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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Today the Armenian Church remembers the massacre during the First World War in which more than one million Armenians were killed.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Corinthians 11, 16-33

To repeat: let no one take me for a fool, but if you do, then treat me as a fool, so that I, too, can do a little boasting.

I shall not be following the Lord's way in what I say now, but will be speaking out of foolishness in the conviction that I have something to boast about.

So many people boast on merely human grounds that I shall too.

I know how happy you are to put up with fools, being so wise yourselves;

and how you will still go on putting up with a man who enslaves you, eats up all you possess, keeps you under his orders and sets himself above you, or even slaps you in the face.

I say it to your shame; perhaps we have been too weak. Whatever bold claims anyone makes -- now I am talking as a fool -- I can make them too.

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.

Are they servants of Christ? I speak in utter folly -- I am too, and more than they are: I have done more work, I have been in prison more, I have been flogged more severely, many times exposed to death.

Five times I have been given the thirty-nine lashes by the Jews;

three times I have been beaten with sticks; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked, and once I have been in the open sea for a night and a day;

continually travelling, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from brigands, in danger from my own people and in danger from the gentiles, in danger in the towns and in danger in the open country, in danger at sea and in danger from people masquerading as brothers;

I have worked with unsparing energy, for many nights without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty, and often altogether without food or drink; I have been cold and lacked clothing.

And, besides all the external things, there is, day in day out, the pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

If anyone weakens, I am weakened as well; and when anyone is made to fall, I burn in agony myself.

If I have to boast, I will boast of all the ways in which I am weak.

The God and Father of the Lord Jesus -- who is for ever to be blessed -- knows that I am not lying.

When I was in Damascus, the governor who was under King Aretas put guards round Damascus city to catch me,

and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and that was how I escaped from his hands.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Paul challenges his opponents, those Jewish Christians who were undermining his authority in the community of Corinth, who boasted of their Jewish purity and thus of their superiority to the preaching of the apostle. Paul is not ashamed to boast in front of those, who eulogising their own wisdom, were destroying the community. The apostle realizes that beginning a speech in self-defence might sound ambiguous. In fact boasting is always a way of exalting oneself; it is always an expression of a protagonist who wants to impose himself on others. Pride often leads to having a high idea of oneself. For this reason Paul says that he wishes to speak as a ‘fool,’ so that the Corinthians may accept his self-defence as a defence of the Gospel preached by him and not [a defence] of himself. Paul’s boast reveals, on the one hand, his weakness and, on the other, the strength of the Lord. Paul is not inferior to those “super-apostles”: he is by origin a Hebrew; he belongs to Israel and is also a son of Abraham and heir of the messianic promise. He is proud to be Jewish and to having grown up in the school of one of the greatest rabbis of the epoch, Gamaliel. If this is pride in his origins, far higher is that of belonging to Christ. The apostle writes to the community that he is a minister of Christ in a manner much higher than that of his opponents. He had already written to them apropos of the other apostles: “I worked harder than any of them” (1 Cor 15:10). Now, with respect to these false prophets, he is able to assert with even greater force that unfortunately you, the Corinthians, “put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face” (v. 20). And here with extraordinary passion, the apostle enumerates what he has suffered to proclaim the Gospel revealed to him. Paul’s claims are not intended to brag, but to reaffirm his fatherhood over the community that was risking losing itself. Once more we see Paul’s passionate love for the community of Corinth. To save it he is ready to be confronted by the danger of pride and to risk appearing partial and pretentious. The long list of dangers he incurred contrasts with the superficial character of the Corinthians, as well as with reluctance to spend ourselves for the Gospel, especially when this calls for renunciation and suffering. But in this long list of pains and difficulties, the apostle reminds himself, the Corinthians and us that it was the Lord who supported and helped him. That is why he can say, “If you must boast, I will boast of as it relates to my weakness” (v. 30). From this awareness, one recognizes the true apostle and servant of Christ. The pride of the apostle, the pride of each of us, lies in our weakness, because in that is manifested the grace and strength of the Lord.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets