|Father Michael's Sixth Rule for the Interior Life: "Don't Be a Lone Ranger."
The Twenty-Third Monday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I Corinthians 5: 1-8.
• Psalm 5: 5-7, 12.
• Luke 6: 6-11.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Laurence Justinian, Bishop & Confessor.*
Lessons from the common "Státuit…" of a Confessor Bishop, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ecclesiasticus: 44: 16-27; 45: 3-20.
• [Gradual] Ecclesiasticus 44: 16, 20.
• Matthew 25: 14-23.
The Sixteenth Monday after Pentecost; and, the Feast of the Holy Prophet Zarchariah, Father of the Forerunner, & His Wife, the Holy & Venerable Elizabeth.
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, seoncd & fourth from the menaion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Ephesians 1: 22—2: 3.
• Hebrews 6: 13-20.
• Mark 10: 46-52.
• Luke 1: 5-25, 57-68, 76, 80.
9:01 AM 9/5/2016 — We need to do a little of a review and recap in our consideration of the Blessed Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians because we missed a bit on Saturday, I being unable to preach for you on that day—not that Bishop Checchio did a bad job—and Sunday’s Scripture lessons spawning from a different cycle altogether.
Last week Saint Paul had been addressing, in our Apostolic lessons, the divisions which threatened the unity of the Church in Corinth. His friend Apollo, whom he left in charge before he left there, was a very different man than he was. Paul was an educated man, to be sure, but not high born; thus, the style of his preaching appealed more to the lower classes where he made most of his converts, but he had a hard time reaching the wealthier Jewish merchants. Apollo, but contrast, was himself a rather well-to-do Jew from Alexandria, perfectly fluent in Greek, and who knew how to reach these people and brought many of them into the faith. But because they were so different, it was very easy for the Corinthian Christians to make the mistake of thinking that they were rivals preaching different Gospels, which they weren't. Last Wednesday, Paul gave us the very beautiful metaphor of him planting the seed and Apollo watering it to show how the two actually compliment one another; but, as is often the case with the simple-minded, they hear the same truth expressed in different ways and assume that they're hearing two different truths. Paul and Apollo have no dispute with one another, but it's those who hear them who have regarded their styles more than their words, and divided themselves into two different groups; and, I think it's safe to assume—and I hinted at this before—that Paul appointed Apollo to succeed him in Corinth because he knew that Apollo could reach those people that he simply couldn't. But, in Corinth apparently, you had some people who were not that smart, and who couldn't distinguish between style and content; so, as chapter three of the First Epistle to the Corinthians came to a close for us last week, we saw Paul writing with a two-fold purpose: he's scolding his own so-called supporters and coming to the defense of his friend, Apollo, and scolding Apollo’s so-called supporters in his own defense; and, as chapter four began, he quoted to them what Msgr. Knox says was probably an old Jewish proverb: “Nothing beyond what is written” (I Cor. 4: 6 Knox). In other words, don't read the Scriptures between the lines looking for some cabollistic and cryptic meaning that isn't there; take it at face value, because it probably means exactly what it seems to mean. The words of Paul and Apollo, though very different in style and intended for very different audiences, presented the same Gospel, and it's that Gospel the Corinthians should be following, not this man or that.
Then, toward the end of last week, beginning with Chapter Four, Paul elevated the discussion, for up to this point the Apostle had been speaking about these things purely on a personal level and how it effected each Christian as an individual; suddenly in chapter four it became an ecclesiastical matter, since it was the unity of the Church that was being threatened. Had we heard the lessons of the day on Saturday we would have heard Paul, speaking of both Apollo and himself, pointing out that even the Apostle is nothing more than a servant of the Church: the message he preaches is not his own, it's Christ's, and Christ entrusted his Gospel to the Church, not to this man or that. The true Apostle always scrutinizes his own words against the teaching of the Church, and is constantly mindful of the fact that he is nothing more than a mouthpiece; he has no message of his own.
And this brings us to Father Michael's Sixth Rule for the Interior Life: don't be a lone ranger. Everything we do should be according to the mind of the Church; and, if what we're doing deviates in some way from what the Church teaches or preaches, then we must have the humility to admit that there's something wrong with what we're doing. The Church doesn't need trailblazers; what she needs are faithful Apostles.
In today’s first lesson, which begins chapter five of this letter, Paul uses this observation to make a seamless transition into a whole new section of his letter in which he wishes to address some rather specific problems; and, right of the bat, he tackles what has to be one of the most important and traumatic problems faced by any Church: the scandal given by someone who is openly living an immoral life, and the leaders of the Church having no stomach for dealing with it. Living ourselves in an age and a country where politicians who identify themselves as Catholics continue to support things like abortion or euthanasia and yet continue to receive Holy Communion—and where many bishops around the country seem to employ a kind of territorial morality, with some courageously defending the teaching of Christ and others cowering in fear—we can relate to what the Apostle is saying. And we can see first hand how this sort of behavior damages the unity of the Church. Paul excommunicates the man himself, as we just heard in the lesson, but laments the fact that he had to do so, not only because it’s a distasteful thing to have to do, but mostly because the leaders of the Church in Corinth should have had the courage to do it themselves and didn’t. He scolds them for trumpeting their unity, and points out how unity is not nearly as important as truth, which brings us back full circle to that line of Pope Saint John Paul II that I quoted for you several times some weeks ago: “There is no such thing as love separated from truth.”
So, as we reflect on our sixth rule—don’t be a lone ranger—let’s be clear what it means: what we do and what we say in the name of Christ and His Church doesn’t come from our own personal spirituality or our own personal conclusions; it should come from what the Church has already taught. And the Apostle, whose metaphors have been all over the map in this letter—and, as you shall see, will become even more creative as we go on—this time uses a cooking metaphor, and we’ll end with it, not only to help get us in the mood for lunch, but also as a fitting preparation for receiving our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist: “Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Cor. 5: 8 RM3).
* Laurence Justinian, born of the noble family of Giustiniani (anglicized as "Justinian") was the first Patriarch of Venice. He died in 1455.