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(Part 40)


June 17, 2011
Today’s reading: 2 Corinthians 11:18-30

In the world, “many boast according to the flesh” (2 Cor 11:18a). They boast of human achievements, of human qualities such as beauty or physical strength, of being elevated to high renown in business, government or sports. These are what make them happy and give them fulfillment. These are what they seek after. Oftentimes, the boasting becomes sinful pride.

Unfortunately, such boasting in the flesh has also seeped into spiritual work. Who has the biggest number of members? Who has the most influence in the Church? Who has recognition from the hierarchy? This can be the sinful pride of leaders. But members too are mesmerized by such and are sucked into the fleshly realm, not realizing how they become captivated by their leaders, how they are led astray from the authentic faith, how they are taken advantage of. “For you put up with it if someone enslaves you, or devours you, or gets the better of you, or puts on airs, or slaps you in the face.” (2 Cor 11:20).

What in truth is the mark of a “super-minister” of Christ? (Paul was battling the so-called “superapostles” who were leading the flock astray). It is not elevation to an exalted position, it is not applause of the people, it is not recognition by those in authority. It is the affliction one undergoes for the cause of Christ.

What counts is not the medal of honor pinned to one’s chest, but the mark of scourging on one’s back. What is of greater value is not the crown of jewels but the crown of thorns. What merits God’s approval is not being raised and seated on a throne but being raised and nailed to a cross. What proves one’s authentic work is not the applause of people but the jeers of onlookers.

And so it is that Paul “boasted” of his afflictions. “Are they ministers of Christ? I am still more, with far greater labors, ....” (2 Cor 11:23a). Then he goes on to list all the sufferings and pain he endured (2 Cor 11:23b-28). Paul was not complaining. He was boasting. He wore his afflictions as his badge of honor.

How is it with us? Do we seek comfort and convenience as we serve the Lord? Do we get discouraged when the going gets rough? Do we give up when we are not accorded the gratitude and applause we think we deserve? Do we look only to the blessings but shun the cross? Do we look more to the consolation of loving relationships but are less receptive to the discipline of being formed into an army?

For us in CFC-FFL, God has honored us by deeming us fit to be properly formed according to His way. He has deemed us fit to endure suffering for His cause. God allowed the crisis of 2007 that resulted in a split, but raised us as His remnant that He would restore to our authentic charism. He formed us through the lessons of Lamentations and then through the lessons of Job. He impressed upon us the blessing of redemptive suffering. He moved us along the path of discipleship and prepared us to embrace the cross.

How are we receiving all this? Are we learning our lessons? Are we being formed according to the mind and heart of Christ or according to the flesh? Are we avoiding or embracing the cross? Are we helping or hindering God in His efforts to prepare us for the greater work that is to come?

This year, on our 30th year, God offers us the fullness of His strength. But that can only happen if we have been formed through our weakness. Only as we have truly been laid low can God raise us up. Only as we have been emptied can God fill us. Only as we have embraced suffering can God truly pour out His bountiful blessings upon us.

After four years of intense formation, I pray that we can now truly say, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Cor 11:30). Then we can rightfully follow that up and say, “My God is now my strength!”

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