor or even the way of the Lord. The Wisdom of the Cross lies in surrender to the logic of the Cross. It is the selflessness that makes us die to ourselves so that Christ, the glory of the Lord, could shine forth through us.
Mirroring the Cross changes the scale for us. Such makes us humble ourselves, remembering our nature's brokenness while allowing God to shine in all we do. A life centered on the Cross of Christ is hardly boastful or arrogant. Such a life humbly builds the community and heals rivalry. It is wisdom to live not for ourselves alone, but for the Lord and others.
Saint Paul reminds us: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25).
We pray that we may discover the wisdom in the Cross of Christ and orient our lives in that wisdom. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday Ordinary Time B: 1 Cor 1:17-25; Mt 25:1-13]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.