Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"The abuses at the agape meals are construed as contempt for 'the church of God' (22), because the well-to-do are selfishly concerned with satisfying their own hunger, and cast 'shame' on poorer people, who have to come later. This interpretation shows that the greatest problem is the church's lack of love, and it is the standard by which all the mistakes they are accused of in the rest of the passage are measured.
Here, 'the Body' can be understood not only as Christ's personal body but also as his Body, the Church, which is established through the Eucharist: thus lack of respect for the Lord's fellow members at the agape meal stands under the same threat of judgment. The judgment does not lie in Christ's sacrifice condemning us, but in our miscalculating the enourmous distance between his sacrifice and our indifference. We are all 'unworthy' (27) when we partake of the Eucharist, but it is precisely in underestimating this unworthiness that we pronounce our own judgment. Paul says this explicitly: 'But if we judge ourselves rightly, we should not be judged' (31). Yet he does not look on this failure to judge ourselves as God's final word. He does not consider its harmful consequences (death and illness) as God's condemnation, but rather as the greater eucharistic love of the Lord disciplining and rebuking us (32) — which must not, however, allow us to fall back into irreverent carelessness again."
Balthasar, Paul Struggles with His Congregation: The Pastoral Message of the Letters to the Corninthians, p 57-59. Balthasar is commenting on 1 Corinthians 11-14 above. Consider the above extract an invitation to go read the whole section and the whole book, which has perennial relevance.
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