There are many divisions in the Church at Corinth. Paul started this letter speaking about how some claimed their faith was superior because of the gravitas of the person who baptized them. Yesterday we read about divisions within the way the service, the remembrance of the Last Supper, was being conducted. Paul even said that these divisions serve a purpose because they provide the context by which the truth can be articulated. However, in each case Paul stressed that disunity must lead back to greater unity and a deeper communion. It doesn’t matter who baptized you, we are all baptized into the one Christ. There should be no disunity at the Church service for we eat of one bread and drink of one cup and the communal meal is a participation in the body and blood of Christ.
In today’s reading Paul takes this teaching to the next level. He expiates it specifically. We are all different. Just as a hand is different from a foot we are all given different gifts by the Holy Spirit.
7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
All these different gifts, given in different ways and different amounts by the Holy Spirit, mean that we all have different roles within the Church.
28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
But the differences are not disunity. All the gifts, all the roles, all the differences come from one place, they come from God, through Christ by the Holy Spirit. Just as the hand and the foot are different but they are still united in one body, so are we. All with different gifts united into one body of Christ.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Notice, this reference is Eucharistic. It comes right after his discourse on proper reverence for the Eucharistic meal and Paul speaks of “drinking” of the Holy Spirit. This is not the only way we receive the Holy Spirit and are united to the body for we are told elsewhere in scripture that baptism also has this effect. However, we see from Corinth that baptism is not the only way the body is fed. The members of the Church of Corinth all were baptized but they devolved into disunity. Paul’s remedy for this is the proper reverence of the Eucharist.
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Let us remember that at the Garden of Gethsemane during his passion Jesus prayed one last prayer to the Father before the soldiers came to arrest him. He prays, “Father, let them be one as you and I are one.” Jesus did not pray for partial unity. He did not pray for unity on “essentials”. Jesus prayed for complete and total radical unity. He prayed that we be untied as He and the Father are united – one God yet separate persons. We are to be like this – one Church yet separate persons. Jesus gave us the tools to do this: baptism, prayer, the teaching authority of the Apostles and Bishops, the Church, the Word and the Eucharist.