Memorial of Saint Cornelius, pope, and Saint Cyprian, bishop, martyrs
(I Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 7:31-35)
Both St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian were caught up in the intense persecution of mid-third century. Both died martyrs for the faith. Both also were involved in the debate within the Church regarding how to treat the lapsi. These were Christians who apostatized or left the Church rather than be martyred. The issue was whether they could be readmitted.
Cornelius was besieged from two sides. He thought the lapsi could be forgiven but should do penance. Some of his critics, however, thought all apostates should be forsaken. Evidently, critics on the left did not find a rigorous penance necessary. Cyprian likewise thought the lapsi could be forgiven.
The wisdom of both Cornelius and Cyprian in forgiving the lapsi is reflected in today’s first reading. Paul’s famous elegy on love testifies that love bears all things, even apostasy. Paul also claimed that love “does not brood over injury.” Rather it gives hope by charting a course of repentance. Sinners then can make amends for their wrongdoing and be strengthened to sin no more. This is essentially what the Church prescribes for us in the Sacrament of Penance. We are never forsaken in our sins. We always, because of God’s intense love, have recourse to forgiveness.