Off the Bench and Corinthians Compendium

crouching-tig“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a delightful movie, with people running up and down walls and flying through the air.

Speaking of the two movies I saw while I was in the seminary: The other one is “Hurricane,” starring Denzel Washington.

It is the story of Rubin Carter, boxing champion, who was jailed for murders he insisted he did not commit.

Lots of bad language, and there is no guarantee that the movie tells the story truthfully. But it is excellent.

hurricane…Not to scold you, gentle reader–but I must say I am a little disappointed that we couldn’t manage any debate over whether or not Abraham Lincoln was actually a good person.

I know everyone is busy. But do I really have to remind you that there is nothing more important than disputed questions of historical morality?

And do NOT give me the excuse, “I don’t know anything about the topic.” I never let that get in the way!

Here is Bob Dylan’s music video of his song about Hurricane Carter. It contains clips from the movie. (Remember that Bob Dylan can be a big potty-mouth sometimes.)

Your humble servant has been sitting on the bench for a while when it comes to preaching at Sunday Mass. The coach is getting ready to put me back in the game. But in the meantime, here is a little compendium of my homilies on St. Paul’s “Corinthian Correspondence.”

st-paul-medallionHomily on St. Paul, the Corinthians, and current events

Explanation of I Corinthians 2-3

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Homily on I Corinthians 7:29-31)

Keep the Sabbath (Homily on I Corinthians 7:32)

Homily on I Corinthians 12: One Body

Homily on I Corinthians 13: One thing, Love

Homily on II Corinthians

Homily on II Corinthians 8:9

Love? God: “Yes”

Brothers and sisters: As God is faithful, our word to you is not “yes” and “no.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not “yes” and “no,” but “yes” has been in him. For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him; therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory. II Corinthians 1:18-20

Ancient Roman fountain in Corinth
Ancient Roman fountain in Corinth
As you may remember, this year is the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of St. Paul the Apostle.

Since the end of the Christmas season, we have been reading at Sunday Mass from St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.

As we remember, Corinth was the capital of the Roman province in southern Greece, and it was a capital of pagan decadence. When he first preached in Corinth, St. Paul had great success. He won many enthusiastic converts, who became his beloved spiritual children. When he continued his travels, however, St. Paul received reports about the Corinthian church that troubled him. The Corinthians had begun to doubt his authority.

As you recall, St. Paul wrote First Corinthians while he was in Ephesus, across the Aegean Sea from Corinth. Then he had to leave Ephesus suddenly. The Ephesian silversmiths made a tidy profit producing pagan idols. They were not pleased with St. Paul’s success in converting their customers to Christianity. They started a riot. Cooler heads prevailed, but if they hadn’t, St. Paul and his companions likely would have been martyred then and there. After this close call, St. Paul’s friends persuaded him to leave town.

Continue reading “Love? God: “Yes””

Keep the Sabbath

This apse mosaic depicts the Cross as the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden
This apse mosaic depicts the Cross as the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden
I should like you to be free of anxieties. (I Corinthians 7:32)

For our second readings at Sunday Mass, we are in the middle of reading selections from St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. St. Paul wrote to his beloved Corinthian Christians to help them resolve the numerous problems they had.

In the church in Corinth, there were factions with conflicting teachings. Some of the Corinthian Christians considered themselves too good for the rules. Some liked to show off their wealth. One of them sued a brother Christian in a court of law. And everyone was scandalized by the outrageous behavior of one of the members.

Continue reading “Keep the Sabbath”

The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

Conversion on the Way to Damascus by Caravaggio
Conversion on the Way to Damascus by Caravaggio

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.

From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.

For the world in its present form is passing away.

(I Corinthians 7:29-31)

This year we mark 2,000 years since the birth of St. Paul the Apostle. Today we commemorate the day when St. Paul went from persecuting Christians to being a Christian.

Perhaps you noticed last week that in our second readings at Holy Mass we have begun to read from St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. We will continue reading from these letters until Ash Wednesday.

Continue reading “The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul”

St. Paul will Guide Us through the Week

Gerald Henderson smoked us.
Gerald Henderson smoked us.
Please bear with me.

There are few things more painful to your preacher than watching Duke beat Georgetown. I would rather be beaten up by deranged Mormon missionaries.

For about ten minutes during the first half, it looked like Georgetown could actually win the game. Then things fell apart.

Monroe got in foul trouble, including a mysterious technical foul. Gerald Henderson scored three points every time he touched the ball. Summers played a great game but could not make his free throws. And poor Jessie Sapp was joined by Chris Wright on some planet in another solar system where no one ever scores any points.

Anyway, enough bellyaching. God is good, no matter what happens. Here is today’s homily…

penn-aveBrothers and sisters, we have an eventful week ahead of us. On Tuesday, our 44th President will be inaugurated. Before, that—tomorrow—we will observe the 80th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King lived and died to vindicate the human rights of the weak and oppressed. That is why we keep a national holiday in honor of his birth.

Our eventful week will continue on Thursday with the March for Life. We will march for the same cause that Dr. King fought for—the rights of the weakest and most defenseless people.

But there is more. Next Sunday, we will keep one of the main feasts of the Year of St. Paul. January 25 is the feast of the Apostle’s conversion to Christ.

Continue reading “St. Paul will Guide Us through the Week”

Explanation of First Corinthians 2-3

St. Paul preaching in the town square
St. Paul preaching in the town square

We are not born knowing how to live.  We do not have a built-in “philosophy of life.”  In order to learn how to think, how to judge situations, and how to make decisions, we listen to what other people say, and we try to find some kind of wisdom.


These days we can watch talkshows, or read newspaper columns, or surf the world-wide web in search of wisdom.  But in ancient times, people sought wisdom by listening to wandering teachers who went from town to town, speaking in public squares to anyone who would listen.  These teachers presented themselves as philosophers, and curious people came out to listen to what they had to say and to ask questions.


In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tries to explain the difference between the teachers of the Church and these philosophers.  The Apostles have not come to the city of Corinth to teach a “philosophy of life.”  They are not offering advice, tips to increase self-esteem, or dietary hints.


The Apostles have come, St. Paul insists, to bear witness to something that has happened, something that affects everyone on earth.  God has become man, and He has done what needs to be done for all sins to be forgiven.  The Son of God died on the Cross for us, and then He rose again from the dead.  This happened.  The Apostles came to tell everyone that this happened, and for no other reason.


This section of I Corinthians is very illuminating and encouraging for us, because we are up against the same problem.  We are surrounded by the suggestion that Catholicism is one “philosophy of life” among many; it is a “tradition” that is good for a lot of people, but not for everybody.  Christianity is one of mankind’s “great religions.”  The preachers and teachers of the Church must fit in; we must take our clerical place alongside all the preachers and teachers of all other religions, and Oprah, the Dalai Lama, Richard Simmons, and the yoga instructors of the world.


To this, St. Paul replies:  We do not offer yoga instruction, or self-help classes of any kind.  St. Paul insists:  I am not a philosopher; I have nothing whatsoever of my own to teach you.  I am not an expert of core-muscle toning or low-carb desserts.


I came to tell you that your Creator, the Almighty One Who made you out of nothing, died on the Cross for you, so that you can go to heaven.



Reading St. Paul during His Holy Year





History has not recorded St. Paul’s exact date of birth, but scolars have narrowed it down pretty well.  We are very likely within one year of the two-thousandth birthday of the Holy Apostle who is the human author of half of the New Testament.  Pope Benedict has set this year aside as a special Pauline Year.


During the Church’s yearly cycle of readings, our second readings at Holy Mass on Ordinary Sundays are taken in sequence from St. Paul’s letters.  Perhaps you have noticed that, through the summer, we have been reading sequentially through Romans at Mass.  (For some homilies on these readings, see:


If there were ever a year to follow through on your resolution to try to read St. Paul’s letters, this is it.  (And if you never made such a resolution, you should have.)  It might be more enjoyable and more stimulating to read them along with the whole Church.  The Sunday Mass readings do not include every verse of the letters, so if you read on your own at the same time, you will be a step ahead of everybody else at Mass, and you could give a little lecture in the parking lot afterwards.


Here is the schedule between now and the end of the Pauline Year, next June 29:


Starting on September 28, we will spend three weeks reading Philippians.


From October 19 until the beginning of Advent, we will spend five weeks reading I Thessalonians.  (Though on two Sundays we will have special readings:  November 2 for All Souls, and November 9 for the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran.)


[During Advent and Christmas season, we break out of our sequential reading of St. Paul, so I am going to have to get back to you on this.]


From January 18 until February 25, we will spend four weeks readings chapters six through eleven of I Corinthians and then two weeks reading the beginning of II Corinthians.


During Lent and Easter season…Very complicated; I will have to get back to you.


From Pentecost to the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, we will spend three weeks reading more of II Corinthians.


To summarize all this complexity, here is your St. Paul reading plan for the Holy Year:


Read Romans before September 28.

Read Philippians between September 28 and October 19.

Read First Thessalonians between October 19 and November 30.

Read First Corinthians 6-11 between January 12 and February 24

Read Second Corinthians between June 1 and June 29.


Follow this reading plan, dear reader, and I guarantee that…


1.  You will become smarter.

2.  You will impress people.

3.  God will be pleased.

4.  Good things will happen!