Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
(II Corinthians 11:18.21-30; Matthew 6:19-23)
A scene in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is reminiscent of St. Paul’s rhetoric in the first reading today. Gatsby has enticed into his mansion Daisy Buchanan, a woman on whom he had a crush years earlier. In the former time he considered himself beneath Daisy’s social class, but now he has accumulated a fortune. The scene pictures Daisy beginning to cry as Gatsby displays his bountiful wardrobe of shirts. Gatsby has successfully impressed Daisy as having arrived on high.
In his letter, which is considered to be a composite of at least two writings, Paul has reason to similarly impress the Corinthians. The context is unknown, but apparently Jewish critics have bad-mouthed Paul to the Christian community. Paul here tries to defend himself by giving a list of his sacrifices for Christ's sake that rivals the trials of Job. Paul describes such a defense as foolish boasting but proceeds with it anyway. He hopes to disabuse the Corinthians of any doubts about his authenticity.
Although at times he may have acted imprudently, Paul remains the model apostle. More than any other known evangelizer, Paul sacrificed himself for the sake of preaching Jesus Christ. We are enriched almost as much by his commitment as by his message. The next time we feel embarrassed to bless ourselves when passing a church or to say grace before a meal in a restaurant, let us remember the example of St. Paul.