Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
In St. Paul’s time, the church was so new that everyone remembered how they came to the faith. That’s not a bad thing. Even today, in helping with the RCIA, I like to hear how the new converts were drawn to the Lord. But it seems that some people in Paul’s time actually boasted about who baptized them. They acted as if they were better Christians because of the person whose preaching first attracted them.
Paul, of course, would have no part in those rivalries. In fact, you can almost hear Paul laughing when he talks about people who consider Christ as just another leader of one of the factions. Christ should be the sign of unity for all Christians, not just one congregation. It may be even more difficult to seek unity today, with so many Christian churches and a modern view of diversity as somehow better than unity. While no one says they want to divide the body of Christ, I’m sure you know someone who thinks the only way to have a unified Church is for everyone to pray the same way they do.
Yet even Paul did not expect all believers to be clones of one another. He frequently wrote about people having many different gifts, yet all working to build up the Body of Christ. He doesn’t mean that those gifts are divisive or that the Church survives in spite of them. Those differences are necessary; we need all the gifts that the Spirit gives us. So what can we do to help unify the Church?
First, do what Jesus himself did—pray for unity in the Church (John 17:20–21). Pray that you come to know what your own gifts are, have the courage to use them for the Church, and appreciate the gifts of others. Second, Paul was very aware of his own weaknesses. That’s what he is talking about in the last line of the reading. Jesus had to die before he could rise from the dead. Without the cross, we would have never heard of the Resurrection. So also, without weakness, how can we experience God’s strength? Instead of looking down on those with whom we disagree, look up to see what God may be revealing to you through that person’s differences.