Friday of week 10 of Ordinary Time – First Reading


Commentary on 2 Cor 4:7-15
Having presented an impressive picture of the Christian as someone brighter than Moses reflecting the glory and beauty of God’s Word, Paul now goes on to the paradox which this situation raises.
He confronts the difficulty that his present existence does not appear glorious at all, that it is marked instead by suffering and death. He deals with this by developing a topic mentioned earlier, asserting his faith in the presence and ultimate triumph of life, both in his own and in every Christian existence, in spite of the experience of physical suffering and death.
Certainly, many of his critics would have called in question the image he himself offered to the world. And Paul is the first to make the admission. “We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us.” The treasure is the glory that he proclaims and into which all those who hear and accept the message will be trans-formed. But the instruments carrying that treasure are very fragile, like the small terracotta bowls used for oil lamps.
He will make the same point later on in the letter in his famous passage about the mysterious “sting of the flesh" with which he was afflicted. “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
In doing the work of the Gospel Paul gives a list of some of the troubles he has experienced but their net outcome is that others have benefited.
 
In difficulties on all sides, but never cornered;
see no answer to our problems, but never despair;
persecuted, but never deserted;
knocked down, but never killed.
The picture is a negative one but there is always an underlying experience of bringing help and salvation into people’s lives. As, of course, was the ultimate outcome of the appalling suffering and death of Jesus.
And so he concludes: “Always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body.” What a marvellous saying! Jesus is the paradigm. Paul’s sufferings are connected with Christ’s and his deliverance is a sign that he is to share in Jesus’ resurrection. Even when battered and bruised and rejected, he is reflecting the life-giving suffering and death of Jesus. A saying that could be applied to many who have suffered for the Gospel.
He continues in the same vein: “While we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” In other words, his experience of suffering does not end in himself but affects others. The Christ-like suffering which Paul experiences brings life to those to whom he brings the Gospel. Here is a living out of the eighth Beatitude: “Happy are those who suffer in the cause of right.”
All of this is an important clarification of what he meant earlier by the dazzling brightness of the Christian disciple and apostle. The greatest brightness is seen in the one who is ready to undergo every suffering and every indignity for the sake of Jesus. It is the thinking behind John’s gospel where the evangelist sees Jesus’ last agonising moments on the cross as his moment of glory. It was at that moment that the presence of God in Jesus shone brightest. It was the centurion, seeing the dying and battered body of Jesus, who said: “Truly this man is Son of God.”
So Paul makes no apology for all that he has done in Corinth. Quoting from Psalm 116, he says: “I believed, and therefore I spoke.” For him, there was no alternative. “We too believe, therefore we speak.” Like the Psalmist, he clearly proclaims his faith, affirming life within himself despite death and the life-giving effect of his experience upon the church.
“Knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us [Paul and his helpers] also with Jesus and place us with you in His presence.” Paul sees God presenting Paul and his companions together with the Corinthians to Jesus at the final parousia. We may note the strong expression of unity and reconciliation between Paul and the Corinthians in spite of the difficulties between them. As he says, “Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.”
Whatever people might say or think of him, Paul had only one aim: the glory of God and that as many as possible should know and acknowledge Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Undoubtedly, Paul had his faults, glaring faults. And some of these faults must have rubbed some people the wrong way but, as he will say later, it is precisely because of these that God’s message shone out more clearly through him.

The same can be said of us. Let us learn to see our weaknesses not as obstacles but as opportunities.

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