Saandals were not absent in the early Christian communities. Today’s first reading shows Paul confronted with one. A certain man is living with his stepmother in a relationship considered incestuous by both Jews and Gentiles. It doesn’t seem to bother the community. Paul implies that they are rather proud of it! Possibly the Corinthians are interpreting Paul’s own insistence that Christ has set us free from slavery to law to mean that morality no longer matters. Paul is horrified and angry. Far from rendering our manner of living inconsequential, the love that sets us free from corruption and wickedness inspires us and enables us to live with sincerity and truth.
Of course, it remains true that we are all sinners, and that the church is a community of sinners. Scandals will happen. However, they must not be condoned or tolerated, but faced and dealt with. The community must act—for the sake of its own integrity, but also for the sake of the sinner. The purpose of punishment is not ultimately to condemn but “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” Loving confrontation is a way of being our sister’s or brother’s keeper.
- Sr. Mary O’Brien, C.P.