20Jun 20 June, 2013. Thursday of the Eleventh Week

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.

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

First Reading: 2 Co 11:1-11

I 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.

Words can clear the air

Some of the Corinthian Christians must have accused Paul of merely “rattling” words, seeing him as just a talker, not a doer. They must have complained that he should be more tolerant and patient towards their faults. Paul does not back down but claims the right and privilege of speaking openly to them. He lashes out at roving preachers who want to undermine the Corinthians’ loyalty to himself and adopt a different vision of Jesus. He dubs them as troublemakers, “super-apostles,” and implies that these so-called apostles were making a good living off the people, and treating the preaching ministry as a profitable career. By contrast, he and Barnabas were prepared to work manually 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.

His plain speech cleared the air and purified the people’s hearts. Paul calls on them to make their language “Yea” and “Nay” (2 Cor 1:18) and dedicate their lives to Christ. Here is the best kind of forgiveness, wiping the slate clean so that all can begin over again, this time with mor wisdom and maturity. Using an Old Testament image to describe this new life: they are like a chaste bride coming to her marriage, with joyful enthusiasm to be united with Christ. This imagery from the prophet Hosea (Hos 2:16), was developed by Jeremiah (Jer 2:2), Second Isaiah (Isa 54:5) and the Song of Songs, and is echoed in various ways in the preaching of Jesus.

Paul’s words seem to have purified the Corinthians and brought back to life all their first fervour, as a “chaste virgin” presented in marriage to Christ. By forgiving one another each of us takes on towards our neighbours the reconciling role of Elijah and of Paul. We announce the coming of God’s kingdom and both receive and distribute the “daily bread” he gives us.