Sunday, August 17, 2008
9TH. SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST - BUILDING THE FOUNDATION OF FAITH
EXPLORING THE SCRIPTURES
1 Corinthians 3: 9-17
Even though it is already Saturday, I felt it worthy to speak of last week's readings in this entry and the one to follow.
At the liturgy this past Sunday, the "9th. After Pentecost," we had the opportunity to hear some familiar but thought provoking scripture passages. On a candid note, I remember these readings very well, because they were on the well-known and now historic recording (c. 1957 - then on LP vinyl), of the "Divine Liturgy in English" celebrated by Archpriest Eugene Chromoga with the beautiful choir of St. Mary Church in Van Nuys, California. It was among the very first recordings of the Liturgy in English and I can still here the voices of Msgr. Cromoga and the reader, chanting these readings in the translation that was used at that time.
Much has changed in the church in America since that breakthrough recording. However, the lessons of the scriptures remain quite relevant and even piercing for us.
The first reading is taken from the Apostle Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians. Paul speaks about the founding days of the early church and how he has been building the primitive communities of faith. In claiming that he has laid the foundation for the church at Corinth, he acknowledges that others are building upon it.
St. Paul advises much caution for those who work for what he calls "God's building." There can be no foundation other than "the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11). "The work of each person will be made manifest" (v. 13). "The "Day," he says, (referring to the day of the "parousia" or of Christ's return to judge the world), "will disclose it" and "fire will test the quality of each one's work" (v. 13). People will either receive recompense, if their work stands or suffer loss, should it burn, and be saved only as one fleeing through fire (vv. 14-15).
The lesson for us in our day, is much the same as for the Corinthians. Many people try to build the Christian community - the church - in different ways and for different reasons. We may belong to the community in a variety of ways - hopefully beginning with communion in God through participation in the Divine Mysteries.
Many other motives for belonging to the church exist. They include - deepening our prayer life, increasing our knowledge of the scriptures and of the faith, receiving the spiritual support of our brothers and sisters, spreading the love that God has shown to us, feeling a part of the group, participating in various activities and social functions. These all have a positive value in their own right. An underlying factor that should always be present in each, is the desire to build up our faith in God and acknowledge our total reliance on God. This is the foundation that is in Jesus Christ.
In a different manner, sometimes people "build up the church" out negative or selfish motivation. How many times have we heard people say, "this is my church" or "they could never get along without me here" or even "I AM the church!" Often, there are those in the Christian community who purposely "take possession" of the church and discourage others who try to share their gifts, talents and personalities. Their motivation may not come from "evil intent" per say, but their lack of self-confidence and fear of others renders whatever good efforts they may have attempted to offer, void of good, welcoming to other, evil overtones and certainly, without merit. It is of these that St. Paul speaks of as those who will be saved only "as one fleeing through fire (v. 15).
This latter foundation is not built of the "rock" that is Christ, but on our own interests and self-promotions. The fact is, that Christ is the eternal cornerstone of the church and whoever strives to build their efforts upon him - the foundation of their efforts will stand. Faith is both the unifying factor of believers and the test of how strong their work for the Lord will stand, when the "Day of Judgment" will ultimately disclose all things.