Study and Meditations on this Sunday's Scripture Readings: January 23, 2011

To help us prepare for this coming Sunday, here are the readings, studies and reflections for this coming Sunday’s Scripture readings. This Sunday is the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A. In the Gospel Reading we see the launch of Jesus’ public ministry, and the selection of his 12 Apostles.

Here are the Scripture readings from the U.S. Catholic bishops website.

My own weekly study can be found here under “Current Study.”

Here are three audio reflections on the readings by Sister Ann Shields, Dr. Scott Hahn and Fr. Robert Barron.

Here are a trio of Catholic Bible study podcasts on the Gospel Reading, each about an hour long:

Sunday Gospel Scripture Study
Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother
St. Martha’s Adult Faith Formation

The Navarre Bible Commentary for each reading can be viewed here.

Further study resources for the Readings: St. Charles Borromeo Bible Study can be found here, and Catholic Matters can be found here.

Please consider supporting those who provide these free resources. Discussion, questions and charitable comments are always welcome. Have a blessed week!

I have found the St. Charles Borromeo Bible Study extremely enlightening. It really unpacks each verse. I wondered if there is a site like this for the daily readings. The reflections for the daily readings found on the USCCB’s website don’t usually address both readings and the psalm. I also find their reflections tend to be a bit vague, and “what do I get out of it.”

Having just completed Jeff Cavins’ 24-part Bible Adventure, I’d like to learn more about the Scriptures themselves. The past two weeks have been Hebrews, and some of it is quite confusing.

Edit to add: I just check out the Navarre Commentary. It does cover the daily readings. Thanks much for the links.

You’re welcome, Christine. I think you’ll really enjoy the Navarre.

You can sign up at that same site to get the Navarre Bible Commentary on the daily and Sunday readings delivered to your e-mail everyday. :slight_smile:

1st Reading - Isaiah 8:23 - 9:3

Today we hear from a portion of Isaiah called the “Book of Emmanuel.” This book encompasses chapters 7 through 12. The portion we read from today is titled “The Prince of Peace.” The events described in Chapters 7 through 12 took place between 735 and 733 B.C. It is the Syro-Ephramitic war which is concisely described in 2 Kings 16:5-9

5 Then Rezin, king of Aram, and Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to Jerusalem to attack it. Although they besieged Ahaz, they were unable to conquer him. 6 At the same time the king of Edom recovered Elath for Edom, driving the Judeans out of it. The Edomites then entered Elath, which they have occupied until the present. 7 Meanwhile, Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, with the plea: “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the clutches of the king of Aram and the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” 8 Ahaz took the silver and gold that were in the temple of the LORD and in the palace treasuries and sent them as a present to the king of Assyria, 9 who listened to him and moved against Damascus, which he captured. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death.

Isaiah’s task was to guide Judah through one of the most critical periods in her history. With the death of Uzziah in 742 B.C., Judah’s time of prosperity and national glory had come to an end. The shadow of Assyria lay menacingly over the land. In his lifetime Isaiah saw the northern kingdom of Israel swept away in the tide of conquest and his own land of Judah invaded by the mighty Assyrian armies. But the spiritual crisis of Judah was even more serious than the threat of physical destruction. Greed, hypocrisy and injustice were sapping the spiritual integrity of Judah. There was also the national loss of nerve that led its rulers to seek an accommodation with Assyria and her gods, thus undermining the very foundation of Judah’s existence as a covenanted people. Judah’s king was the descendant of David to whom an eternal dynasty had been promised (2 Samuel 17).

With Assyria sweeping all before her, many of the Judeans began to doubt the power of Yahweh to preserve the dynasty of David in accordance with His promises. Others took an opposite but equally unspiritual position; interpreting the covenant with David as a guarantee of absolute invincibility no matter what crimes were committed against Yahweh. When religion becomes a blank check for national wrongdoing, the end is not far off; no one saw this better than Isaiah.

King Uzziah had been succeeded by Jotham (ruled 742 - 735 B.C.) who was succeeded by Ahaz (ruled 735 - 715 B.C.). Isaiah looked for a successor to Ahaz in whom the promise of the dynasty would be realized; the passage describes the new era of liberty and joy, which the future Messiah will usher in. Galilee, the northeastern corner of Palestine, had been populated for the most part by pagan Assyrian settlers, who had been brought in there after the fall of the northern kingdom (Israel) in 722. Paganism had control, and the few Chosen People, thinly scattered in the region, found it difficult to retain their faith in the true God, and more difficult still, to practice it. All that will be changed, the prophet says.

Here is the 1st Reading as we will hear it this Sunday:

First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun
and the land of Naphtali;
but in the end he has glorified the seaward road,
the land west of the Jordan,
the District of the Gentiles.

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:
for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

From the Navarre Bible Commentary (with RSV-CE text):

Anguish caused by early defeats

[22] [A]nd they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into thick darkness.

**8:21-22. **The fear caused by news of Assyria’s growing strength increased even more once Judah began to feel its effects. This passage seems to refer to the deportation of the Glileans by Tiglath-pileser III in 732. Very succinctly it describes the distress of those who make their way into exile and can see for themselves the havoc caused by their enemies all over their country. This depressing panarama will be offset by the joyful oracle that follows.

The prince of Peace

*[1] But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

[2] The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness
on them has light shined.
[3] Thou hast multiplied the nation,
thou hast increased its joy;
they rejoice before thee
as with joy at the harvest,
as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.*

**9:1-7. **At this point, though not yet very clearly, we begin to see the figure of King Hezekiah, who, unlike his father Ahaz, was a pious man who put all his trust in the Lord. After Galilee was laid waste by Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria, and its population subsequently deported (cf. 8:21-22), Hezekiah of Judah would reconquer that region, which would recover its splendour for a period. All this gave grounds for hope again.

This oracle may have a connexion with the Immanuel prophecy (7:1-17), and the child with messianic prerogatives that has been born (cf. 9:6-7) could be the child that Isaiah prophesied about (cf. 7:14). For this reason, 9:1-7 is seen as the second oracle of the Immanuel cycle. This “child” that is born, the son given to us, is a gift from God (9:6), because it is a sign that God is present among his people. The Hebrew text attributes four qualities to the child which seem to embrace all the typical features of Israel’s illustrious forebears – the wisdom of Solomon (cf. 1 Kings 3: “Wonderful Counsellor”), the prowess of David (cf. 1 Sam 7: “Mighty God”), the administrative skills of Moses (cf. Ex 18:13-26) as liberator, guide and father of the people (cf. Deut 34:10-12), (“Everlasting Father”), and the virtues of the early patriarchs, who made peace pacts (cf. Gen 21:22-34; 26:15-35; 23:6), (“Prince of peace”). In the old Latin Vulgate, the translation gave six features (“Admirabilis, Consiliarius, Deus, Frotis, Pater futuri saeculi, Princeps pacis”); these have found their way into the liturgy. The New Vulgate has reverted to the Hebrews text. Either way, what we have here are titles that Semite nations applied to the reigning monarch; but, taken together, they go far beyond what befitted Hezekiah or any other king of Judah. Therefore, Christian tradition has interpreted them as being appropriate only for Jesus. St Bernard, for example, explains the justificiation for these names as follows: “He is Wonderful in his birth, Counsellor in his preaching, God in his works, Mighty in the Passion, Everlasting Father in the resurrection, and Prince of Peace in eternal happiness” (Sermones de diversis, 53, 1).

Because these names are applied to Jesus, the short-term conquest of Galilee by Hezekiah is seen as being only an announcement of the definitive salvation brought about by Christ. In the Gospels we find echoes of this oracle in a number of passages that refer to Jesus. When Luke narrates the Annunciation by the angel to Mary (Lk 1:31-33) we hear that the son that she will conceive and give birth to will receive “the throne of this father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Lk 1:32b-33; cf. Is 9:7). And in the account about the shepherds of Bethlehem, they are told that “to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord …” (Lk 2:11-12; cf. Is 9:6). St Matthew sees the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (Mt 4:12-17) as the fulfillment of this Isaian oracle (cf. Is 9:1): the lands that in the prophet’s time were laid waste and saw ethnic cleansing and transplantation were the first to receive the light of salvation from the Messiah.

From the 1859 Haydock Commentary with Douay-Rheims text:

21 And they shall pass by it, they shall fall, and be hungry: and when they shall be hungry, they will be angry, and curse their king, and their God, and look upwards.
Ver. 21. **By it. The word of God. (Haydock) — *God. Elohim means also princes or idols. (Calmet) — Whether they seek God unwillingly, or the aid of men, (ver. 22.) they shall perish. (Worthington)
22 And they shall look to the earth, and behold trouble and darkness, weakness and distress, and a mist following them, and they cannot fly away from their distress.

*1 At the first time the land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthali was lightly touched: and at the last the way of the sea beyond the Jordan of the Galilee of the Gentiles was heavily loaded.

Ver. 1. Loaded. Theglathphalassar took away whole tribes, (2 Paralipomenon v. 26.) the year after this. Yet these people were the first enlightened with the rays of the gospel, (Matthew iv. 13.) though so much despised, John vii. 52. (Calmet) — Here Christ preached first. But after his passion, few Jews believed in him. (Worthington)

2 The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.

**Ver. 2. **Risen. the kingdom of Juda hoped for redress, when they saw the people of Israel humbled, (Haydock) or rather after the defeat of Sennacherib. (Calmet)

3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, and hast not increased the joy. They shall rejoice before thee, as they that rejoice in the harvest, as conquerors rejoice after taking a prey, when they divide the spoils.

Ver. 3. And hast. Parkhurst says it should be, “(whom) thou hast not brought up (the Gentiles) with joy they,” &c. (Symmachus) (Haydock) — The numerous forces of the Assyrians could not save them from the angel. Under Ezechias the people increased. Was not his reign a figure of the Church persecuted and increasing: but on that account, in danger from a relaxation of discipline? (Luke v. 5.) — Spoils. They shall return thanks to God for the unexpected liberation.

Other thoughts and comments on the 1st Reading:

23 First he degraded: Or “brought into contempt”. In other words, disappeared practically after the Assyrian invasion.

the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali: These were two of the 12 Tribes who settled in the region of Galilee after the Exodus from Egypt (Jos. 29: 21-39). Zebulun and Naphtali were the first provinces of Israel to be overrun by the Assyrians—indeed, by all invaders who attacked Israel from the north. Some of the population of these territories was sent into exile.

but in the end he has glorified: “In the latter time,” that is, in the messianic days, the new era as opposed to the old, Galilee will play a great part. It was there that Christ spent most of his public life, and from there, eleven of his twelve Apostles came (see Mt. 4: 12-16 in today’s gospel, where he considered this prophecy of Isaiah fulfilled when Jesus began to preach in Galilee).

the seaward road: The route from the East (Syria, Assyria and Babylon) to Egypt passed through Galilee. and then down by the Mediterranean coast.

**the land West of the Jordan, the District of the Gentiles: **Eventually God will restore the ravaged lands to their former glory. Our gospel reading for today sees in Jesus’ Galilean proclamation of the kingdom of God the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness; for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.

**1 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; **Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone: The darkness of paganism and slavery will be changed into the bright noon-day light of Christianity and real freedom.

**2 You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing: **Numerous believers in the true God will inhabit this territory, and serve him with joy in the great era that is to come.
As they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing spoils: **Their joy, because of their real liberation, is compared to that of the farmer when he collects an abundant harvest, or a conquering army dividing the spoils of a victorious battle.

**3 For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, And the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian: **The yoke, pole and rod are symbols of Assyrian oppression. The captive’s condition is compared to that of a harnessed farm animal, a fairly common image of enslavement. Usually the yoke was made of wood but sometimes of metal. The pole was the bar of the yoke that pressed down on the captives shoulders. In 10:27 and 14:25 Isaiah compares the liberation of Israel from Assyrian captivity to the breaking of a yoke and the lifting of a burden. All the instruments and symbols of the oppressor will be removed.

The “day of Midian” is an allusion to Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites in which victory comes from Yahweh (Judges 7:15-25). That future day will be a day of victory, like the day Gideon defeated the Midianites,

Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph referencing Isaiah 8:23:

712 The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” ("Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,"80 speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11:

    *There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
    And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD*.81
80. Jn 12:41; cf. Isa 6-12.
81. Isa 11:1-2.

A meditation on the 1st Reading for practical application from Catholic Matters:

**APPLICATION: **“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Before the coming of Christ 98 per cent of the human race lived in the darkness and hopelessness of paganism. They knew nothing of the good God who made them; they knew nothing of their real purpose in this life, and did not know that there was a future life to look forward to. The two percent, or less, of Jews had a knowledge of the true God. But it was a limited knowledge and their service of him was motivated by fear rather than by love. Their belief in a future, endless life was weak in the best of them, and was not accepted at all by many.

The Incarnation has changed all that. The darkness of paganism, and ignorance of the true nature of the God who created us, has been banished forever by the coming of the Son of God among us as man. From it we have learned not only that God loves us, and that he is interested in every one of us, but that he loves us with an infinite, unlimited love, and wants each one of us to share in his own eternal kingdom of happiness forever. For this reason he has raised us up to adopted sonship, through the Incarnation in which his real Son took on himself our lowly created nature and became our brother.

This was God’s plan for mankind for all eternity. Sin had entered the world of men in the meantime. Man became so proud of the gifts he possessed, that he forgot the giver of those gifts, and not only refused to thank his benefactor, but turned against him and made for himself false gods. This, however, did not change God’s plan nor his infinite love for man. Christ, the son of God in our human nature, was the representative of all men. He gave perfect obedience to his heavenly Father in the name of us all. Because he was God, as well as man, he made a perfect atonement for the sins of all men, of all time. No mere human being could ever have done this.

We, Christians today, are walking in the full light of the knowledge of God’s infinite love for us, of God’s eternal plan for our unending happiness, of the almost incredible mystery of that divine love for us sinners, which was shown in the Incarnation. If an earthly king should leave his palace, and go among his peasants, and dress and live like one of them, in order to educate them and clothe them in royal robes, and then bring them to his palace to live with him as his adopted children, what an amazing act of benevolence and love this would be. Yet, the Creator of all things, the King of the universe, did this and more for us.

Does anyone among us really appreciate what God has done for him? Does he realize what the privilege of being a Christian means? Does he ever thank God sufficiently for the benefits he has conferred on him? We have all seen the great light which expelled all darkness. We are living under its heavenly illumination. But are we all benefiting from that light as we should? Will it lead us to the eternal, everlasting light—the purpose for which it was given to us?

This is a question each one of us must ask himself today, and the future fate of every one of us will depend on the answer we can honestly give to this question.

2nd Reading - 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17

From the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 18:1-18) we know that the church of Corinth was founded by Saint Paul, with the help of Silas and Timothy, during his 2nd missionary journey. The apostle had arrived in Corinth from Athens, where he had made few converts. This relative failure in Athens, plus the moral corruption which reigned supreme in Corinth, may explain why he arrived “in much fear and trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). No doubt moved by the Holy Spirit, in this new city the apostle would leave aside the rhetoric of human wisdom and simply proclaim “nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Saint Paul spent more than a year and a half teaching in Corinth in the period A.D. 50-52 (Acts 18:11). To begin with he stayed and worked with Aquila and Priscilla, a Christian couple who had been expelled from Rome shortly before, because of Claudius’ edict against the Jews (Acts 18:2). As was his custom, he preached, to begin with, in the synagogue to Jews and Greeks who believed in the God of Israel (Acts 18:4). Later, because of the opposition he was meeting from Jews, he decided to concentrate on preaching to the Gentiles. At that point he changed his lodgings and stayed with Titus Justus, a Gentile who was living close to the synagogue and who may very well have been a convert to Judaism (Acts 18:6-7).

Paul made many converts in Corinth-- Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, being one of the most prominent (Acts 18:18) --but he had his share of setbacks as well. Once, our Lord appeared to him at night in a vision, to raise his spirits (Acts 18:9-10). Increasing opposition from Jews ultimately led to charges being brought against Paul to Gallio, the Roman proconsul; but Gallio gave the matter no importance because he saw it as a complicated Jewish religious squabble (Acts 18:12-17). There is documentary evidence-- published in 1902 --in the form of an inscription found at Delphi recording that Gallio’s term of office in Achaia began in July, A.D. 51. This allows us to date fairly precisely the Apostle’s first stay in Corinth: he would have been brought for his appearance before Gallio in the early months of A.D. 52. He left Corinth shortly after this, taking ship with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:18).

Approximately a year after this, there arrived in Corinth a man named Apollos, a very eloquent Jew of Alexandrian origin; he carried on the work Paul had begun (Acts 18:26-28; 1 Corinthians 3:4-6).

To judge from the information Saint Paul provides in his letters, the Christian community at Corinth was one of his largest foundations. Seemingly, Christians of pagan birth were in the majority (1 Corinthians 12:2), most of them were educated and even well-to-do (1 Corinthians 1:26-29); it was a community of some considerable size, with all walks of life represented (1 Corinthians 11:2-6; 14:34-35).

Continued on the next post…

2nd Reading - 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17

The perfect harmony that should have reigned among Christians because of their fellowship and unity in Christ has been shattered at Corinth. Chloe’s messengers informed Paul of the factions in the community. After he had left Corinth, other missionaries and Jewish Christians representing different movements that were agitating the Church came to the city. Apollos had made a strong impression on the better educated minority of the Corinthian Christians. Jewish Christians originally from Palestine or Syria boasted of their attachment to Cephas (Peter) and won a following among their Corinthian colleagues. The majority of the faithful, poor freedmen and slaves, incited by the pretensions of the other factions, boasted of their attachment to Paul, the Apostle of Corinth. Was there a fourth faction, a Christ party? Or is the cry “I belong to Christ” Paul’s personal protest against the factions in the community? Commentators show no agreement on these questions. Some see the “Christ party” as mystics who rejected all human teachers and claimed to be guided by revelations received directly from Christ through the charismatic gifts. Others think the Christ party were Judaizers who had known Christ during His earthly life and now challenged Paul’s apostolic authority.

All this speculation aside, the basic idea which Paul teaches is that the Church is a supernatural entity; it has been founded by Christ, Christ is the head, and it is Christ who governs it through His ministers.

Here is the 2nd Reading as we will hear it this Sunday:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that all of you agree in what you say,
and that there be no divisions among you,
but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.
For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters,
by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you.
I mean that each of you is saying,
“I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,”
or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”
Is Christ divided?
Was Paul crucified for you?
Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel,
and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,
so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

From the Navarre Bible Commentary (with RSV-CE text):

**From: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17

An Appeal for Unity

**10-17. **St Paul takes the Corinthians to task for the strife in their community–not, it seems, quarrels over matters of doctrines but minor disagreements due to preferences for certain teachers. Even so, the Apostle is very much against factions, and he starts his letter by stressing that unity is essential to the Church.

He makes four points, as it were–an appeal (v. 10); a description of the state of affairs in Corinth (vv. 11-12); a doctrinal reflection: Christ cannot be divided (v. 13); and a summary of his (Paul’s) ministry (vv. 14-17).

His appeal is virtually a warning: I appeal to you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." The Apostle only calls on the name of our Lord when he has very serious counsel to offer (cf. 1 Thess 4:1; 2 Thess 3:6); he makes it clear that it is a very grave matter to put the unity of the Church at risk. Each of these groups in Corinth is appealing to whichever authority it prefers–without Paul, Apollos or Cephas having any say in the matter. Christ cannot be divided and therefore neither can the Church, Christ’s body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-31).

Finally, St Paul points out their feeble grounds for basing divisions on personal relationships: very few of them can claim to have been baptized by him, because his concentration has been on evangelization.

This entire passage is a defense of Church unity. Throughout the centuries the Church has confessed this truth of faith–from the Apostles’ Creed (“I believe in the Holy Catholic Church”) right down to the “Creed of the People of God” of Paul VI: "We believe that the Church which Christ founded and for which he prayed is indefectibly one in faith and in worship, and one in the communion of a single hierarchy’ (no. 21).

*[10] I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. *

10. “That you all agree…in the same mind and the same judgment”: St Paul is not calling for mere external unity or just living peaceably or being sure to come together for certain liturgical ceremonies. He wants something that goes much deeper than that: the concord that should reign among them should stem from their being of one mind, from feeling the same way about things. In saying this he obviously does not mean to restrict the freedom every Christian enjoys as far as earthly affairs are concerned: it is the unity of the Church that Paul is discussing, and in that area there is no room for factions among Christians (cf. v. 11). Differences, diversity, which do not affect the unity of the Church are something lawful and positively good.

One basic dimension of Church unity is unity of faith. That is why the Fathers and the Magisterium have borrowed from what St Paul says here, to show that genuine progress in understanding the content of truths of faith must always keep in line with earlier understanding of the same: “any meaning of the sacred dogmas that has once been declared by holy Mother Church must always be retained; and there must never be any deviation from that meaning on the specious grounds of a more profound understanding. ‘Therefore, let there be growth …] and all possible progress in understanding, knowledge, and wisdom whether in single individuals or in the whole body, in each man as well as in the entire Church, according to the stage of their development but only within proper limits, that is, in the same doctrine, in the same meaning, and in the same purport "eodem sensu eademque sententia]’ (St Vincent of Lerins, “Commonitorium”, 28)” (Vatican I, “Dei Filius”, chap. 4).

*[11] For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. [12] What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” *

Concluded on the next post…

**11-12. **St Paul now goes on to discuss the dissensions (v. 10) which “Chloe’s people” have told him about. We must presume that Chloe was a woman well known in the church at Corinth; and obviously there is no question of secret denunciations but of a well-intentioned effort to bring to Paul’s attention a problem requiring solution. Chloe’s people might have been members of her family or servants of hers who had visited the Apostle in Ephesus (cf. 1 Cor 16:15-17).

Although St Paul does not go into much detail, we can see that a number of groupings had grown up among the Corinthians They each claimed to follow a prominent Christian (clearly without any encouragement from their “heroes”), and a certain rivalry had developed which could easily undermine the unity of faith. The group who claimed Apollos–a Jewish convert from Alexandria (Egypt), a man of eloquence, well versed in the Scriptures (cf. Acts 18:24-28)–would have emerged after Apollos spent some time preaching in Corinth shortly after Paul left there (cf. Acts 19:1).

“I belong to Cephas”: the Peter group may have consisted of people who knew him to be the leader of the Apostles (cf. 3:21-23; 9:4-5; 15:5); St Peter may have passed through Corinth at some point, but there is no evidence of a visit and it is more likely that some of his disciples or converts had come to the city.

“I belong to Christ”: this can be interpreted as a reference either to a fourth group very attached to certain preachers from Jerusalem, of a Judaizing tendency–and therefore very attached to Jewish traditions and very disinclined to acknowledge the newness of Christ’s message; or else to some Christians who were disgusted at the petty quarrelling of the other groups and, therefore, would naturally claim to belong to Christ and only to Christ. It is possible, however, that this is a personal statement of St Paul’s, designed to show how foolish these groups are: You may say that you belong to Paul, to Apollos or to Peter: but I belong to Christ.

What the Apostle says here should lead us to avoid narrow-mindedness;each of us has his own job to do, where God put him, but he should also make his own the sentiments and concerns of the universal Church.
[13] Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? [17] For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.*

17. In the first part of this verse St Paul is giving the reasons for his actions as described in the preceding verses. The second part he uses to broach a new subject–the huge difference between this world’s wisdom and the wisdom of God.

“Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel”: this is a reminder that preaching is St Paul’s main task, as it is of the other Apostles (cf. Mk 3:14). This does not imply a belittling of Baptism: in his mandate to the Apostles to go out into the whole world (cf. Mt 28:19-20), our Lord charged them to baptize as well as to preach, and we know that St Paul did administer Baptism. But Baptism–the sacrament of faith presupposes preaching: “faith comes from what is heard” (Rom 10:17). St Paul concentrates on preaching, leaving it to others to baptize and gather the fruit–a further sign of his detachment and upright intention.

In Christian catechesis, evangelization and the sacraments are interdependent. Preaching can help people to receive the sacraments with better dispositions, and it can make them more aware of what the sacraments are; and the graces which the sacraments bring help them to understand the preaching they hear and to be more docile to it. “Evangelization thus exercises its full capacity when it achieves the most intimate relationship, or better still a permanent and unbroken intercommunication, between the Word and the Sacraments. In a certain sense it is a mistake to make a contrast between evangelization and sacramentalization, as is sometimes done. It is indeed true that a certain way of administering the Sacraments, without the solid support of catechesis regarding these same Sacraments and a global catechesis, could end up by depriving them of their effectiveness to a great extent. The role of evangelization is precisely to educate people in the faith so as to lead each individual Christian to live the Sacraments as true Sacraments of faith–and not to receive them passively or apathetically” (Paul VI, “Evangelii Nuntiandi”, 47).

From the *1859 Haydock Commentary *with DRV text:

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you: but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment.

**Ver. 10. *&c. That there is no schisms…contentions, &c. To hinder these, was the chief design of this letter; one saying, I am of Paul, &c. each party bragging of their master by whom they had been baptized, and made Christians. I am of Apollo, the eloquent preacher, and I of Cephas, the head of the apostles, and of the whole Church; whilst others, the only party not to be blamed, contented themselves with saying, and I am of Christ. Is Christ divided? *Is not your salvation, is not your justification in baptism, and all gifts from him? (Witham)

11 For it hath been signified unto me, my brethren, of you, by them who are of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

**Ver. 11. **Of Chloe. It is worthy our observation, that St. Paul does not here mention any one person in particular, lest he might expose any one to the resentment of the rest, but mentions only in general terms the house of Chloe. (St. Chrysostom; Theophylactus)

*12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith: I indeed am of Paul: and I am of Apollo: and I am of Cephas: and I of Christ.

Ver. 12. *Chloe *was a Christian woman of Corinth. *Apollo *is the person mentioned, Acts xviii. 24. &c. Cephas is St. Peter, so called in the Syriac tongue. (Bible de Vence)

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Ver. 13. *Was Paul crucified for you? *Though says St. Augustine brothers may die for brothers, yet the blood of no martyr is shed for the remission of a brother’s sin. See also St. Leo the Great, serm. xii. de pass. Dom.

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: *not in wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made void.

Ver. 17. &c. Not to baptize. That is, the first and principal intent, in my vocation to the apostleship, was to preach the gospel, before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. (Acts chap. ix. 15.) *To baptize *is common to all, but to preach is peculiarly the function of an apostle. (Estius; Menochius; Grotius) — I was sent to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of speech, and as he says in the next chapter, (ver. 13.) not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, &c. The Spirit of God, which guided the thoughts and pen of St. Paul, and the other sacred writers, inspired them to deliver the gospel-truths with great simplicity, without the ornaments of an artificial human eloquence, lest the cross of Christ should be made void, lest the conversion of the world might be attributed to any human means, and not to the power of God, and of Christ crucified. (Witham)

Christ’s high priestly prayer on the night before he died was that “they all be one as you and I are one, so that the world might believe.” Then the NT epistles constantly rail against division and factions in the Church.

That’s why I can only be a Catholic–a universal Christian, kata holos. Every other ecclesial community has merely a human founder. One can insert these founders’ names into Paul’s list.

I mean that each of you is saying,
“I belong to Martin Luther,” or “I belong to Jean Cauvin,”
or “I belong to Joseph Smith,” or “I belong to Christ.”
Is Christ divided?
Was Jean Cauvin crucified for you?
Or were you baptized in the name of Joseph Smith?

Being of one mind and agreeing in what you say is what I’m counting on tomorrow morning at Mass–I am receiving Anointing of the Sick and want my whole congregation to be of one mind in praying for a healing miracle for me before my CT scans Monday morning (so I don’t have to undergo unnecessary procedures)–if it is the Lord’s will for me–and if it is the Lord’s will that I pick up the cancer cross for a fourth time down that Via Dolorosa, then my prayer is to have all the graces I need to bear whatever is in store for me.

Jesus, I trust in You!

Right you are. Divisions in the Church and among Christians are a scandal to the world and impede the spread of the Gospel.

That’s why I can only be a Catholic–a universal Christian, kata holos. Every other ecclesial community has merely a human founder. One can insert these founders’ names into Paul’s list.

I mean that each of you is saying,
“I belong to Martin Luther,” or “I belong to Jean Cauvin,”
or “I belong to Joseph Smith,” or “I belong to Christ.”
Is Christ divided?
Was Jean Cauvin crucified for you?
Or were you baptized in the name of Joseph Smith?

We were discussing this very thing in my men’s group this morning. All such divisions are caused by pride.

Being of one mind and agreeing in what you say is what I’m counting on tomorrow morning at Mass–I am receiving Anointing of the Sick and want my whole congregation to be of one mind in praying for a healing miracle for me before my CT scans Monday morning (so I don’t have to undergo unnecessary procedures)–if it is the Lord’s will for me–and if it is the Lord’s will that I pick up the cancer cross for a fourth time down that Via Dolorosa, then my prayer is to have all the graces I need to bear whatever is in store for me.

Dear Jesus, Divine Physician and Healer of the sick, we turn to you in this time of illness.
O dearest comforter of the troubled, alleviate our worry and sorrow with your gentle love, and grant us the grace and strength to accept this burden.

Dear God, we place our worries in your hands. We place our sick under your care and humbly ask that you restore your child, kentuckyliz, to health again. Above all, grant us the grace to acknowledge your will and know that whatever you do, you do for the love of us. Amen

More comments and thoughts on the 2nd Reading:

10 I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: **This appeal for unity is based on the Christian profession of faith. Paul calls them his brothers, and begs them to be truly brothers to one another, to preserve unity among themselves. This appeal is not just the wish of Paul, but it is Christ’s commandment, who put loving neighbor as oneself next to the command to love God (Mt. 22:36). Hence it is in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that he makes this appeal.

**that all of you agree in what you say: ”**Agree in what you say” is a common Greek expression which does not refer to agreement in words only, but means “to be in perfect agreement.”

**and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose: **Being “united” suggests a mutual adjustment and adaptation, a readiness to give in to one another in the interests of harmony. Christians must be united in their thinking and in the goal and direction of their lives.

*“The visible Church is a mixed body, consisting of both righteous and unrighteous people. This is why Paul praises some of its members and criticizes others. The person who agrees with the right doctrine and the Church’s teaching concerning the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as with the dispensation concerning us, with resurrection and judgement, and who follows the rules of the Church is not in schism.” *[Theodoret of Cyr (ca. A.D. 435), Interpretation of the Fourteen Epistles of Paul, 1 Corinthians 1,4]
11 For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you: **Nothing is known about this woman or her delegates beyond this passage. There is no reason to believe that she is being a busy-body or a tale-bearer. Paul does say anything negative about her passing on information to him about the situation in Corinth.
12 I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”: **“Cephas” is a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic Kepha which means “Rock”. He is referring to Peter (Matthew 16:18).

“In reality the Corinthians called themselves after other teachers, but Paul uses his own name and that of Apollos and Peter in order to make his point. By adding the name of Christ to the rest, he showed them how ridiculous the whole conflict was.” [Theodoret of Cyr (ca. A.D. 435), Interpretation of the Fourteen Epistles of Paul, 1 Corinthians 3,5]

**13 Is Christ divided? **All are brothers of Christ and in Christ. Christ wishes all to be one, as does Paul.
Was Paul crucified for you? **It was Christ who died for them. It was Christ who made them members of his body, the Church, through baptism. Paul did no more than bring this good news to them.
Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?: **Factions founded on attachment to ministers of Christ involve a dogmatic absurdity. Paul indicates this with a biting sarcasm. There is only one Savior, Christ who died on the cross, into whom men are incorporated by baptism, no matter who administers it.
“Whenever Paul uses rhetorical questions, as he does here, he implies that the whole argument is absurd.” *[Saint John Chrysostom (A.D. 392), Homilies on the First Epistle to the Corinthians 3,5]

[Verses 14—16 omitted from this Sunday’s Readings]
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize: ** Evidently, Paul’s whole time was spent teaching the faith to the people. His helpers baptized those whom he had prepared to become members of Christ’s mystical body—the Church. Paul is in no way minimizing the importance of baptism—only that it was not his own particular mission to baptize, but to preach. He is, rather, criticizing the cult following of those who were performing baptisms.
but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning: **It was not by human persuasion, or human eloquence, that Paul converted the people—this was done by the power of Christ. The people were convinced that God loved them, and that he had proved that love by sending his divine Son to live among them and die on the cross for them.

Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph referencing this Sunday’s 2nd Reaading:

**401 **After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin There is Cain’s murder of his brother Abel and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the Law of Moses. And even after Christ’s atonement, sin raises its head in countless ways among Christians.287 Scripture and the Church’s Tradition continually recall the presence and universality of sin in man’s history:

    What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience. For when man looks into his own heart he finds that he is drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from his good creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his source, man has also upset the relationship which should link him to his last end, and at the same time he has broken the right order that should reign within himself as well as between himself and other men and all creatures.288
287. Cf. Gen 4:3-15; 6:5,12; Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 1-6; Rev 2-3.
288. GS 13 § 1.

Some questions on the 2nd Reading for personal study and reflection:

  1. In the 2nd Reading, how do rivalries among believers impede the spread of the Kingdom of God? According to Saint Paul, what core message of the Gospel should we be focusing on?
  1. What perspective should help us overcome the growth of factions in our parish or diocese? Where should our supreme allegiance be? How would you answer Paul’s rhetorical questions? Whose position should you be taking, and how would you know you held it?
  1. In verse 17. What is Paul trying to stress about his ministry? When Paul says he does not speak “with eloquent wisdom”, what is he saying about the power of the gospel—and about his own mission?

A meditation on the 2nd Reading for practical application from Catholic Matters:

**APPLICATION: **Human nature has changed little through all the centuries. When it has, it has often been a change for the worse not for the better. In today’s lesson, we are a bit shocked to hear that the first generation of Christians were beginning to form factions and divisions in the church of Corinth. Three years had barely passed since they had dedicated their lives to Christ, their one ambition and desire being to follow Christ on the road to heaven. Now, already, personal pride was entering in. Some were looking down on others, because it was the great Paul who instructed and converted them. The others resisted this, and claimed a greater superiority, because they had a more eloquent teacher, Apollos of Alexandria, while others, again, began to despise both of these parties, because they were instructed by the head of the Apostles, the Rock, Peter.

How silly it may seem to us! What does it matter who taught them, if they have learned the truth about Christ and God’s great love, for them? To St. Paul it did not seem silly, but very dangerous, because it showed that human pride, the basic sin, and the first sin of human nature, was beginning to revive once more among them.

This letter of St. Paul, recalling to their minds who their true master and teacher was, very likely put an end to this trouble in Corinth, but it did not banish foolish pride from among men, nor worse still from among Christians who profess to be followers of the humble Christ.

Do we need examples to show the dreadful damage that pride has inflicted on the Church of Christ? The long-standing divisions and separated sects in the Church—a scandal to the followers of Christ and an impediment to the conversion of unbelievers—are the direct result of the actions of proud men. It is not necessary here to apportion blame—Paul did not when reproving the divisions in Corinth—but what is necessary is that all Christians should take to heart Paul’s reminder that it was Christ who died for us all and that Christ is not and must not be divided.

Thank God, and thanks to the saintly Pope John, Christians are today taking active steps to reunite the Church of Christ once more, to bring together once again the separated members of Christ’s mystical body. The Roman soldiers nailed his human body to the cross. We, his professed lovers and followers, have torn his mystical body apart. We have been more cruel to him than the ignorant pagan soldiers.

In this essential and urgent work of reunion each one of us, even the humblest and least educated, can play an important part. First, by fervent prayer that God will give all Christians, ourselves included, the grace to come together in true love of God, and true love of our Christian neighbor, no matter what his interpretation or even misrepresentation of Christ’s teaching may have hitherto been. Secondly, by showing in our daily actions that we recognize all men, not alone Christians, as our brothers. We have all been raised to sonship with God, we have all been redeemed by Christ. We must, if we love God and appreciate what God has done for the human race, want all men to avail themselves of this marvelous supernatural gift that he has intended for them.

The most effective and convincing way, in which we can prove our true concern for the eternal welfare of all our fellowman, is by living a true Christian life ourselves. If we have burning within us the fire of God’s love, its heat will spread and warm the hearts and minds of all those with whom we come in contact.

The leaders and theologians of all the Christian bodies will have their very important part to play in this sincere attempt at reunifying the Church of Christ. But unless we, ordinary Christians, bring down the fire of God’s love on earth, by our prayers and good works, their task will be ever so difficult, if not nearly impossible. We’ll begin to put our own Christian faith into daily and hourly practice and start to storm heaven for the success of this most necessary endeavor. God will not be deaf to the requests in word and deed that come from his humble servants.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit