In today’s first reading Paul engages in what might look like logical teasing. He is quoting from what is most likely a hymn of the early Church, to which, in the opinion of scholars, Paul adds the last contrasting sentence and there is where the tease lies. He seems to be building up expectations, so that the logical non sequitur he adds can help the readers to remember the valid expectations raised by the hymn.
This is not the only time Paul uses this strategy to make a point. In his first letter to the Corinthians [9: 19-22] Paul tells them: I made myself a Jew to the Jews, an out-Law to the out-Laws, weak to the weak… I made myself all things to all, so as to save some. Not “to save all”? It does sound like a non sequitur.
This apparent inconsistency is what I think I recognize in today’s reading:
This is the sort of non-correspondence –non sequitur– we saw in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. His becoming all things to all might be good enough to save some, not all, simply because the latter is God’s work, not Paul’s.
It is important for us to keep in mind the reassurance built into the non sequitur we find in the hymn’s last verse in today’s first reading, simply because we are –should be – aware of our less than flawless faithfulness. Our unfaithfulness will never make God unfaithful. I am confident, as I think Paul was confident, that the logical tease, the non sequitur, at the end of the hymn quoted will also help us remember the assurances and the caution (about disowning) of the first part of the hymn.
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