We’re reading Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians and the Gospel of Luke together these days at Mass. The two may be more closely connected than we suspect, if my reading of Pheme Perkin’s, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels ( Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA) is correct. Luke would be writing, some years later than Paul, for an audience of Christians much like those in the church of Corinth.
Theophilus, to whom Luke dedicates his gospel, could easily be one of Corinth’s better-off Christians, who surely would see the lack of concern for the poor that Jesus condemns in Luke’s gospel as a lack of concern for them in his community as well. That unconcern appeared at table, in the celebration of the Eucharist in the Corinthian church, and Paul condemns it. (1 Corinthians 11, 17-22) Luke presents Jesus, over and over, at table, condemning it.
Luke begins Jesus’ ministry in Galilee with his visit to Nazareth (Luke 4, 16-30) where he’s not recognized by his own who know him too well and are ready to throw him to his death over the hill.
The Corinthians–how many we are unsure– fail to recognize the humble Savior whom Paul preaches. “I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2, 1-5)
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus, not his disciples, is the teacher and Lord bringing God’s word to the towns of Galilee. He brings God’s word to Corinth as well, but the Corinthians are attracted to the various disciples of Jesus, causing “jealousy and rivalry among you…Whenever someone says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another,’I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely men? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one.”
God plants and waters the growth of his church; the disciples are disciples, only disciples, who must have “the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians, 3, 1-9)
Luke has a church like Corinth in mind when he writes his gospel. How about our church too, as we take sides. “I belong to…” Good to read these two readings together now.