Today’s first passage is from the First Letter to the Corinthians:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?
3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
(1 Cor 5:1-5)
This passage both angered, and saddened, me when I re-read it this week. You know that the Church is in a sad state indeed when it would be considered radical for a church community to actually excommunicate someone like this. And yet that is exactly what St. Paul commanded the church in Corinth to do. But it doesn’t happen at all, save perhaps in the most conservative of Protestant churches. I cannot say I’ve ever heard of the Catholic Church doing this in recent years. Or even the Orthodox Church (my Orthodox readers can correct me if I’m wrong about this). This disobedience on the part of the Church (and disobedience is exactly what it is) bears a large role in the present degeneration of the Bride of Christ. It is also only one of three reasons why I chose this passage today.
The second reason is the fact that it is an illicit union, an unlawful marriage, that drives St. Paul to command excommunication. It seems pretty clear to me, and my readers are well aware that I’m no biblical scholar, that unlawful marriages are cause enough to justify excommunication of a “believer.” Yet this never happens, despite the fact that there is no shortage of “believers” who presently belong to illicit unions in the church. Unlawful marriage is immoral, it is a serious, serious sin, and the Church does nothing (and for my Catholic readers, they should be aware that some Church leaders want to essentially say it is no big deal at all).
The third reason this passage grabbed by interest is because St. Paul commanded excommunication as an act of mercy. How else can you explain “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord?” By thrusting this person out of the Church, he would be outside of the protection of God’s grace. As a result, he would feel the full measure of Satan’s power. Yet this is not simply a punishment, but a means to help the transgressor find his way back to Christ. It seems to me that St. Paul is explaining that for grave sins like porneia, it is only when you experience the full measure of your guilt, when the weight of your sins crushes you, both in body (temporal consequences) and spirit (spiritual consequences), that you are able to truly repentant and find your way back to Christ.
That brings me to the second passage for today comes from Isaiah:
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” 9 And he said, “Go and say to this people:
‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.’
10 Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;
12 until the Lord sends everyone far away,
and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.
13 Even if a tenth part remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak
whose stump remains standing
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.
Something that I think few Christians, or at least, those who claim to be Christians, grasp is just how much warning the people of Israel had of what would befall them. Time and time again they were warned by prophets, such as Isaiah, of the doom that awaited them. Yet only a handful ever listened. And that doom came and swept them all away. But despite this history, despite the warnings, the people of Israel continued to make the same errors over and over and over again.
Looking around me, I see that nothing has changed. The “faithful” of the Lord are seemingly oblivious to what is going on around them. And it is not like they don’t have any warning. We’ve been warned, time and time again, about what was happening and what is to come. Yet we don’t listen. We know and understand nothing, and shall reap the whirlwind before the end.