I can tell the full story some other time, but the punch line is: “remember that the most important thing, is to always keep the most important thing, as the most important thing.”
Sometimes a punch line is enough.
A few years ago I did a little informal research of the websites of Christian communities including a few dioceses, parishes and schools, looking for evidence of what was central for the group.
The webpages portrayed the communities as vibrant and made up of people of a diversity of ages and cultures, with welcoming members and inclusive liturgy and support and outreach groups. However few of these Christian websites mentioned Jesus Christ, even in a mission statement.
I can’t help but compare my findings with today’s first reading. Paul is writing to the community of Corinth, a church seriously divided in belief and behaviour with a good amount of tension and bickering. Paul decides to write to them reminding them of the beauty of their original calling by presenting their mission statement, and today we read the opening of his letter:
“I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace. I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.”
Note that more than 20% of the 180 words in the letter’s opening lines speak directly of God, Father, Son and Spirit.
This unashamed clarity about the heart of Christian faith in the face of first-Christian-century persecution attracted many to Christ. Yes, persecution continued, but two thousand years later those who seek relationship with Jesus know that Paul is right in naming the most important thing as the most important thing, and when we join him in living in relationship with Jesus our lives are “steady and without blame” and “enriched in so many ways.”
- While you might easily apply this message to Christian communities that you are a part of, it’s even more helpful to consider how visible (and audible) your relationship with Christ is in your own life. Do those who see and hear you have a sense that relationship with Jesus Christ is central in your life?
- It’s the feast of St. Monica today. Monica was a badly treated wife who who prayed passionately for the conversion of her difficult husband and wayward son Augustine who became one of the great communicators of the heart of Christian faith. There’s a great passage in his Confessions where Augustine tells of the death of his mother. You can read it in today’s Office of Readings – click this link and scroll down to the last reading on the page.
- And more for the feast of Monica – a mother’s prayer for her son at this link.
- As many of us continue these days as a retreat-in-daily-life, this simple morning and evening reflection might be helpful. Try it on waking in the morning before getting out of bed, or last thing at night after turning out the light.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your initials to join those taking these few days as a simple retreat-in-daily-life, and to invite others to keep you in prayer. Click the image to enlarge.