The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost 22 August 2021
The readings the lectionary prescribes for this Sunday are as follows:
1 Corinthians 3:9–17; Matthew 14:22–34
Here is a summary of the two readings, as the beginning of reflection:
1 Corinthians 3:9–17 Paul had set Jesus Christ as the Corinthians’ foundation, but that foundation requires further building. Builders use different materials, the quality of which will be tested at judgment day. Fire will determine their skill as builders. But even if their workmanship is not of quality, they will be spared if they do well as Christians. The building site is the human body, which is supposed to become a temple of God’s Spirit. It must be treated accordingly, by leading a holy life.
Matthew 14:22–34 Jesus sent his disciples across the sea while he went up the mountain to pray. He rejoined the boat with the disciples by walking on the sea. Upon seeing their fear, he offered the reassurance of his presence. Peter wished to walk on the sea too, but fear overwhelmed him and the Lord had to save him from drowning.
A sermon on this topic, given in August 2019
The message of this Sunday emerges at the crossing of the two readings. Before grasping the message, a brief reflection on the readings is in order, by which we explore their common denominators:
Wisdom The different charismata and callings of God’s people complement each other. Some are founders of personal lives and communities. Others are caretakers, leaders towards salvation, guides to perfection. Others still benefit from the input of the founders and the caretakers. There is room for all at the site where the temple of God—personal as well as ecclesial—must be erected. That said, to continue with the Pauline image, although their building techniques and materials might differ, in order to work together all should observe certain principles. Here they are, in the form which both passages for today suggest. First, Jesus Christ is the foundation of ecclesial life. Adherence to the Lord is essential for the entire process of reformation and transformation, both personally and communally. The frail values of the world cannot secure the building of the temple, whether personally or communally. Second, the reformation and transformation of the builders is paramount. They must become temples before attempting to build the temples of others. Think of Peter, who dared to walk on the sea without having a foundation for his life. Think of the grammarians and the pharisees whose straining out of gnats—read replacement of the Gospel by petty religious concerns—will burn like straw. One should climb up the mountain in order to walk upon the sea. Third, both builders and those being built should pursue holiness. At the building site there is no room for professionals of religion whose purpose is not holy life. Nor is there room for believers who do not have the holy life as their goal, who do not care for personal and communal reformation and transformation. This Sunday bridges the previous ones that addressed diversity within God’s people and the earlier ones, which discussed the need for discernment and right decision. Differences should converge on the harmony of Christ’s Gospel, in love, and in the purpose of holiness.
It is in this light that we can pinpoint the message of this Sunday, which we can further use for personal and ecclesial meditation:
Message The various gifts and callings of God’s people serve to build God’s temple, namely, each person and the ecclesial community, upon Christ’s bedrock.
The materials rendered above are excerpted from Doru Costache, Reading Scripture in the Orthodox Church: The Sunday Cycle (Sydney: AIOCS Press, 2018) 45–47. The book is available in print and in digital formats.
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