"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

The Fool's Speech


The Conversion of Saint Paul (Caravaggio), c. 1600-1601


The first reading today is touted as ‘The Fool’s Speech’, because it is full of ironies. Paul differentiates himself from typical speakers in Corinth who overly become content with their knowledge, rhetoric and many prized human abilities. Paul boasts of a different strength, that is, strength in weakness which led him always towards total reliance on God. He wanted to direct the Corinthians towards such reliance and not the shaky reliance on oneself which is the root of the first of seven capital or deadly sins–pride.

We see a different side of a sarcastic Paul who is speaking so bitterly to emphasize his point. He seems to even go overboard to contradict himself. In the famous 1 Cor 13, St Paul writes “Love does not boast itself; it is not proud.” When we hear him say, “I too will boast” he is not contradicting himself. St Paul says that if he were to boast of anything that would be his own weaknesses. Let us listen to St Paul again, “I am still more, with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, far worse beatings, and numerous brushes with death. Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.” Paul surely super-exceeds the feat of those so called super-apostles. If Jesus is the Suffering Servant of the Lord, Paul also is the suffering servant of Christ.

St Paul prays to the Lord to take away a particular weakness or imperfection which he describes simply as the “thorn in the flesh.” Not only once but three times he pleads with the Lord. But the Lord replies to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” After that Paul realizes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong…” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

When I am down, I think of St Paul. I know you too have met someone like him at one point in your life. They are reminders sent by God that we ought to approach God first like a human father like in the prodigal son story. We all need a father who understands our imperfections or failures. That is another that I can boast having a Father in heaven who gives Himself as our true strength for He knows that we need Him. A true and loving father loves his child for who he or she is. I will end with a quote from CS Lewis, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you." Fr JM Manzano SJ

Comments

  1. Amazing grace! Perfecting an imperfect...Weak becoming strong...Proud becomes humble...Forgiveness in pain possible...A God became a man... Making human divine.... In nothingness, attains everything...Everything is a grace. Thoughts popping-out from this stirring reflection. Thanks!

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  2. Your reflections and sharing are sources of spiritual nourishment. Thanks for everything. May God keep inspiring you and bless you. KS.TH.GB.

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    1. Thank you for your very kind words! We all owe it to the inspiration of the HS. Like what St Anselm once said, "I cannot seek you, if you do not teach me how, nor find you if you do not show yourself." GBU!

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  3. Thank you po for your grace-filled sharing, Fr. Jom...
    St. Paul is indeed a man of faith and prayer for from there gush forth his unwavering love for God and indestructible courage to proclaim the Good News...
    I remember once your founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, said, "There is no doubt that God will never be wanting to us, provided that He finds in us that humility which makes us worthy of His gifts, the desire of possessing them, and the promptitude to cooperate industriously with the graces He gives us."
    That's why he prayed, "You have given it all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and grace. That is enough for me."
    We are continuously receiving graces from Him... It's just that we need much and much more humility to recognize them as well as our limitations... Amen.. God Bless you always.. TC.

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