Tuesday, September 13, 2022 – 24th week in Ordinary Time
Sr. John Chrysostom – Memorial
1 Cor 12:12-14,27-31a; Ps 100; Lk 7:11-17.
What Paul began in yesterday’s admonition of the Corinthians; he completes today in a positive tone. Yesterday, he pointed out that the Corinthians had forgotten their relationship to each other, leading to factions while celebrating the “Lord’s Supper”. Today, he highlights the theme of the corporate body. This corporality is not something that Paul discovers but is found already in the OT, where God refers to Israel collectively as “my firstborn son” (Ex 4:22; Cf Jer 31:9) and as scholars point out is possibly the background to the 10th Plague where the “firstborn” was slaughtered.
Just as the Sinai Covenant made Israel God’s People (Ex 6:7, etc.) so too in baptism, “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves of free persons, and we were all given to drink of the one Spirit.” Therefore, “Now you are Christ’s Body, and individually parts of it.” Thus, in the OT, while it was the Covenant that bound them together, in the NT, it is the New Covenant (Lk 22:20), sealed in Jesus’ blood that makes us a new people through baptism. It is then, the Spirit of Christ that unites us as a body, attaching us to Christ our Head (Cf Col 1:18). From this we arrive at the thrust of the reading; namely, that Christ, as Head, has played his part and we. As members of his body, all have different functions to play, since we are “individually parts of it”. In this is Paul’s genius, for while the OT spoke of Israel as a corporate entity, it never really spoke of each Israelite as contributing to this body “as individual parts”; only Paul speaks of the contribution that each of us has to make, telling us that this contribution is necessary for the Bod’s functioning as a whole. This body is the Church and “God has designated” different tasks to different people. Thus, in the context of the Corinthian divisions (and ours, today), factions not only destroy the body but do not allow it to function properly. The reading is, then. Primarily, for the Corinthians and for us, to do our part to keep this body healthy and functioning optimally.
The Gospel points out how Jesus continually does his part for people, and by extension, for his Body. The scene is one of a funeral and Jesus notices the mother of the boy who has just died. This is her “only son” and she is also a “widow”. Jesus is “moved with pity” and tells the mother “do not weep”. His reassuring words are useless – who would tell a mother not to weep for her dead son- unless Jesus also did something; and something he surely did. He does three things. First, he touches the coffin, something that would make him impure (Num 19:11,13). Luke mentions that “at this the bearers halted”, signalling almost (at least symbolically) that death is stopped in its tracks. Second, he spoke to the dead man, recalling Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, where Ezekiel’s word brings the bones back to life (Ezek 37). Finally, we are told, that the dead man didn’t just wake up from death, but started to speak, a sign that the resuscitation was effective. Finally, Jesus, Luke tells us, “gave him to his mother”, a reminder of Elijah, who did the same in 1Kgs 17:23, thus making a parallel between the great prophet Elija and Jesus.
Luke also notes about the people that, “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God exclaiming, ‘a great prophet has arisen in our midst’”. Prophets were regarded as God’s “mouthpiece”, and therefore, what they said and did, came directly from God. There is a tone of a replacement motif here, where Jesus replaces the practice of the Law. While the Law designated a person unclean if he/she came in contact with a corpse, the question being raised here is, ‘What about if the corpse came back to life?’ This is possibly the reason why “Fear seized them all”, for now onwards they would have to reinterpret the practice of the Law.
Paul reminds us that as a ‘Body”, we ought to “strive for greater spiritual gifts”. Jesus reminds us to re-examine the way we interpret our Law and Catechism. You and me are important to the Church’s health and flourishing, but only if we can see in each other the element of mutual importance. Open our eyes Lord… and open our hearts!
Written by Fr Michael D’Cunha and reproduced with his permission