11 September, Tuesday – Bad Witness

11 September

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1 Corinthians 6:1-11

How dare one of your members take up a complaint against another in the law courts of the unjust instead of before the saints? As you know, it is the saints who are to ‘judge the world’; and if the world is to be judged by you, how can you be unfit to judge trifling cases? Since we are also to judge angels, it follows that we can judge matters of everyday life; but when you have had cases of that kind, the people you appointed to try them were not even respected in the Church. You should be ashamed: is there really not one reliable man among you to settle differences between brothers and so one brother brings a court case against another in front of unbelievers? It is bad enough for you to have lawsuits at all against one another: oughtn’t you to let yourselves be wronged, and let yourselves be cheated? But you are doing the wronging and the cheating, and to your own brothers.

You know perfectly well that people who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God: people of immoral lives, idolaters, adulterers, catamites, sodomites, thieves, usurers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers will never inherit the kingdom of God. These are the sort of people some of you were once, but now you have been washed clean, and sanctified, and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.

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Luke 6:12-19

Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’: Simon whom he called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

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“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God?”

Corinth during the time of Paul was a thriving hub of political, spiritual and sexual liberalism. It’s hard to find a modern equivalent to it – an extreme version of San Francisco, maybe? Corinth was also a centre of the Imperial Cult who practiced the worship of Rome’s emperors as divine beings. As a result, the city enjoyed a great deal of wealth. Corinth was where you would go, if you wished to live an unfettered, hedonistic kind of life. The funny thing about that kind of liberalism is that taken too far, it can be exhausting. People ultimately want order in their lives, something lasting to build their life around. God brought Paul to Corinth to tap into this emotional wellspring, this yearning for a simpler and more purposeful way of life.

Within this context, we can understand Paul’s indignation with the elders of Corinth. Christ’s newly established church was to serve as a shining example to the rest of the city. Its elders were supposed to be paragons of the faith. But they let themselves be dragged into the same mud as everyone else. Who wants to join a church if it is led by a bunch of hypocrites? The Corinthians were ruled by Romans! They already knew all about that way of life! No, the people of Corinth were looking for leadership they could get behind, someone to inspire them, someone who would take them to higher ground! They were hungry for it! There was going to be no tolerance for bad witness if Christ’s newly established church was to have any credibility. And Paul understood this.

The world we live in today is not so different than the Corinth of Paul’s time. We are all hungering for credible leadership, seeking a more authentic way of life, looking for something enduring that we can build our lives around. We’re tired of the hypocrisy, the politics, tired of not knowing who we can trust, what is fake news, what is not. We’re tired! And our Catholic Church today, is not so different than Paul’s church in Corinth. We can’t afford any further bad witnesses; the credibility of the Catholic Church is at stake. If we are going to profess that we are Catholic, we too must bear the responsibility of rebuilding that credibility. And we do that by ensuring our own witness is beyond reproach. Our Church has already taken too much of a beating with these recent scandals. Right now, the whole world is watching. The rebuilding and healing starts here – in our communities, in our homes, in our schools. It’s up to each one of us to rise to the occasion, to bear good witness, if we are to begin to right the wrongs and take back God’s house. To borrow a phrase from Gandhi – “Be the change that you wish to see”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom, the love and the courage to be good witnesses of our Catholic faith, that we might reflect the light of Christ in these dark times.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who support us in our faith journeys; those who help us to carry our crosses when they get too heavy to bear.

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