2 Corinthians 11:1-11
Matthew 6: 7-15
Reading today’s message to the Corinthians, I find myself hoping that at some point Paul allowed himself to head for a Grecian field so that he could scream to his heart’s content.
After venting his frustration, he probably needed to weep a thousand tears, too.
How could a message so simple, so rooted in truth, get so muddled? How could Paul find himself needing to reinforce his legitimacy as a messenger of Christ when his very body bore the scars of his true witness? Superapostles?! They probably also tried to sell the Corinthians an oasis in the Judean desert…
Whatever it was they were selling, it must have presented a sort of "spiritual bling." And it was working, to the point where Paul garners every rhetorical argument, every emotional truth, to win back the hearts and minds of those whom he loves so dearly in Christ’s name. It must have broken Paul’s heart, time and again, to be a shepherd to this vast flock who could feel conflicted so easily and stray so predictably.
It is not Jesus who is complicating things, of course. The Lord’s Prayer, which we read today in Matthew’s Gospel, is one that even a child can recite. We did, and we do. Over and over again, because we, perhaps like those ancient Christians, forget sometimes to remember that it is "thy will be done," that we are reliant on God for our spiritual food, and that the forgiveness of trespasses is a gift God gives to us out of love and one we need to share with those who wound us.
I guess when all is said and done, what is complicated about following Christ is what is complicated within: the tug and pull of willfulness; the distraction of deadlines to be met and people to be pleased; the desire for more of whatever feels good; the ego that dislikes second place and hurts others. Just before today’s Gospel, there is that beautiful passage: But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
We needn’t be confused by superapostles, spiritual bling, or our own inner turmoil. We have a quiet room inside our self, we have been given a simple prayer, and more than that, we have been blessed by a relationship to a God who loves us more than we can ever know. It is simple, and simply profound.
Nancy Nickel is director of communications at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago, Illinois.