Paul Did Not Want to Be a Cult Figure
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

In Paul's day Corinth was a leading Greek city originally founded by Julius Caesar. It was a melting pot incorporating primarily Greeks, Romans and Jews whose religious practices reflected a variety of combinations of all three traditions.

There was also a small Jewish Christian community that had become well established and when Paul arrived on the scene he endeavoured to increase their numbers but though he developed a following he was not the only missionary in town.

Some preferred the approach and style of one or two of the others. One of these preachers was a man called Apollos. He started off as a disciple of John the Baptist. He seems to have been eloquent to the point of being rather flamboyant but a little behind the times in his theology.

If the Christian community was somewhat fractured by the various missionaries having attracted their own followers, Paul's arrival on the scene served to make the fracture that much wider.

As evidenced by today's reading, Paul, whose superior credentials rested on the authority of Peter and James, was frustrated enough to direct his energies toward the conversion of the Gentiles. This was an apostolate where he had little or no competition and was able to choose his companions with care.

He was well equipped to do this. He was extremely well educated and known for his debating skills. That meant that if he cared to he could go head to head with the best of the pagan Greek philosophers.

But such was the humility inherent in his conversion that he possessed a keen appreciation of the nature of his instrumentality.

As he suggested to the Corinthians: he was sent by God to proclaim the Gospel, not with eloquent wisdom but with complete transparency and in the simplest of terms as a dedicated instrument of the Holy Spirit.

For Paul, the Gospel is the Cross and the Cross is the Gospel. Everything flows toward it and from it. It is the source of our unity ...the banner beneath which we march.

As it was then so it remains today. To the extent that we are a church divided, our fundamental message is weakened and we fall short of the trust placed in us by Christ crucified who taught us to seek peace and unity in his name.

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