Homily for 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Introducing Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.
Dearly beloved, sometime last year, we had the opportunity to touch the basics of sessions of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Within this period for some time now, all our second readings have been taken from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Even though we are into the 5th Chapter of this book, my purpose today is to encourage the reading of this thematic and beautiful second letter of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
As you can remember from that time looking at the first letter, we understand that this Church was started by St. Paul himself in a very commercial town. This church for many reasons had a lot of troubles. St. Paul had cause therefore to write to them addressing different problems within the community; however, the response Paul got from his first letter was not a good one. So Paul followed up visiting himself which he called a “painful visit”. After this visit he followed up with a letter which he wrote in anguish and tears. The letter was very strongly worded. This particular letter is believed to be lost.
After this letter, most but not all in the church, realized their arrogance and unfair treatment and apologized to the Apostle. They wanted to reconcile. So Paul then wrote another letter, which in actual fact should have become his third. But now has come to be known as 2 Corinthians to assure them of his love and commitment.
Dearly Beloved, though there are many themes in this letter, one can identify three major sessions with each addressing three broad themes. In the first session, he speaks from chapter one through to seven, and he addresses their relationship in terms of his forgiveness to them. Then in chapters 8 and 9, he speaks of their forgotten generosity and in the final session, he challenges the remaining Corinthians who continue to be hostile toward him. Allow me to get down to some few texts so that you may see how all these play out.
From chapter one, he begins by thanking the God of mercy and comfort who brought peace and encouragement to him and the Church in Corinth. Paul acknowledges that things have been tense since that painful visit and he makes it clear, he has forgiven them but he wants an open and honest relationship.
The question to ask now is why, in the first place, would they reject Paul and strain their relationship? It is so surprising for the reasons Paul gives as he addresses them. Among them, they disregarded him as a leader because he is poor. He earned a meager form of living through manual labor, he was under constant persecution and suffering. He was often homeless and above all they comparatively saw him as an unimpressive speaker. The church was exposed to other wealthy and impressive church leaders and they began to think less of Paul. They were in fact ashamed of him as their leader, who had nothing that they could boast of about him.
Paul began to show that their elevation of these leaders simply because of their wealth and eloquence, is a betrayal of the true gospel of Christ. True Christian leader qualities hves nothing to do with status or promotion. He rather depicts himself together with the rest of the apostles as captives to the true King Jesus, who is leading them on a procession of triumph. Paul’s job was to lead people to Him and not to himself. He again addresses some members of the church who required of him to provide some letters of his recommendation as their proof of his authority. To Paul this request was ridiculous since their existence as a church is a proof to his leadership qualities. He deliberately quotes the prophet Jeremiah and Ezekiel saying, God and his spirit have written his letter of recommendation on their hearts as his new covenant people. This reference to the new covenant people sets off a long comparison between the old and new covenants. The old made through Moses and the new made through Jesus Christ. Paul admits how the old covenant indeed transformed the Israelites into the children of God, however, far more glorious, is the new covenant which is rooted in the death of Christ on the cross. And you know what Paul will do? He will now begin to further his conviction concerning his way of life, which is not so inspiring to many, for which he continues to suffer many abuses. His humility, selflessness, etc. are an imitation of Christ and the cross.
I will look again at other themes in the weeks ahead.
Now permit me to turn briefly on the passage before us that we may draw some few lessons for our reflection.
St. Paul figuratively speaks of two homes. In each instance, it takes
courage to stay. (You have to understand the usage of this figure of speech in relation to the philosophies on the time concerning the body - Platonism)
Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
The reality of life in this world for believers, however, is that while we are at home in the body (living in the flesh)we are absent from the Lord. Please do understand the context in which Paul speaks. He does not mean that the believer can not experience the active life of God while in the body. As Catholics, we have communion with the Lord through the sacraments, prayer and study of the Word and abide in Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit. But whether in this home in the body or home in heaven, St. Paul continues …..
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
Just pause for a moment. The aspiration and ambition of the Christian is none other than to please God. When was the last you had time to think of what actually your aspiration and ambition in this life is? Know very well, you will be leaving this body to be at home with God. What will happen at that time? St. Paul continues …
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.
Dearly Beloved, no good is so small not to be seen and rewarded and no sin is too insignificant to be neglected when the day of the Lord comes. What is expected of you then? Seize each moment to do what is right and don’t overlook the wrong things that you do while in this body. However temporal this home in the body may be, it is a gift of God to you. In that nothing you do while in this body can be disregarded. Good or bad. Therefore, learn to appreciate the life you have now and let each moment count unto the good.