Thank God for Chloe, and thank God for Chloe’s people!
St. Paul learns that there are divisions in the Corinthian Church. He learns about the strife from “Chloe’s people.” Her name means “a young, green, growing shoot.” The Biblical scholar Fr. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor claims that Chloe is a Gentile Christian woman who runs a business with employees or slaves. She is probably bothered by the fact that triumphalism is smothering the Christian Church. We recognize triumphalism easily. When we boast about our degrees, our friends, our wealth, our race, our country, when we lord it over one another or separate ourselves from the community, we are nothing more than a “triumphalism” because we exalt ourselves way too much. According to St. Paul, this type of thinking and acting empties the cross of Christ of meaning.
According to Pope Francis a number of years ago in a homily during Mass with Vatican employees: “The triumphalism of the church stops the church.” It becomes a church that journeys only halfway to its goal of salvation because people become satisfied with everything being “well organized — all the offices, everything in its place, everything beautiful, efficient.” Too many times, “we are faith-checkers instead of facilitators of the people’s faith.”
Jesus does not call Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him to check on people’s faith. Nor does he call the apostles to lord it over others. “Come after me,” Jesus says, “and I will make you fishers of [men and women].” Even though I hate fishing, the metaphor is superb. People who fish recreationally or commercially need to be patient, hard working, tough and committed. In the words of an early church writer- Jesus chooses his apostles “not for who they are but because of what they can become.”
When the sin of triumphalism creeps into our lives, you and I need a “Chloe” in our lives. This is triumphalism today: I have more Latin. I have more music. I follow the right mass. I kneel for communion. I work for the poor. I pray the rosary. I wear the habit. Now, all of these things are good if I want to use them as aids to my faith. But when I use them to lord it over you, then I empty the cross of Christ of its meaning. Triumphalism is not Christian. It destroys the essence of discipleship. The Israelites had Moses. The Corinthians had Chloe and Chloe’s people. The apostles had Jesus. Who is that Christian in our lives, that honest, straightforward woman or man who pulls us back into integrity? We need a Chloe and we need Chloe’s people to keep us honest and to pull us back to the Gospel of Christ.
Here at the Eucharist may we all become Christ’s people. May we become young, green, growing shoots so that the Body of Christ radiates God’s Light to the world.
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
3rd Sunday Ordinary Time