Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Finding God

Where do you find God in life?

Popular Translation

16 Don’t you know that all of you form God’s Temple? Don’t you know that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If someone destroys God’s Temple, God will destroy that person, for the Temple of God is holy, just like you are holy. 18 So, don’t blind yourselves. If someone thinks they’re wise in today’s world, let that person become a fool so he can know God’s wisdom. 19 The wisdom of today’s world is stupid compared with God’s wisdom. After all, the Bible says:

“God traps wise when they try to fool him.”

20 It also says:

“The Lord knows the plans of the wise are useless.”

21-22 So, stop boasting about Paul or Apollos or Cephas or any other people. Stop bragging about your knowledge of life or death or present times or future times. With the Spirit, all these people and all these things belong to you. With the Spirit, you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

Literal Translation

16 Do you not know that you are the Temple of God and the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If someone ruins the Temple of God, God will ruin this (person) for the Temple of God is holy, which you are. 18 Do not deceive yourselves, if someone considers (himself) to be wise in this age, let (himself) become stupid in order to become wise (in God’s ways). 19 For the wisdom of this world is stupid next to God, for it is written, “(He is the one) trapping the wise in their crafty ways.” 20 and, once more, “The Lord knows considerations of the wise that are empty.” 21 So, no longer boast about men, for all (things) are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or (those things) at hand (in the present) or (those things) about to be, all things (are) yours, 23 and you (are) of Christ, and Christ is of God.

3:16 The notion of the community as the Temple of God has Jewish roots. The Essenes at Qumram held their community was the holy Temple, for they claimed the presence of God lived among them, just as his presence dwelt in the Temple at Jerusalem. For St. Paul, the presence of Spirit was proof that the community was a clear analogy for the Temple.

Where can we find God in our lives? In solitary prayer? At Church on Sunday? In nature? In these few verses from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul tried to answer that question in the context of the Corinthian assembly. The community at Corinth was torn apart by petty squabbles and turf fights among groups vying for spiritual leadership. Many of these groups appealed to apostolic roots (3:21; also see 3:1-4), but local leaders may have sought personal power, even to the point of building a cult of personality. In any event, the local Church was in disarray. By implicitly asking the question of God’s presence in life, St. Paul strove to refocus the Corinthians on what was really important in life: God.

As the note above stated, St. Paul used an analogy for the Temple that had some cache among Jews. The community was the Temple, for the presence of the divine dwelt in the Temple. That was the function of any temple, a home for the god worshiped and a place for the worshiper to encounter the god. With the presence of the Spirit in the gathered community, St. Paul could make a good case for the analogy. God is found where Christians gather as Church in order to worship the Lord.

What did this have to do with the Corinthians? Plenty. Leaders within each of these groups implicitly claimed some charism that proved the wisdom of their teaching. St. Paul undercut all their claims by comparing their self-styled “wisdom” to the wisdom of God (3:18-19; Paul even backed up his counter argument with Scripture!). St. Paul also denied these leaders had a special conduit of that wisdom by implicitly stressing the immediate presence of the Spirit; the Spirit gave all good gifts to all believers, no matter the source (Paul or Apollos or Cephas), no matter the time frame (present or future). The Spirit established the dependent relationship the faithful have upon Christ and ultimately upon God the Father (3:22-23). Their leaders had no right to brag about their spiritual power, their wisdom or some secret knowledge (gnosis). All that was necessary for salvation could be found in the community, for it was the Temple of the Lord, the dwelling place of his eternal presence.

Where do you find God? How can you find him with fellow Christians? How can you encounter him at Mass?