Thursday, November 11, 2010

At the Crossroads: In the Footsteps of St. Paul

By Father Ben Alforque, MSC, V.F.
Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

I am now in Greece to lead a Bible-Study-on-Site with a group of 38 people coming from the Diocese of San Bernardino and from other states across the country. This study-pilgrimage forms the second part of the Filipino Ministry of the Diocese of San Bernardino's program: Discovering and Re-discovering the Roots of Our Faith. This covers the early Christian communities founded by St. Paul in what are now Greece, Turkey and Rome.  We have a bonus in the island of Patmos and Padre Pio.

Upon arrival in Athens in the morning of the 5th of November, we proceeded right away to Corinth, visiting along the way the port of Cynchrae.

Ah, the ancient City of Corinth!  There we walked beneath the shadows of the huge columns of what used to be the Temple of the Apollo, the Greek god of music and eternal youth. Behind the temple were the Roman baths and the Agora which the Romans maintained as a commercial center and forum for philosophical and religious education. There is the "bema", the court that tried Paul under the pro-consulship of Gallio.  Behind it lies the Roman complex of other baths, physical training centers, public offices, refectories and temples dedicated to the Roman Emperor-Gods. There is what used to be the "macellum" where animals offered on the altar of the gods, were sold and distributed by priests for the people to eat in public places reserved for the well-to-do and leading citizens and in homes of ordinary people and slaves. All of them were acquainted with mystery religions, their esoteric initiation rites, intoxicating revelries and hedonistic rituals. There is also what used to be the Asclepeion room and hospital dedicated to Asclepius, son of Apollo and the physician god with his symbolic snake.  Above the city looms the magnificent acropolis - the highest point of the city - which hosted the Temple of  Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of beauty and erotic love.

In this highly stratified, divided and philosophically and religiously multicultural Corinthian society, Paul preached Jesus the Christ and his enduring alternative message!

After an existential critique of social divisions afflicting the Christian community, he preached the unity of the Body of Christ! Beyond the infantile notions of unclean food eaten with bacchanalian revelry, he re-articulated the Eucharistic words of Jesus in the sacred meal of His Body and Blood! Against the come-ons of erotic love, he preached true Christian love! In the human quest for good health and eternal youth, he proclaimed our participation in the resurrection of Jesus and life everlasting!

We prayed for you all at the Eucharist we celebrated in the cruise ship Orient Queen.

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