plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
Hello, and Happy Monday. The church calendar helps us remember significant lives in the long history of the church. Today’s calendar helps us remember Clement. Clement was the third Bishop of Rome. Nothing is known of Clements’ two predecessors and the only reason we know about Clement is because of a letter he wrote to the church in Corinth. Here’s part of the letter:
“Happy are we, beloved, if love enables us to live in harmony… We should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride, and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘The wise must not glory in wisdom nor the strong in strength nor the rich in riches. Rather, let the one who glories glory in the Lord, by seeking him and doing what is right and just.’ Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. ‘Be merciful,’ he said, ‘so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving.'”
If one reads the tea leaves in the letter (written in 96 C.E.) it’s abundantly clear that the Corinthians aren’t getting along.
The Apostle Paul visited the Church in Corinth in AD 50/51. Paul described his visit as “painful” and the subsequent letters that he wrote to them (1 & 2 Corinthians) address fundamental and ethical differences between them (meaning he and them as well as them and them). While at his pastoral best Paul writes that the Corinthians were a “richly gifted community” (2 Cor 2.1; 7.16) they were also richly opinionated… and not afraid to express their opinions!
In reading Clement’s letter to the Corinthians it seems that Paul’s letters didn’t settle any of their differences nor did they affect much change in the way the Corinthians behaved with one another. If a generation is about 25 years then nearly two generations later, when Bishop Clement decided to write the Corinthians his own letter, their arguments were nearly 50 years old!
The family gatherings this holiday week will undoubtedly be a reminder to some; a reminder that in regard to our differences, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose! Hopefully our abiding differences won’t frustrate our thanksgiving.
Clement ends his letter to Corinth with these beautiful words, words that might well be instructive for some of us this week: “Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.”
Happy Monday and Happy Thanksgiving!