Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sexagesima, Part II

Today's first reading begins with words of heavy sarcasm, “Ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.” A modern translation is quite helpful here, “How gladly you put up with fools, being yourselves so wise.” Paul was not paying any compliment to his Corinthian readers. When he called them wise, he meant the very opposite.

These new Christians, not rooted and well-grounded in the Faith, were in danger of being seduced by a substitute Gospel, a false Christianity. In contrast to our easy-going tolerant sort of religion, this for Paul was no small matter. A few verses before our reading begins, Paul had compared them to Eve in the Garden of Eden. “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). When the immature Christians in Corinth cheerfully put up with “fools” in the form of false teachers, they were like Eve, falling for the lies of the devil.

Our world, and along with it, the Christian community of our time, have listened to many false teachers. Like the Corinthians, we have “suffered fools gladly,” but we have only proved ourselves to be fools ourselves. We have not been wise.

The doctrinal and moral errors which trouble us are not simple mistakes which we can solve by debate, argument and controversy. They point to something deeply wrong in our fallen human nature. As Paul wrote elsewhere, “they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools....” (Rom 1:21-22).

Ash Wednesday is at hand, when we are solemnly reminded, “Remember, man, thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.” Those terrifying words are reinforced with a grim ceremony, when our foreheads are disfigured with ashes. But almost always, someone will get the giggles seeing the entire congregation looking so funny. That is not altogether wrong or inappropriate. As we recall our mortality and the shortness of our earthly life, we should know ourselves to be the victims of a dirty trick, a horrible cosmic joke, in which we have been robbed by Satan of our original righteousness, our communion with our Creator, and the gift of eternal life.

Satan himself is the ultimate fool, because he wanted to be more powerful than God. In our unregenerate life we indeed put up with him and become foolish like him. May we turn more and more to Christ, who is our wisdom, our righteousness and our peace.

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