10 September, Monday – On Defiance

10 September

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1 Corinthians 5:1-8

I have been told as an undoubted fact that one of you is living with his father’s wife. This is a case of sexual immorality among you that must be unparalleled even among pagans. How can you be so proud of yourselves? You should be in mourning. A man who does a thing like that ought to have been expelled from the community. Though I am far away in body, I am with you in spirit, and have already condemned the man who did this thing as if I were actually present. When you are assembled together in the name of the Lord Jesus, and I am spiritually present with you, then with the power of our Lord Jesus he is to be handed over to Satan so that his sensual body may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

The pride that you take in yourselves is hardly to your credit. You must know how even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough, so get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be. Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

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Luke 6:6-11

On the sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see if he would cure a man on the sabbath, hoping to find something to use against him. But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stand up! Come out into the middle.’ And he came out and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I put it to you: is it against the law on the sabbath to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy it?’ Then he looked round at them all and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was better. But they were furious, and began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus.

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“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath, rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”

Yesterday we talked about how we have a responsibility to seek the truth and speak the Word of God, even if that truth rattles cages. It seems fitting then, that today’s readings deal with defiance. In the first, an act of incest is committed by one of the newly converted Christians in Corinth. It is further implied that the sordid affair has been flaunted publicly at church (1 Cor 5:1-7), with no seeming push back from the congregation’s elders. Instead, everyone has chosen to look the other way. Why was the incestuous couple allowed to carry on? We are not told specifically but Scripture verses reveal the church in Corinth to be deeply factious and intensely political (1 Cor 1-4). Elitism was rife. So it may have been that the sinner in question was someone powerful. Someone no one wanted to persecute. The sin of incest, committed in open defiance of Christ’s teachings, affected the believers’ faith journey in Corinth and the credibility of the new Church. Paul courageously calls this out and urges for excommunication (1 Cor 5: 1-8), that the sinners be “expelled from your midst”. All of this sounds familiar – except that our present day Catholic Church has yet to find its ‘Paul’.

The second incident is Jesus’ seeming defiance of the Sabbath by healing a man at the synagogue. He knows that the Jewish religious elite are watching to see what he will do. The Sabbath is a holy day for the Jewish people. Work of any kind is forbidden. By healing the man so publicly, Jesus was taking a defiant stand – that the spirit of the law was more important than the law itself. Shouldn’t the afflicted man be shown mercy and released from his suffering, especially on the Sabbath? The Jewish leaders saw this as a personal attack on them, instead of the act of mercy and compassion that it was. They took Jesus’ defiance as a challenge to their authority.

It’s easy to discern the significance of things when we have the benefit of hindsight. It’s a little more tricky in practice. When is defiance not an altruistic act? For that, we have to examine our own consciences. We have to pray. And we have to scrutinize the fruits of our actions. Are our actions supported by pure motivations or are we trying to push our personal agendas? Are we working towards the good of God’s faithful or satisfying our own selfish desires? Are we trying to put across God’s message or trying to make ourselves famous? Be certain that if our intentions are anything but noble, the Holy Spirit will see through us and we will find no peace. Judgment awaits all who subvert God’s Word for their own ends.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to make good judgments, to see the straight and narrow path, even when it seems to be obscured by a thicket of lies and propaganda. We pray for God’s protection, that He watch over all who labour to put things right in His house.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who helps us to discern God’s message in His Word.

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