For the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, we hear in the Vetus Ordo a reading from 1 Corinthians. Paul is correcting the behavior of the Corinthians using, in this chapter, examples from the history of Israel, moments when God sent punishments to correct the people who had gone astray and who displeased Him. For example, there is the idolatry of the Golden Calf incident of Exodus 32. Here are the words of the Apostles to the Gentiles in the Sunday pericope:
[Brethren, let us not] desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance.” We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
In the Novus Ordo only two verses of this reading are read, only on the 3rd Sunday of Lent of Year C. The reading is 10:1-6, 10-12.
Paul quotes Exodus 32:6. In Hebrew, and many translations, we read that the people, after their feasting from their idolatrous meal in honor of the calf, rose up to “play,” probably a euphemism for a gluttony fueled sexual orgy, which is why in the next verse Paul makes a connection with fornication. The Greek for “immorality” is porneúo which is used to indicated both sexual fornication and spiritual fornication which is what idolatry is. In Rev 17:2 we read a description of the great whore:
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication (epórneusan), and with the wine of whose fornication (porneía) the dwellers on earth have become drunk.
For the “mic drop” on the complex word porneía in Scripture, especially as used by the Lord in His teaching about divorce, obtain the “Five Cardinals Book” in defense of marriage, tradition – Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church. This volume contains essays by cardinals and topflight scholars in refutation of the notions about marriage offered when the flood-gates started to open at the consistory of 2014 and then at the Synod of Bishops on the Family. Among the essays is, “Dominical Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage: The Biblical Data” by the late and sorely missed Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J.
When Moses descended the mountain in Exodus 32 and found what was going on around the Golden Calf he had the males of the Tribe of Levi, Levites, go through the people and slaughter the miscreants. That’s when the males of the Jews were stripped of their Adamic and Noachic priesthood and the new Aaronic priesthood began as well as the imposition of the Law. The first “ordination” of priests was quite literally a bloodbath. Then there was the fornication of the people who “played the harlot” and began to worship Baal. The avenging angel in the form of a plague slew 23,000 in a single day. It would seem that God doesn’t like idolatry.
Another time, when the people complained God sent serpents of fire and many died. That’s when Christ’s crucifixion was foreshadowed by the lifting of a bronze serpent (a sign of all our sins put on Him) up onto a forked or crossed wooden structure. All of these are foreshadowing, types, signs of what would happen in later times.
Are our times so different from those of the ancient Corinthians? Perversions abound, some even promoted by priests with high visibility. Demon idols are brought into the sacred precincts of St. Peter’s Basilica and virtually worshipped in the Vatican Gardens. Specific teachings on faith and morals are being targeted for erasure by those at the very heights of authority. Faithful priests who raise their voices to defend the faith are snuffed out by their superiors without recourse. The very rites which formed our Catholic identity for century upon century, generation after generation, have in many places been forbidden or so restricted as to make them unavailable.
We have read lately in research that something like 7 out of 10 who say they are Catholics do not believe what the Church teaches about the Eucharist. Apparently, this isn’t just among people who rarely go to church but who go frequently. Many of these people have not been taught at all or have not been taught clearly and well what the Church teaches, and, hence, their guilt for approaching Communion in a negligent or thoughtless or unconsidered or hapless way is hardly their fault. After all, think about the nonsense they have seen and heard in their Sunday worship for decades, with pabulum or downright foolishness for sermons. The dominant message is that I’m okay and you’re okay and we all get to go to heaven, let’s be happy together. Hence, Communion has become for them the moment when they put the white thing in your hand and then we sing a song.
Look how Mass is celebrated in so many places! How can decades of that sort of thing not affect our Catholic identity? We are our rites! Look at how the powers are trying to eliminate a tried and true form of Holy Mass that could stand as a bulwark and corrective for our Catholic identity.
It’s enough to make you weep, as Christ wept over Jerusalem (the Gospel for Sunday from Luke 19:41-47). It’s enough to make you weep over the impending demographic sinkhole that is bound to afflict the Church in the next few years. The infidelity, malicious or negligent, of the people has consequences, for God will not be mocked and the tepid or lukewarm will be vomited from His mouth in the judgment to come.
Don’t look askance at the confused. Help them! Instructing, gently, correcting, gently, are works of mercy.
Paul was warning the Corinthians, and through them us, lest we fall. We will have temptations, but we will not be allowed any temptation that is beyond us if we rely on God’s graces. There is a “way out.” God will give us a “WAY OUT.” What is that “way out”? Remember our context. We are in 1 Corinthians 10. In the very next chapter Paul, after discussing head coverings for women (which has an amazing theology tied into our very bodies at creation) he gives his only description of Christ’s institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, citing the very words of consecration which we’ve used ever after at Holy Mass.
HE is our way out. The Eucharistic Lord is our salvation from all that besets us. When we are faithful to the Lord in his Eucharistic Person, which He offers us as Eternal High Priest ascended to the Holy of Holies on High, we have nothing to fear. That is why Paul goes on with dire words about those who eat and drink in an unworthy manner. They will be guilty, says Paul, of sinning against the Body and Blood of the Lord, bringing judgment on themselves. Also, their bad communions with the Eucharist and each other is why many had been sick and some died.
Practically speaking, when experiencing a strong temptation, you might have a little Q&A with yourself about a) the nature of the act, b) the source of the prompting, c) whether it will please or displease God and d) if having committed it you could receive Communion meritoriously and without also committing the sin of sacrilege. “If I do this, can I honestly receive Communion?” That’s a “way out” of the trouble we can all get into.
Let us renew our faith in the Most Holy Eucharist, the most precious thing we have, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ our Savior. Review your fundamentals, perhaps with a sound catechism. You can’t give what you don’t have. Review your hearts and minds, examining your consciences. Prepare well for Sunday Mass by going to confession. Remember also that there are many people who need to be invited back to the practice of their Catholic Faith. Be inviting. Be inviting to the fallen away as well as to those who could be attracted to the Church because of your joyful witness as decent, upright Christian.
Convert from Lutheranism, ordained to the priesthood in 1991 by St. John Paul II in Rome for the Suburbicarian Diocese of Velletri-Segni. Classics at University of Minnesota. Licence and Doctoral studies in Patristic Theology at the Augustinianum in Rome. Formerly a collaborator of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,” moderator of the Catholic Online Forum, columnist for The Wanderer and the UK’s Catholic Herald, Fox News contributor. Speaker. Blogist. fatherzonline.com @fatherz