“I am for Pope Francis” – Wednesday 22nd week in ordinary time, 1Corinthians 3:1-9

“I am for Pope Francis” – Wednesday 22nd week in ordinary time -1Corinthians 3:1-9

Reiterating the theme that he began in 1 Corinthians 1:12, Paul dives right to the heart of the matter that was plaguing the fabric of unity among the Church in Corinth. Here were a bunch of big babies who refused to grow up and the only way to deal with the situation was ‘time out’.

Yet Paul can be a gentle matador when dealing with an enraged bull. We know that he addresses the community, many who were detractors and opponents to his teaching as “brothers and sisters.” Many of them perhaps did not feel the same towards Paul for they clearly did not see him as ‘their’ or even worse, as a leader. There were those in the Corinthian community who routed for their favourite preacher; some for Paul others for Apollos. Clearly while Paul had sowed the seeds of the faith, Apollos a learned Alexandrian who took over the community after Paul, had made an impression enough for some to ‘switch’ to the favourite (online) preacher.

So, while Paul calls them his brothers and sisters, he still has to hold a mirror of truth to the Corinthians and what they would see was perhaps not what they expected. Paul tells the Corinthians that they are spiritually no more than big babies. By their actions it is clear that they have not grown and hence have to be given a dressing down like one would do with an errant child. (He calls them infants in Christ).

When Paul had to depart from the Corinthian community to travel back to Ephesus, he recognized that even after ministering to the Corinthians for eighteen months, they were yet on spiritual food that could only be given to infants; they were not ready for solids. Ironically, even after years had passed Paul is saddened to find that they have not grown spiritually and the proof of it is seen in their behaviour. Jealousy and quarrelling over petty human issues had dominated their spiritual life rather than immersing themselves in more spiritual thought.

At the heart of this controversy was their personal allegiances; for some were for Paul and some were for Apollos. Permit me to ignite this explanation by bringing this rather common place example closer home. Do we not hear in the Church today, “I am for Pope Benedict” while others say, “I am for Pope Francis” and still others, “I am for St John Paul II?” Paul is clear, when one says I am for a particular leader or leaders, to whose interpretation of the faith they align with, then they act according to their human inclinations and not on their spiritual calling.

Lest we forget, leaders in the Church are called to be servants, as are Paul and Apollos. Through these servant leaders we come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and not adore the messenger of the good news but the master who sent the messenger. Every leader has a role to play in salvation history and when that role ends their purpose ends.

Paul who brought the good news to Corinth was called to plant, while Apollos who continued his mission was called to water. Yet Paul and Apollos and every Christian leader knows the one truth; that they can plant a million seeds of faith while others may water diligently and yet it is ONLY GOD and GOD ALONE who gives growth in the life of the believer. Forget this and ministry becomes about us. Forget this and we eliminate God from his own heaven. Forget this and faith becomes but a song and dance with many well recited and sung hallelujahs.

Paul wants the Corinthians and us to understand this clearly; as Christians leaders “we are nothing.” (Not my words but Paul’s). While leadership in the Church must have a ‘common purpose,’ that purpose must point to God alone. So, the Christian leader might feel compelled to ask, “what’s in it for me?” “What do I get for my labours?” Paul does not negate the contribution of the Christians leader, whoever she or he may be, in fact he acknowledges that each “will receive their wages according to their labour.” The point Paul makes is that a fractured Church that rallies around their favoured pastor brings no yield to the greater mission. That field bears no fruit.

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