16Jun 16 Jun Thursday of Week Eleven

2 Cor 11:1ff. The church at Corinth is “a chaste virgin espoused to Christ,” and called to fidelity. Paul will not be a financial burden to them.

Matthew 6:7ff. Prayer ought not to be too wordy but modelled on the Our Father and therefore incorporating a spirit of forgiveness.

Words can clear the air

Some people at Corinth must have accused Paul of merely “rattling” words – of being just a talker, not a doer. In their gossip they must have complained that he should manifest a more tolerant and patient attitude towards their faults. Yet Paul did not back down but stated his personal independence and his privilege of speaking openly to them. He lashes out at the roving preachers who wanted to undermine the Corinthians’ loyalty to himself and replace the vision of Jesus as preached by Paul. He dubs these troublemakers “super-apostles,” and disdainfully implies that these so-called apostles were making a good living off the people, and treating the ministry as a profitable career. By contrast, he and Barnabas were prepared to work for their living (1 Cor 9) so that the gospel message was untarnished by personal gain and could be accepted as God’s pure word.

Paul’s plain speech cleared the air and purified the people’s hearts. He calls on them to make their language “Yea” and “Nay” (2 Cor 1:18) and their lives one of total dedication to Christ. Here is the best kind of forgiveness, wiping the slate clean so that all can begin over again, this time with greater maturity. He draws on an Old Testament image to describe this new life: they are like “a chaste virgin,” a bride coming to her marriage, with joyful enthusiasm to be united with Christ. This tradition, going back to the prophet Hosea (Hos 2:16), was developed by Jeremiah (Jer 2:2) and Second Isaiah (Isa 54:5) and especially the Song of Songs, is echoed at different moments in the preaching of Jesus and in other New Testament writings.

They are assured that sin will not leave any scar or blemish on them. Here is the fullest and most effective form of forgiveness, with the redemptive work of Jesus brought to fullest expression. The words of the Our Father come true because “your kingdom has come, your will has been done on earth as in heaven.” In this endorsement from Paul the Corinthians received that very day, that “daily bread,” for which each of us must pray.

Paul’s words seemed like flaming fire but they purified the Corinthians and brought back to life all the innocence of their first fervour, as a “chaste virgin” presented in marriage to Christ. By forgiving one another each of us takes on the reconciling role of Elijah and of Paul in the lives of our neighbours. We thereby announce the coming of God’s kingdom and both receive and distribute the “daily bread” which he gives us.(1) 2 Co 11:1-11I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough I think that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. I may be untrained in speech, but not in knowledge; certainly in every way and in all things we have made this evident to you.

Did I commit a sin by humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I proclaimed God’s good news to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for my needs were supplied by the friends who came from Macedonia. So I refrained and will continue to refrain from burdening you in any way. As the truth of Christ is in me, this boast of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

Gospel: Matthew 6:7-15

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

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