Tuesday of week 22 of Ordinary Time – First Reading


Commentary on 1 Cor 2:10-16

Here Paul discusses the true nature of the genuinely spiritual person. And the source of his spirituality is, not surprisingly, the Spirit of God. “The Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.” The Spirit does this not in order to know them better for the Spirit knows all things. Rather, he understands fully the depth of God’s nature and so is fully competent to reveal them to us.

And, just as only an individual person alone knows what is going on in the depths of one’s own heart, so only the depths of God can be known by God’s own Spirit.

What distinguishes the true followers of Christ is that they are not imbued by the spirit of the world around them. The ‘spirit of the world’ is that ‘wisdom of the age’ which is alienated from God and all he stands for. It is the attitude of ‘sinful nature’ as described in the Letter to the Romans (8:6-7). Instead, true followers have received the gift of God’s Spirit which helps us to understand the gifts, the love that is constantly being showered on us.

So Paul’s teaching is not, as he said before, based on philosophical speculations but comes in the way the Spirit communicates, that is, straight to the heart and not just in the mind.

In the verses which follow (including some which are not part of today’s reading) Paul explains why many fail to grasp true wisdom. It is because such wisdom is perceived by the spiritual (i.e. mature) Christian. The Corinthians, however, were unspiritual, worldly (infant) believers (3:1-4), and the proof of their immaturity was their division over their human leaders (3:3-4).

The unspiritual person is described as one who is closed to the working of the Spirit. The Greek term here is psychikos ( a person who depends on his own natural resources, who, in the words of Romans 8:9, follows “mere natural instincts”. This person is dominated by the merely physical, worldly or natural life.

Such a person – and we have surely met him/her often – rejects the Gospel teaching as nonsense. In fact, he does not understand it because understanding only comes through being open to the promptings of the Spirit.

The spiritual person, on the other hand, “is able to judge the value of everything, and his own value is not to be judged by others”. The Spirit gives the follower of Christ deep insights into the meaning of life, it gives him a vision of what is really important. Paul himself, as a ‘spiritual’ man, is not to be judged by the Corinthians who are ‘sensual’ and immature (not yet ready for solid food but only for milk).

Many a truly Spirit-guided person will, as Jesus and Paul were, be frequently criticised. He may be rejected and even removed altogether by exile or death. But, as long as he remains true to the guidance of the Spirit, he does not feel effectively judged by such people.

The Christian must never be arrogant or contemptuous of others; at the same time, he must not fear or hesitate to be in opposition to the conventional wisdom of his environment. In order to make sure of his integrity he must constantly discern the voice and the leading of God in all that he says and does.

Paul ends by asking a question posed by Isaiah: “Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him?” Paul answers by saying that, while we may not know the mind of God and still less dare to teach him, he does claim that he and many of the baptised “are those who have the mind of Christ”.

To have the “mind of Christ” is to see things the way Jesus sees them, to value things the way he values them, totally to share his vision of the meaning and goal of our lives. What exactly that mind of Christ is can be found in the lovely hymn that Paul quotes in his letter to the Philippians (2:6-11).

Let us pray today that we may be truly spiritual people who share and understand that mind of Christ.

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