“There must be factions among you in order that also those who are approved among you may become known.” St. Paul, already in the first century, has to correct the Church in Corinth whose members had allowed selfishness and bad teaching to create division. The Love of Christ does not permit us to treat someone better or worse based on their social standing. In fact, it obliges us to commune with rich and poor alike: refraining from indulging and excess when we are with the rich, and sparing no expense when it comes to using our wealth to help and comfort the poor. We should in fact extend this equal treatment even to our leaders: refraining from indulging in their authority by giving them power they ought not to have, and coming to their aid when their weakness and poverty are made manifest.
St. Augustine reminds his flock – with great fear and trembling – that he will be brought to account on two fronts: in the common way as a Christian for his growth in holiness, and in a special way as a leader for his stewardship. If it is true that all Christians must be good stewards, the shepherds must distribute faithfully and justly not only the material goods entrusted to them by the people of God, but especially the spiritual goods entrusted to them by Jesus at their ordination. The just distribution of these spiritual goods is demonstrated by Jesus in today’s Gospel: He goes Himself to heal the poor slave while He heals the son of a ruler at a distance. Indulging in bringing aid to the rich who are spiritually poor can become a convenient justification to neglect the poor.
In this way the faithful are approved and the faithless are detected.1
In speaking here of factions, Paul did not have doctrinal heresies in mind, though it would apply to them as well. Christ himself said that occasions of stumbling would have to come (Mt 18:7). He did not thereby destroy man’s free will or decree any necessity or compulsion over human life, but he foretold what would be the inevitable result of the evil in the human mind. Divisions did not come about because Christ foretold them; rather he foretold them because they were inevitable.2
People become heretics, even though they would still have held wrong opinions if they had remained within the church. Now that they are outside, they do us more good, not by teaching the truth, for they do not know it, but by provoking carnal Christians to seek the truth and spiritual Christians to expound it. In the church there are innumerable people who are approved by God, but they do not become manifest among us as long as we are content with the darkness of our ignorance and prefer to sleep rather than to behold the light of truth.3
VINCENT OF LÉRINS:
It is as if the apostle meant that the authors of heresies are not instantly rooted out by God, in order to make manifest those who are approved, that is, in order to make evident to what degree each one is a steadfast, faithful and firm lover of the orthodox faith.4
Paul shows that the Lord’s Supper is not a meal in the normal sense but spiritual medicine, which purifies the recipient if he partakes of it reverently. It is the memorial of our redemption, so that mindful of our Redeemer we might follow him more closely. COMMENTARY ON PAUL’S EPISTLES. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 113). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.[/note]
MAXIMUS OF TURIN:
In order to praise the centurion more, the Jews said to the Lord, “It is right that you should help him, for he is a lover of our nation, and he himself has built us a synagogue.” If one who has constructed a place where Christ is always denied is visited with heavenly mercy, how much more to be visited is one who has built a tabernacle where Christ is daily preached! The Lord did not approve the work that the centurion had done but the spirit in which he accomplished it. If he eagerly built a synagogue at a time when there were as yet no Christians, it is understood that he would all the more eagerly have built a church had there been Christians. He still preaches Christ even though he builds a synagogue.5
How great is the sign of divine humility, that the Lord of heaven by no means disdained to visit the centurion’s servant! Faith is revealed in deeds, but humanity is more active in compassion. Surely he did not act this way because he could not cure in his absence, but in order to give you a form of humility for imitation he taught the need to defer to the small and the great alike. In another place he says to the ruler, “Go, your son lives,” that you may know both the power of Divinity and the grace of humility. In that case he refused to go to the ruler’s son, lest he seem to have had regard for riches. In this case he went himself lest he seem to have despised the humble rank of the centurion’s servant. All of us, slave and free, are one in Christ.6
- UNITY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH 10. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 110). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians 27.3. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (pp. 110–111). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON TRUE RELIGION 7.15. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 111). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMONITORIES 20. Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 111). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 87.1. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (pp. 115–116). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 5.84. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 116). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.