Friday June 20, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 11:18, 21-30) Gospel (St. Matthew 6:19-23)
Saint Paul addresses the people of Corinth regarding these superapostles who had come down to Corinth to tell them that the way they had been living as Christian people was not proper, that they were supposed to be circumcised, that they were supposed to be living in a certain manner. As it was, they were boasting about themselves, about their abilities, about their qualifications, and the like. So Saint Paul said, “Well, if you’re going to believe them because they’re arrogant and boasting about themselves, then I too will boast.” But as he goes through, he says, “I will boast only of the things that show that I am weak.”
Now he goes on in his letter to tell us that in weakness power reaches its perfection. This is something that is difficult for us to be able to understand because it appears just opposite of human wisdom. But when we see what Saint Paul is talking about and how he suffered for the Faith all these different things that he speaks of in chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians, we recognize that it is precisely in being beaten and whipped and stoned and shipwrecked and so on that he has proven his faith. But it is in these particular things that he had no ability to do anything else. In other words, he did not start out by saying, “I will show you how strong a Christian I am by going out and getting whipped.” Or, “I am going to get stoned just to prove to you how much I really believe.” Or, “I’m going to get shipwrecked so that you’ll understand.” No, he had no control of the things that happened to him in these ways, and the Lord used those things to break Saint Paul of any selfishness, to help him recognize how completely weak he was and that he had to rely solely on the Lord. And that is the point he is making. These superapostles relied on themselves and on their own strength, on their own ability. They boasted of themselves, not of God. So Saint Paul says, “The only thing I can boast about is my weakness; otherwise, I have to boast of the Lord because He is my strength.”
That is precisely what it must be for each one of us. If the Lord is our strength, the Lord is our light, the Lord is our peace then we have everything because He is within. As Our Lord makes clear in the Gospel reading today, He says, “If your light is darkness, how dark it will be.” Just think about that. What is the light in your life? If the light in our life is sin, selfishness, pleasure, comfort, arrogance, boasting of the self, all of these sorts of things, we are walking in total darkness. All that we have is ourselves, and we all know that there is absolutely zero hope in the self – none. Try getting yourself to Heaven, it is not going to work. Try all by yourself living a truly Christian life, it is not going to work. All that we can do if we are trying to do it ourselves is boast about ourselves and how wonderful we are. And I think we all know how disgusting it is to listen to somebody boasting about how great they are.
If, on the other hand, Christ is our light, then we will be radiant. The light will radiate from within because it is the Lord. We will be able to boast of Christ and Him crucified. Look at the crucifix and ask yourself if that is strength, if that is, on the human level, what we would consider something strong, something that we can boast about. It is brokenness, it is weakness. What Saint Paul was boasting about was his weakness, that he could not do anything by himself. And neither can we. The Lord makes that very clear several times in the Gospel. Without Him we can do nothing. That is how weak we are; we can do nothing without Him. So why do we spend so much time focused on the self, boasting about ourselves and all the foolishness, building up treasure on earth, making sure everybody knows how wonderful we are? All we are doing is digging ourselves a deeper place for eternity. On the other hand, if we fill ourselves up with Christ then we are storing up for ourselves treasure in Heaven. The Lord will be our light and how brilliant the light will be. But if sin and selfishness is our light, we are walking in darkness and that is where we will spend eternity.
Those are our choices. If Jesus Christ crucified is our strength – in what humanity thinks is total weakness, foolishness, and so on – then we have found the truth because we have found divine strength not human strength. Then the strength of God that brought forth the Resurrection of Christ from the dead will shine in our bodies and in our lives. And how brilliant the light of Christ in our hearts will be.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.