Friday of Week 11 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:18, 21-30

Paul continues to defend his credentials over against those ‘super apostles’ he felt were misleading the Christians of Corinth. Apparently they were boasting of their qualifications, so Paul feels he must do the same and he is confident their record is no match for his own.

He begins by pointing to his own impeccable Jewish credentials. It looks as if that was just what the ‘super apostles’ were trying to do at Paul’s expense. On several occasions in his letters, Paul appealed to his Jewish past.

But he can certainly match their credentials – and even more. Like them he is a Hebrew, an Israelite, and a son of Abraham. Elsewhere he tells that he was even a Pharisee. In other places, Paul distinguishes authentic from inauthentic heirs of Abraham. Here he allows his opponents to claim descent from Abraham, but only to emphasise the claim that immediately follows. He even allows them to call themselves ministers, servants of Christ, because he has further credentials which they cannot come near matching.

He goes on to describe what his ministry of Christ has involved. The long list of trials and hardships are what he has been prepared to undergo in the service of his humiliated and crucified Lord. There is no way his opponents can match this level of service and dedication.

For the sake of Christ and for the preaching of the Gospel he has been through far more than any of them – far greater labours, far more imprisonments, far worse beatings and numerous brushes with death. There follows a long list of hardships, sufferings, dangers – all the result of his unstinting efforts to get the message of Christ through to people. Apart from what Paul enumerates here, there is no other record of these hardships in the New Testament.

He mentions the following:

  • Five times receiving 39 lashes (the legal limit) from the Jews
  • Three times beaten with rods
  • Stoned once
  • Three times shipwrecked
  • A night and a day waiting to be rescued at sea
  • Frequent journeys with dangers from rivers, from robbers, from his own people, from Gentiles
  • Dangers in cities and in the wilderness
  • Dangers at sea
  • Dangers among brothers who proved treacherous
  • Toil and hardship
  • Sleepless nights
  • Hunger and thirst
  • Frequent fastings, which may have been voluntary or involuntary
  • Experiencing cold and exposure
  • On top of all that there were his concerns about the well-being of the churches. He has always totally identified with their problems:

    Who is weak and I am not weak, who is led to sin and I am not indignant?

    Finally however, if he really must boast, he will boast of his weakness. We will see more about that weakness in our final reading tomorrow.

    He knows his rivals cannot match this record of dedication and self-sacrifice and his total commitment to the needs of his people. He can match them on every other level, but they can come nowhere near him in what he has been prepared to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. He offers this as proof of the genuineness of his apostleship over against what he sees as preachers of novelty.

    Paul’s list is highly impressive and very few of us has been called or will be called to make anything like the same sacrifices for the living and sharing of our Christian life. But perhaps we could do more than we have done so far and be more ready to undergo some inconveniences for the sake of Christ and those who are hungering for his Word.

    We can ask ourselves the threefold question:

    What have I done for Christ?
    What am I doing for Christ?
    What will I do for Christ?

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