Monday Week 31 Year II

There’s a rather cynical theological adage that goes, “Jesus preached the kingdom of God but what we got was the Church”. There’s a touch of that when you compare the two readings today.
Paul wants unity above all else and paid for in the currency of humility and self-effacement. He has a community to look after—a community he wants to last—I guess he’s seen the fragmentation that hostility brings even when the hostility grows out a concern for truth.
But Jesus seems unconcerned with oiling the wheels of community. His domestic directions come as a jolt: forget the bonds of friendship, of family, forget the familiar give and take of social life. Instead, eat with the poor, feast with the broken, make merry with the poverty-stricken.
It’s not that Paul and Jesus are contradictory precisely—I’m sure we could reconcile them if we tried hard enough—but the concern behind the words seem to come from different worlds. And they are both legitimate concerns. Keep the unity of the body, says Paul, by a self-effacement that imitates Christ’s own … but Jesus’ own self-emptying has a radical edge to it that is more than a little challenging.
So how do we handle this divergence? Do we take our pick from the spiritual supermarket—Jesus or Paul? Or do we follow our mood of the moment? Do we denounce Paul for giving into the compromising demands of maintenance? Do we set aside Jesus as short-sighted and unrealistic?
How do we live in the world as a Christian community? Where is our focus? Outward or inward? When I put it that way I can see the question has to be a false one. Somehow we have to be both.
Our church could do with a healthy dose of both Paul and Jesus. It could do with a mammoth dollop of humility—though that would upset the Catholic Herald—and an overdose of radical, challenging, upside-down-ness.
I guess the same applies to the Jesuits or Loreto or Loyola Hall. I guess the same applies to me and to you.