Woven into the story of the Risen Christ

By Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem. | For The Compass | January 16, 2020

In the second reading, we hear the opening lines of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. In three short verses, Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ called and sent by the will of God to share the good news with the people of Corinth so that they might be united with all who profess faith in Jesus. Both then and now, it is important to connect this good news to the lived experience of the audience. Much of what follows is a blog post that I wrote after visiting Corinth, in which I reflect on the story of salvation and how Paul was able to weave the lived experience of the Corinthians into the good news of Jesus Christ. As apostles called by our baptism, we too, are commissioned to weave our story into the greatest story ever told.

Yesterday, I purchased an icon entitled Mary, the Storyteller, at the workshop of a Greek Orthodox priest and iconographer. The image depicts Mary tenderly sharing stories with her young son, our Lord Jesus. The implication of the icon is that Jesus, a masterful storyteller, learned his craft of weaving parables, at least in part, from sitting and listening to his mother and our mother, Mary.

Today, in Corinth, we witnessed Paul’s letter to the Corinthians come alive as he, too, masterfully wove the fabric of the lives of the local Corinthians into the story of the Risen Christ. This tapestry begins long before Paul, with the prehistoric threads of Eden as well as Noah’s rainbow of color and continues to gather threads of various colors in ancient Canaan, Egypt, Jerusalem, Babylon and the various times and places of the ancient Israelites. The whitest and brightest colors are sewn in by our Lord himself in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee and Jerusalem. Paul begins his craft in Damascus and continues to enter threads and brilliant colors from throughout the Greco-Roman world.

Specifically in Corinth, Paul weaves in the cult of the sanctuary of Asklepois, in which people offered terra cotta body parts as offerings in hopes of healing particular ailments represented by those parts. Likely, this was the inspiration for his “one body, many parts” in 1 Corinthians 12:12. Next, he weaves in the flora of the perishable crowns for which athletes competed in the local Isthmian Games and compares it to the imperishable crown of Christ (1 Cor 9:24-25).

As you can see, Paul has masterfully woven thread from the daily life of the Corinthians into the story of the Risen Christ. Thus, we too, are called to weave threads of our daily lives — our ailments, competitions, work, family histories, all that we are — into the ever increasing and everlasting tapestry of the greatest story ever told. Go forth and continue to sew your threads into this beautiful tapestry.

Fr. Brennan, vocation director at St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere, earned Master of Divinity and Theology degrees from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.

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