HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
THEME: Division and Rivalry in the Church.
BY: Fr. Anthony O. Ezeaputa, MA.
In the second reading for today (1 Corinthians 1:10–13, 17), Paul poses three pertinent questions to the church in Corinth: “Is Christ divided?” “Was Paul crucified for you?” “Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). If you ask me if St. Paul’s concerns are still relevant for the church in the twenty-first century, especially in the United States, I will say yes, without any doubt.
Dear friends, division in the church is real. Sometimes it seems as though each denomination is in competition with the other or has preconceived negative notions about other denominations. Let’s consider divisions in the church in the light of St. Paul’s epistle to the church in Corinth.
The church in Corinth was suffering from unhealthy rivalries. They were divided into four factions: “I belong to Paul,” “I belong to Apollos,” “I belong to Cephas,” and the “I belong to Christ” faction. Each faction saw itself as “belonging” to the apostolic figures or spiritual fathers who preached to and baptized them, as well as the leader’s loyal servant (1:12; 3:4–5). The “I belong to Christ” faction, of course, rejected others.
It was within this shameful context of factionalism (1 Corinthians 1:12) that Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians. He asks, “Is Christ divided?” “Was Paul crucified for you?” “Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13).
“Is Christ divided?” Paul asks. In this case, he uses the Greek word “memeristai,” which means “to divide into parties or sects.” His question might make more sense if it were translated as “Is Christ a partisan?” or “Is Christ a sectarian?” We could also ask, “Does Christ belong to one of the four groups and not the others?”
Given how sad and embarrassing it is that the church is now split into more than 37,000 competing denominations, Paul’s question could be translated as “Has Christ been cut up so that each Christian group can have its own relic?” So, we might wonder, “Is Christ a Catholic?” Is Jesus a Protestant? Is Christ evangelical? et cetera.
Obviously, Christ is one, the Church is one, and Jesus is neither sectarian nor partisan; no Christian denomination or group has a monopoly on him. Moreover, the church founded by Jesus Christ “subsists” in the Catholic Church, as does the fullness of the means to salvation, which are the seven sacraments.
Secondly, when Paul asks the Corinthians, “Was Paul crucified for you?” he wants to remind them that their life in Christ is inextricably linked to the Cross of Christ. Also, it was his death on the cross, not Paul, Peter, or Apollos, that saved them.
By taking sides (“I am of Paul,” “I am of Apollos”), the Corinthians minimized the death of Christ and exchanged the master for his messengers. So, they needed to be reminded that Jesus, not Paul or Apollos, was crucified on the cross for them.
Today, we face the same question that Paul asked the Corinthians in many ways. We are supposed to love those who serve us with the Word and the Sacraments. However, we should keep in mind that God has called these ministers to serve through the instrument of the Catholic Church, and our love for them should draw us closer to God rather than further away from Him.
Therefore, let us resist the temptation to choose a minister over Jesus, the Lord and Master, and the revealed truth as taught by the Catholic Church. “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16).
Additionally, may we not give up on Christ because of a mistake made by a church minister. You may need to keep asking yourself, “Who died on the cross for me?” “Am I a follower of Jesus Christ or his minister?”
Finally, Paul asks, “Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?” Baptism means at least four things: cleansing, incorporation, transition, and transfer of allegiance. Through Baptism, we are cleansed from sin, incorporated into the church, and transition from an old way of life to a new, definitive way of life. In other words, baptism is a public declaration that a person is a new creature in Christ, that the old person has gone and the new person has come (2 Cor. 5:17).
The moral implication of baptism is the renunciation of all previous allegiances and the transfer of allegiance to Jesus Christ. This transfer of allegiance to Jesus is accomplished by publicly rejecting Satan and his works, as well as publicly professing faith in Jesus Christ.
So, when Paul asks, “Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?” he was really asking, “In whose name were you baptized?” He is saying that by their baptism, the people of Corinth have transferred their allegiance to God because they were baptized in the name of the three-in-one God. As a result, there shouldn’t be any division based on who preached to them or baptized them.
Today, let us pray for unity among Christians, that man-made divisions may be healed through truth and love. Let us also recognize that we must all contribute our fair share to ensure that all Christ-followers are united under Christ, the Head of the Church. Moreover, the call to Christian unity doesn’t necessarily mean that we must be the same or that we must all join the same church. Instead, it is a call for all Christians or followers of Christ to recognize, respect, tolerate, understand, and love each other.
So, let us pray that man-made divisions may be healed through truth and love and that all may be one (John 17:21). May Our Lady, Mother of Christians, pray for us. Happy Sunday!https://www.homilyhub.com/homily-for-the-3rd-sunday-in-ordinary-time-year-a-4/
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