All of us, I am sure, know someone in our family or in our close friendship network who has left the practice of the faith. It hurts us. We feel pain when we see this happen. All too often, in our pain, we try to numb it by telling ourselves such things as “At least they believe in God.” At times we cheapen the gift that had been that has been given by saying things such as “There really is no big difference between religions.”
Saint Paul was not like this. He was a man very zealous for the faith. We hear this in today’s first reading. He had gone to Corinth, a city that was a seaport, and in that city formed and established a church. As most seaports are, it was a mixture of many faiths, traditions, and standards of conduct. From those people he preached the gospel and they were baptized and began to follow Jesus Christ. He left that church in good hands and went on to other cities to preach the gospel and establish more churches. Word got back to him that the dear people of Corinth had begun to fall from the practice of the faith. They began even to sue one another in civil courts. They began to go back to practices of sexual immorality and other sinful ways of life. Paul was very hurt and upset and writes the letter that we hear today. He was zealous for the faith because he knew that a great gift that had been given to them in baptism. He pleaded with them to return to the faith and the unity of the church.
We too, like Paul, with zeal and enthusiasm, we can call back to the practice of the faith and unity of the church all those who have left. There are so many in our immediate communities! We too can make a priority in our lives a new evangelization of the people who once heard the gospel message and have left us. We too, each day in some way can do this. We too with zeal like Paul can call back to the faith all those who have strayed. What would the church look like in one year if every deacon, priest, and bishop of the church would make it a priority each time they preach to in someway call back to the faith those who have strayed? What would the church look like in one year if you the laity in some concerted way on a regular basis would do similarly?