When you read today’s first reading from 2 Corinthians, it helps to remember Greek soldiers did not hesitate to boast of their past and future triumphs. They were not subject to our standards of modesty or humility. If their boasting before battle was proven presumptuous, they wouldn’t be there to suffer the humiliation because they died in battle.
Saint Paul will upend their pretentions. At his wits’ end after being informed of his rivals’ many accomplishments, he boasts not of his achievements but of his suffering. As he has said to the Galatians: But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
He did, however, apologize for his madness. Cooling his heels in another Roman jail, he was all the more distressed by the news from Corinth.
Saint Paul, more than anyone else in the New Testament, allows us to see and feel his personal experience of being a Christian. He shows us how one can view both sides of pain, its misery and its satisfaction. Jesus had told us to take up our crosses and follow him; and he had certainly led us on that road; but Saint Paul allows us to know how it feels.
At one time he had vigorously opposed the Christian “way,” now he supports it. At one time he stored up this world’s accomplishments, now he despised them. At one time he caused suffering, now he called it down upon himself – in imitation of Christ.
Saint Paul eagerly entered the door Jesus had opened and assured us it’s not really that bad. The repulsive becomes desirable; and the formerly desirable, insipid. As we face our occasional crises, daily trials and the chronic illnesses that seem to pile up the longer we live, the Apostle teaches us to rejoice in the Lord always.