Homily for the 13th Sunday in ordinary
Dearly beloved, two weeks ago, while celebrating fathers’ day, I used the occasion to encourage you to read the Second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. I hope, definitely not all, but some, took the opportunity with the background we looked at to read. I did say we will take time again this Sunday to give a summary to the rest of the book. Those who did read will find additional insight to many of the things you have read already.
A few highlights from the other weekend might be helpful. We noticed that Paul himself founded this church in Corinth. He received complaints of many troubles on going from a group who met in one “Chloes house” (1 Cor 1:11). This necessitated him writing his first letter addressing the issues at stake. This first letter, however, was not received in good faith. Paul made a journey to the community, which he termed “a painful visit” (2Cor 2:1). This “painful visit” was followed with a letter, which according to Paul, he wrote in anguish and tears through Titus. (This letter seems missing.) After all these measures, most but not all in the community repented and changed their attitude towards Paul.
Paul therefore writes again acknowledging his readiness to forgive and maintain the brotherhood between them. In this letter as we noted, he takes time to share light on the very issues for which their relationship has been estranged. We looked in a form of a summery chapter 1 to the end of chapter 7. I should continue from chapter 8 but again permit me to back up from chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7. After a long comparison between the old and the new covenants, Paul continues from chapter 4 emphasizing the new covenant rectified by Jesus on the cross. Paul begins to show how the paradox of the cross ridicules the Corinthian’s estimation and definition of success. Because Jesus’ exultation as king came about through His suffering and crucifixion, it was on the cross that Jesus revealed God’s salvation. The cross reveals God’s character of love, sacrifice and self-giving to others for their well-being. The cross also reveals a new way of life. So Paul demonstrated to them how his way of life is identical to the new life after the cross of Christ. So by their disapproving of his way of life through suffering and self-giving, they equally disapprove of Christ too.
After this passionate appeal Paul moves on to address them in chapters 8 and 9, their forgotten generosity. This comes about with regard to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who have gotten into serious poverty as a result of famine. Paul was raising money through these churches he had established who were mainly non-Jews. Each were sending some relief items to Jerusalem to support, as a symbol of their unity in the Messiah, Jesus so these other churches were so happy to give. However, this church, for all that was going between them and Paul, had made no efforts to gather anything yet. And to Paul, the issue was not just simply about money, but a further sign that the Corinthian church had not been truly transformed by the gospel of Christ Jesus. At the heart of the gospel is the generosity of God, who gave up his only Son, not only that but, Christ also freely giving himself to die on the cross was an act of generosity.
He tells them in these words
“For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.”
This quote is part of our second reading this morning if you listened very well.
Dearly Beloved, Christ died so that they who were impoverished in sin and death will be set free and raised into the riches of God’s grace. Your generosity to the church and others around you must therefore come from an understanding of the gospel in terms what you have received; Of course from the generosity of God and of Christ. The least you owe is your life in this and the next world to him. Giving of your time, money and any resources is of value to God and blessings to you, when and only when it is done in response to the generosity of God to you. Think again of why you give, what you give and how much you give. Has it any reference to the value you put on what you believe Jesus has done in your life? This will be the reflection from our readings today.
Allow me to continue from chapters 10 to 12, where Paul focuses on the main cause of the conflict with the Corinthians. This was centered around that group of impressive leaders that he sarcastically called “supper apostles”. These came to Corinth proclaiming themselves and badmouthing Paul as an unsuccessful Leader. Paul at this point, I believe, allowed himself to be carried away. As it were, he was ready to take them on in terms of credentials and religious experiences.
Are they Jewish Bible experts? So is Paul; he was a Pharisee with the whole bible memorized.
Studied under a renowned scholar in his time? If they wanted to brag about a superior knowledge about Jesus, Paul had a direct encounter with him at the initiative of our Lord himself.
And more, his cause was for Christ. For which he never took any income from the Corinthians, unlike these “super apostles” who charged for their ministry.
In the end Paul says, he refuses to brag about any of these. He calls himself a fool for being compelled to race out with them in such comparisons because these are the least of concerns to the Christian life. Instead he will rather brag about how floored and how weak he is. Why? Because it is in those weaknesses and inadequacies that he experience the love and mercy of Jesus.
In conclusion, Paul warns them to be humble and allow the gospel of Christ to transform them into his very image. At the end of it all, I can equally ask you, how much of you is so transformed by the gospel of Christ? How renewed in your mind and heart are you by the message of Christ?