2Cor 11:18,21-30; Ps 34:2-7; Mt 6:19-23
Even in the midst of great social upheaval and a horrible plague, Saint Aloysius grew steadily in his love of prayer and holiness of life. At the age of 23 he was willing to put his life in danger by joining with his brother Jesuits who served the victims of the plague. He too contracted the deadly disease and died in love and service of the poor. This servant of the LORD had the strength and courage to pray and serve because he knew the constant love of God.
When our mouths are full of praise we cannot speak down to people nor can we ridicule the lowly. We who glory in the LORD give hope to those who have nothing and whose mouths are full of complaints. The lowly hear us and rejoice because we can admit that we too are needy and cannot make it on our own. Anyone caught up in fear, paralyzed by the frightening possibilities of loss, of shame, of punishment, of neglect, of ridicule, of being lost and alone in the world. These are the lowly who are painfully cautious yet, cautiously hopeful when they see us radiant with joy. Among the Corinthians our beloved Saint Paul announced: “I too am weak!” The Lord Jesus reminds his disciples that our real treasure is secure in heaven and that our eyes light up life all around us. Fear and darkness do not overwhelm those who seek the LORD and are delivered from all their distress.
The memory of the Corinthian community treasures the foolishness of their leader in the faith. In a rhetorical move Saint Paul confronts those who “boast according to the flesh.” To those “superapostles” Saint Paul accounts the suffering and weakness of his apostolic witness. Sure, he is of Hebrew origins; he is a descendant of Abraham, our father in faith. Like them Saint Paul is a minister of Christ, and he goes on foolishly to boast of his trials because of this ministry: labors, imprisonments, beatings, brushes with death, stoning, shipwrecks, toils, dangers, hardships, rejection from Gentiles and false brothers, hunger, thirst, fastings, cold and exposure. Even after enduring all this suffering for the sake of Christ, still Saint Paul is filled with daily anxiety for the churches. Even after growing stronger from so much suffering, Saint Paul still worries about the success of his mission. He has yet to learn detachment; he is still attached to an ego investment. This kind of honesty is rare indeed. Yet without this detail of his weakness those new and weak in faith would never be able to learn or grow from his example. We are all in need of such candor from our leaders. Such was the admission of weakness from Pope John Paul II when he confessed that, as a church, we have often failed in our apostolic witness. Without any denial of our dignity as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” our recent pope publicly proclaimed our fear and hesitation to be strong in charity and humility. Indeed, such honest admission of failure is necessary to learn from the past and live fully the abundant life of grace and glory Christ came to bring us.
Uprooting vice and planting virtue is the daily pressure we need to continue to grow faithful as the bride of Christ. Any other anxiety is simply self-idolatry. We too easily worship our own self-image; we to readily worry about what others think about us. Such worry is storing up treasure on earth. When we realize that our true life is with Christ, hidden in the splendor of the Father, then we have no need to worry. “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” This is the key to a life of peace that passes understanding. Only then will our eyes be sound and our bodies filled with light so that we can become bright with the Glory of God. Such a glorious witness will bring joy to those who live in fear and distress. Then and only then will the Eucharist serve to light up that future to which all are summoned by Christ and the apostolic witness.