Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We cause no one to stumble in anything, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry; on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God, through much endurance, in afflictions, hardships, constraints....
During the 1980's there was some interest shown in the stages of adulthood. Researchers discerned three stages: early, middle and senior adulthood. They corresponded roughly to the years: 20-40, 40-60 and 60-80.
Early adulthood is a transition from childhood to maturity. The individual learns to put away the things of childhood. Adolescent jokes about sexuality and flatus are no longer paralyzingly funny. The budding adult becomes what she set out to be, learning to think, feel and act as a parent, employee, employer, citizen and so forth. One's role becomes one's identity, without apology. Lawyers think like lawyers, engineers, like engineers; and doctors, like doctors. The young adult learns that other adults take her seriously and listen respectfully to her opinions; she dismisses the self-consciousness she felt as a child in the company of adults. She is an adult.
In today's first reading Saint Paul describes how he became an apostle. He wants "no one to stumble in anything, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry; on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God....
If he ever said, "I want to be known for what I am rather than what I do" -- one of the banalities of the Boom Generation -- he has forgotten it. Saint Paul is determined with the grace of God to be an apostle "through much endurance, in afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts...."
His opponents will certainly not regard him as a man apart from his apostleship; his torturers will not take a break from torturing to share a beer with a fellow human being. That kind of thing happened in Monty Python comedies, not in real life. Paul will not appeal to their common humanity for sympathy when he acts like an apostle.
Rather, he will be guided "by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech, in the power of God...." This is the way of the apostle, the way of the Christian.
When I took my vows as a Franciscan fifty years ago, I pledged to live this way of life, "with the help of God," as Saint Paul said, in the Holy Spirit... in the power of God.
It may be possible to be a ruler, lawyer, soldier or plumber without the Holy Spirit, but Christians would never attempt it. Why would they want to?
Putting aside the things of childhood we are fully committed to life in the Holy Spirit, as adults who belong to Jesus Christ.