As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
(from 1 Cor 12: 3-7; 12-13)
Pondering the Word…
a painting by Rembrandt called, “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp.” It depicts
several formally dressed, scholarly looking men surrounding a corpse, awaiting
instruction by the good doctor, Nicolaes Tulp, in the pursuit of knowledge about
the human body. The corpse is that of an executed criminal.
first time I saw this disconcerting painting, Paul’s words immediately came to
mind--“we are all baptized into one body”—and a new image came to me:
representatives of different faiths and practices, all in their formal garb, all
in pursuit of human knowledge, all ready to render their opinion, waiting to
dissect the body laid out in front of them. But in this case, it is not a
the living, breathing body of Christ.
wonder why our world is in such pain.
spirit of Pentecost is inclusion. It is solidarity. It is ecumenism. It is
reaching out beyond our own limits and biases to speak in a language that all
can understand. The more rules and boundaries we place between ourselves and
others, the more we negate the true message and purpose of Christ’s Spirit
bestowed upon us.
signs of hope in ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, perhaps in response to
the growing trend of nationalism worldwide, but what can individuals do to
promote greater understanding between faiths? It might seem obvious, but make
sure you really know Christ for yourself. Our religious institutions, as
wonderful as they are, are steeped in tradition and in the past, so don’t always
speak in languages that all can understand. Jesus was a master at this and will
speak to you in a way that will enlightened and inspire you.
welcoming to others, especially those whose religious practices are different
from yours. Be open to learning. The doctors in Rembrandt’s painting were
pursuing knowledge in order to better understand the human body, and to learn
how to better heal those who suffer. Let’s make sure our intent in learning is
for the greater good of bringing healing to the Body of Christ in Christ’s name,
whose sacrifice is for all humanity.
“My home is within you."
Jewish scholar Robert Alter’s recent opus translates this phrase, “All my
wellsprings are in you.” He comments: “In a semiarid climate, wellsprings—ma’ayanim—is
an understandable idiom for sources of life.” This translation adds an important
dimension. We know God is not somewhere far off or bound to this nation or that
religion but resides in each of us. But this also reminds us God’s presence
within us is to be a wellspring that calls forth his life in others, especially
in a world thirsting for peace. How will you be a wellspring today?
sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced
and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for
he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
(Acts 11: 21-26; 12:1-3)
Today is the Feast of St. Barnabas whose life is celebrated in many Christian
traditions. His ministry is overshadowed in Scripture by his relationship with
Paul (in fact, after he and Paul have a falling out [Acts 15:36-41] he is not
mentioned in Acts again.) I like what we hear about him today. My guess is, like
all the early Christian communities, the people of Antioch have a lot to learn.
I doubt if any of these communities (or us, for that matter) follow things to
the letter as the Pharisee, Paul, would like. But Barnabas sees the grace of God
at work, rejoices, and encourages the people. Yes, he probably instructs
them while he is there, but he doesn’t dismiss that the Spirit is already at
work, speaking to this community in a language they understand. Let’s model our
own outreach on the example of inclusion and encouragement Barnabas sets for us.
the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, was glorious…how much more
will be the ministry of the Spirit? If the ministry of condemnation was
glorious, the ministry of righteousness will abound much more in glory.”
(2 Cor 3:4-11)
This passage calls for theological reflection. What is Paul saying here? It
aligns perfectly with Jesus’ words, “I did not come to abolish the Law but to
fulfill it.” (Mt 5:17) When the Israelites accepted God’s commandments, they
were ahead of their time (Dt 4:6-7). God, through Moses, spoke to them in
language they could understand (notice a common theme here?) in that most
of the commandments referred to things they “shalt not” do for the good of the
community: murder, bear false witness, covet, etc. This is what Paul means by
“the ministry of condemnation,” a less enlightened approach to life. Jesus did
not say the “shalt nots” are to be cast aside, but that the wellspring of our
lives should be, not fear of punishment, but the goodness inherent in our God
image, redeemed for us through Christ’s sacrifice. Is your faith based on
retribution and fear? If so, consider seeking the help of a spiritual guide to
lead you to a path illuminated by the glory of redemption.
“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to
bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.”(2
Cor 3:15-4:1, 3-6)
What a beautiful image! Earlier in this passage, Paul refers to the veil
separating God from the people and how it is removed by Christ. The light of God
is like the sun: to look directly at it can be dangerous. But the moon reflects
the sun’s light in way that is open to us, peaceful and calming. Give thanks to
God for the powerful sun that sustains us and for the gentle glow of the moon
that lights our way through the darkness.
“We hold this treasure in earthen vessels.”Top
(2 Cor 4:7-15)
one of those Scripture verses I should print out and post in as many places as I
can to remind myself when pride in accomplishment sets in; or conversely, when I
fail and browbeat myself because I “should” have known or done better. I am an
earthen vessel—not made of steel, not of fine jewels and gold like the throne of
the Most High. I am chipped, cracked, faded, but still able to be made anew,
beautiful and useful, by the Divine Potter’s loving and merciful hands.
indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for
What does it mean to no longer live for yourself? Such a sentiment is not
popular these days when what “I” want seems to take precedence over all else. I
notice myself getting caught in the trap of doing good because it makes me feel
good about myself. This can skew my outreach to be based on what I think is best
rather than on the other’s need. Spend time praying about what is means to live
for others. Are some of your efforts based on your own desires and not those of
others? (Parents, take note—this is a common trap so prevalent today.)