Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reflections on Corinthians & Secular Distractions

The second reading on Sunday was from I Corinthians 7: 29 - 31.  Corinth was the 4th largest in the Roman Empire and a very new city at that!  Ancient Corinth had been completely destroyed by the Romans in 146BC, the men being killed and the women and children sold into slavery.  Julius Caesar had re-established the city in 44BC so when St Paul arrived there in 51AD it was just over 100 years old.

I couldn't help thinking that there are many parallels with modern Johannesburg.  It was a city based only on making money, it was cosmopolitan with many Jewish inhabitants...hence St Paul's visit.  Money came from trade, not mining, so there was a constant influx of peoples and no doubt a lot of people surviving on the fringes of the city.  St Paul in his two letters is well aware of the problems of living in a city like this.  If we take out his assumption that the parousia will take place almost immediately, a lot of what he says speaks to us as inhabitants of a secular city with no real traditions.

St Clement also wrote to the Corinthians - I don't think he wrote the second letter attributed to him - and that is encouraging for us because he also addresses the issues of Christians assailed by secularism and what Pope Benedict calls relativism.

Corinth became untenable because of earthquakes!  Maybe St Paul had a point!

The two main topics hitting the International Catholic Media at the moment are the new Health Care provisions in the USA that states that all Plans must cover free contraception and sterilisation and in the UK that Clinics offering abortions will be allowed to advertise on television.  What worries me about the Catholic outrage at these and other issues is the way that so often it can distract from our spiritual  life.  Don't misunderstand me.  I am not saying that we should ignore issues that we find in conflict with our Faith but it is so easy to lose focus and forget that we are here to worship God.

If we think of people who always work in the front line of human misery such as social workers it can be very difficult not to think of anything other than the people you are working with and only to see life in that context. Everyone needs to disengage and needs support from others if they are working with people in stressful environments.  The problem is exactly the same in a Catholic context, that we can only see situations where the Faith seems to be losing ground rather than keeping our eyes on that which is good and true and positive.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philipians 4:6

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