1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Many of the older readers of the Daily Reflections will remember the parochial classroom practice of inscribing the top of a homework assignment with the letters J.M.J. for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It was one of those many Catholic devotional practices in the midst of mundane matters to remind us that everything was really part of God’s world, even homework! St. Paul of the Cross included those same initials across the top page of many of his letters in the 18th century, as did so many other faith-filled people since then.
Today’s first reading gives us the opening salutation and thanksgiving of the First Letter of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. Though we may not appreciate it at first glance, Paul has given a Christian twist to the standard secular style of letter writing in his day. An ordinary letter to a friend might begin “Hello and Good Health to you.” That is certainly an admirable greeting we would be happy to give to anyone. However, Paul is concerned about more than the physical welfare of the local community, as his greeting clearly indicates from the beginning.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul bestows upon them his wish for an outpouring of God’s faithful love, that is “grace,” as well as the unifying and healing action, which is God’s “peace”. This faith-filled salutation flows from Paul’s conviction that salvation in Jesus Christ is the basis of all relationship in the Christian community. Paul will eventually get to some difficult admonitions in this letter. But in the opening paragraphs, he affirms the spiritual bond which unites all of them as one body in Christ. Despite Paul’s disappointment with them, he remains convinced that “God is faithful, and by him you were called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ.”
At times, our relationships with fellow Christians, other lay parishioners, and even close personal friends among the clergy and religious may challenge us in many ways. Perhaps Paul’s positive salutation and word of thanksgiving may inspire us to approach our own difficult church relationships with more emphasis on what we have in common than what divides us. God’s grace and peace can indeed bond us together, when human motives alone fail.
(Father Paul Zilonka, C.P. is a Member of the Passionist Preaching Team of St. Paul of the Cross Province).