Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany

If you're a novice like me with following the liturgical year it may be wise to stop and get our bearings.  We are currently at the fourth Sunday after Epiphany (or the fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time).  This year there are six Sundays after Epiphany followed by Transfiguration Sunday.  Ash Wednesday (the seventh Sunday before Easter) marks the start of Lent which this year is on February 17th.  In the Roman Catholic church Lent ends on Maundy Thursday.  In other traditions it ends on Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter). 

The readings for today are Psalm 71:1-6; Jer. 1:4-10; 1 Cor. 13:1-13 and Luke 4:21-30. 

On 1 Corinthians 13 I like what David Garland writes in his commentary from the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. For readability I have omitted the references of his quotations. He writes:

“Second, this is not a hymn to love. It is an integral part of Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians, and the list of things that love does and does not do is ‘aimed at the special faults of the Corinthians.’ Hurd suggests that omitting the negatives in each clause leaves us with a good description of the Corinthian’s behavior. They are impatient and unkind, filled with jealousy, vainglorious, and puffed up. They insist on their own way, are cantankerous and resentful, and rejoice in the wrong rather than right. Sigountos writes, ‘Such specific repetition of catchwords and phrases cannot be accidental: Paul intends to praise love by choosing acts that blame the Corinthians.’ This section becomes quite ironic. While praising love, Paul is blaming the Corinthians at the same time. The upshot is that although the gifts of the Spirit are conspicuous in their assembly, their lack of love is even more conspicuous. Rather than being a hymn glorifying how wonderful love is, this text becomes a subtle commentary on what is rotten in Corinth. ‘The stark message here is that while love stands the test of life, the Corinthian Christians have failed it miserably.’” (p. 616)
The application is clear: how does my own life compare?  I leave you with these words from a hymn by Thomas Pollock. 

We have not known Thee as we ought,
Nor learned Thy wisdom, grace and power;
The things of earth have filled our thought,
And trifles of the passing hour.
Lord, give us light Thy truth to see,
And make us wise in knowing Thee.

We have not feared Thee as we ought,
Nor bowed beneath Thine awful eye,
Nor guarded deed and word and thought,
Remembering that God was nigh.
Lord, give us faith to know Thee near,
And grant the grace of holy fear.

We have not loved Thee as we ought,
Nor cared that we are loved by Thee;
Thy presence we have coldly sought,
And feebly longed Thy face to see.
Lord, give a pure and loving heart
To feel and know the love Thou art.

We have not served Thee as we ought,
Alas, the duties left undone,
The work with little fervor wrought,
The battles lost or scarcely won!
Lord, give the zeal, and give the might,
For Thee to toil, for Thee to fight.

When shall we know Thee as we ought,
And fear and love and serve aright?
When shall we, out of trial brought,
Be perfect in the land of light?
Lord, may we day by day prepare
To see Thy face and serve Thee there.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Thanks for sharing that hymn and the BECNT excerpt. I've so often heard that passage read at weddings, it's almost humorous to think of it as a witty commentary on the church of Corinth. :)

On another note, I read those same passages this week and realized something about the book we're reading: each week they list a theme, (this week's being, love) and then give a basic paragraph that outlines how the week's texts work together. I've been thinking each week that this theme paragraph seemed scattered and not really on topic.

However, this week I realized that I might understand that paragraph better if I read it as a train of thought rather than as the explanation of the theme. I should read it as if I was about to deliver a homily and needed the basic outline of how the texts worked together.

Would you agree?