Avoiding the cult of personality

In today’s first reading, we find that the Corinthians had set up somewhat of a “cult of personality.”  In verse 4 we read “Whenever someone says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another, ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely human?”  Many of them had come to identify with a particular teacher or preacher, whether Paul, Apollos or someone else (see also 1 Corinthians 1:12) without reference to God (see verses 6-9).

In Christianity in general and in Roman Catholicism in particular, we stand in particular danger of identifying with a particular group without reference to God.  In the broader spectrum of Christianity we have Augustinians, Lutherans, Dominicans, Calvinists, etc.  Now, I am not suggesting that these groupings are bad in and of themselves; however, when we come to identify with these groups without reference to God or in such a way that we cannot see God working outside of our own group, we have a very serious problem indeed.

That is a very general example, but let me bring up another that strikes a little bit closer to home.  In some areas there are a lot of Catholic churches.  That means that if you “like” the priest in a particular parish near your own but maybe think the one in your home parish isn’t particularly engaging, it is easy enough to drive an extra couple of minutes and attend mass where the priest that you “like” is celebrating.

I’m sorry to say, but that is “cult of personality” type of thinking, and according to the Apostle Paul, it is wrong.   That is not to say that there might not be cases of genuine theological disagreement where perhaps it would be better to attend mass in another parish.  But, if one’s decision to attend one parish as opposed to another is based on the entertainment value of the homily we have fallen into the same trap that the Corinthians have.  The reason why many were claiming to follow Apollos was that he spoke eloquently.

Let us pray today for unity within the church and that we would be open to seeing God working in all of those around us.

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About Jeremy

I work at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Hammond, LA. I teach part-time classes from time to time, through Loyola University in New Orleans, Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and St. Joseph's Abbey and Seminary College. I also just finished a doctoral degree in Biblical languages through the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
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