Isaiah 49:3,5-6; Psalm 39:2,4,7-10 (LXX); 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34
I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among all the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.
(I Cor 1.1-3)
. . .
I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about what it means to be a Christian. Mostly, that’s because I write and teach theology, and I am interested in Christian identity and Christian formation. But it is also a question I ask myself on a more personal level. To follow Christ (which is one way of describing what it is to be a Christian) as a lecturer in theology and ethics, a wife and the mother of three children must look different from the life of discipleship for a single twenty-something. It was, however, in the crucible of those years that my faith was shaped and formed, and I often feel that I am not living the radical and passionate faith I embraced then.
Well, I am not. I spend a lot more time folding clothes and wiping noses than I did then. I am responsible to people other than myself, entrusted with the care of others both as a teacher and a parent, and committed to married life. I am not ‘free’ to give away my time or money in the same way, and so I often think of myself as limited in the practice of Christian faith. But am I really?
I read the texts set for Sunday Mass, and wondered about this little bit from I Corinthians. What is that doing there? What relation does it bear to the rest of the readings? And what could possibly be said on the basis of these few introductory lines of St Paul’s? Teasing out the connections between the passages I leave to the experts: surely those experienced in preaching (which I am not) would be able to say something wise and faithful about the Big Picture these texts paint. I have only an observation to make: that the readings all point us to the central feature of the life of God’s people, the apostolic mission. To be a part of the people of God, whether in Israel or as a member of the Body of Christ, is to be called and sent as a witness to the world of the love of God and God’s desire to save.
What differs about our lives as we follow Christ is the context in which we embrace this calling. Teaching, parenting and being married all afford opportunities for faithfulness that were simply not available to me as a twenty-something with my life ahead of me and what seems now like all the freedom in the world. The radical obedience that Christian faith requires is going where God leads, and being faithful where God calls us to be. And that obedience is no less radical at forty-something, waiting on God as I do chores or prepare lectures, than it was in weekend prayer vigils or community living at twenty-something.