Homily for 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted Feb 1, 2016, 2:16 PM by Church Office   [ updated Feb 1, 2016, 2:16 PM by Michelle Massung ]

This evening, I want to talk about the Second Reading, St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  However, before I can discuss my message, I need to give you a little background about the town of Corinth, St. Paul, and his idea of love.

            It is a relatively new city since it had bee destroyed in the 50’s BC. It was rebuilt in the 40’s by Julius Caesar, so it was on Roman architecture and design. It is a port city connecting Rome to Asia. It was also a manufacturing town. It was a culturally diverse city with wealthy and poor alike. Since it was a turn-style city, the population was very transient. Since Paul sold tents, he probably did business in Corinth and had a reputation as a business person. The religions of Corinth included Judaism, Paganism, especially to Aphrodite, the Goddess of beauty, love, fertility and seafaring, also the patroness of prostitutes, a big business in Corinth and other pagan religions.

            Paul was a very educated man.  He studied philosophy, Greek, Rhetoric and many other languages.  It is believed that he lived in Corinth before he began his ministry.  He made and sold tents for a living. 

            Now let me talk about the word love.  In the Greek language, there are three words for love in Greek, Agape, Eros, and Phileo. Eros speaks of physical love, more sexual or lustful. Phileo speaks about friendship love. Eros and Phileo are based on emotions. That means it is limited. Agape is the love of God or Christ for humankind. It is the love of Christians for other persons, corresponding to the love of God for humankind. It is loving all people, unconditionally.

            Now let me ask you a question: What is your motivation for using the gifts God has given to you? Paul states to strive for the greater gifts and I will show you a still more excellent way. In the previous chapter, the Corinthians had been admonished by Paul for thinking that each person received different gifts, some greater than others and the people were trying to see who had the more important gifts and therefore was the most important in the society. After Paul tells them that all gifts come from God, he then interrupts this discussion and redirects their thinking about the most important gift from God, love, specifically, the type of love that spans man and God. It is far more important than any of the gifts they had been discussing in the previous chapter. Paul is trying to solve the problem of them thinking about their gifts in temporal terms. He wants to educate them about how love transcends all the other gifts from God and if you have the love of God, the other gifts are not really that important.

How do we look at the gifts we have received from God? Some can sing, while others are better at sports, or acting, or repairing cars. We are all blessed with different gifts and talents. It is how we us them that determines our worth to building up the kingdom of God or to use them for our own self service. Paul solves the problem by discussing the temporal nature of our earthly or human gifts. He wants us to focus on our spiritual gifts like faith, hope, and love. He shows that love is more perfect than any other gift and that we should strive for this gift above any other gift. All our gifts come from God. We are all called to use these gifts for his glory and to love and serve our neighbors.  Paul gives us a great message to use our gifts out of love of others, not out of love for ourselves.