The One Who Is Above All

The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on January 12th at the Mother of the Light Convent

In the Gospel Jesus speaks of the one who is above all (cf. Jn 3:31), the one who has come from heaven…who is designated to bear witness to what he has seen and heard and to proclaim the word of God. 

Now how does St. Paul reach out to perform this ministry? Firstly, let me recall the words of Paul from another source when he says, I do not hand on to you anything new; what I hand on to you, I have received; and I have received it not from any other man but from Jesus Christ Himself. Paul is referring to his experience along the road to Damascus.

I think we need that in the context of both the Gospel and Paul’s testimony to the Corinthians. Strangely, he begins by saying, I boast, I boast, over and over. A man who boasts generally is not listened to and is turned off very quickly. But Paul is using irony. He says, “I am not boasting as a man of earthliness, I am boasting as a fool- a fool for Christ’s sake, and I dare to boast of that!”

In his reflection, Homilies on II Corinthians, [24], St. John Chrysostom wrote: St. Paul is acting like someone of illustrious race who has chosen to dedicate himself to leading a holy life and who feels compelled to sing the praises of his mentor in order to take down certain people who pride themselves in a life of vanity. Is Paul’s boasting a way of acting in vanity? No! Because the only reason he boasts is to humble the people of vanity.

St. Paul begins his apologia, pointing out his merits, in contrast to those of his opponents. On the score of race, ethinicity, he is their equal; on the score of being a minister of Christ, he is even better qualified. And on the score of his physical and moral sufferings, one cannot but help be moved by this account which provides us so much more information about his life which is not contained in the Acts of the Apostles.

This list is not exhaustive, and much more suffering still lies ahead of him, we can find the prophecy of Ananias already being fulfilled: I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name (Acts 9:16).

Again, we find in the homily of St. John Chrysostom, [25], these comments: No matter how terrible they may have been, the physical evils passed over quite quickly and left behind a great consolation. But what afflicted Paul, what oppressed his heart, what caused him great anxiety was the pain caused by the laxity of the faithful. Without distinction they had become lukewarm! It was not only the behavior of prominent members that caused him pain for he was indifferent to no one. He ranked all Christians, irrespective of their social status, as dearly beloved children of God.

By boasting about weakness, he is boasting about those things which worldly eyes see as weakness, failure, humiliation. It is in this weakness that he humbles himself to call himself a fool – a fool for Christ’s sake.