61 – Of what things can a Christian boast? Two things: his sins and Christ Crucified

‘For a correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture it is therefore necessary to seek attentively what the hagiographers have truly wished to state and what it has pleased God to express in human words.’ This is the wise counsel that Pope Benedict XVI had imparted to the participants of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 2009.

In fact, Greek is a very rich language that requires a demanding work of interpretation, whereby certain passages of Revelation are not easily grasped by amateurs. But, more importantly, besides a profound knowledge of this language, an exegete must also possess complete submission to the Holy Spirit, so as not to cast the shadow of his own ideas upon that which is really the Word of God. The Pauline epistles are the best example of this. And that’s why an explanation of this aspect seems necessary…

Francis

Quote A

‘The privileged place for the encounter with Christ is our sins’. Pope Francis commented that to the untrained ear this ‘would almost seem heresy, but even St Paul said it’ in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (2Cor 12:9), when he affirmed boasting of ‘only two things: of his sins and of the Risen Christ who saved him’. (Morning Reflection in Domus Sanctae Marthae, September 18, 2014)

Quote B

At the end he has this beautiful phrase, “to boast”, after I boast of this, of so many journeys, of countless beatings, of a stoning… all of this…. “But if I must boast” — today he said in that passage — “I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (cf. 2 Cor 11:30). In another passage — you biblicists know it — he says: “I will boast of my sins” (cf. 2 Cor 12:9). (Address to Catholic Bible Federation, June 20, 2015)

Quote C

Of what things can a Christian boast? Two things: his sins and Christ Crucified. […]The Pope then pointed out that Paul “had studied with the most knowledgeable teachers of his time”, yet he never boasted. Rather “he boasted of only two things, and these things that Paul boasted of are precisely the place where the Word of God can come and be strong”. Indeed, he said of himself: “I boast only of my sins”. These were “scandalous words”, the Pontiff said, adding that “in another verse he says: I boast only of Christ and of this Crucifix”. Thus “the strength of God’s Word is in that encounter between my sins and the blood of Christ who saves me. And when there is no such encounter, there is no strength in the heart”. And when we forget that encounter, Pope Francis said, “we become worldly, we want to speak about the matters of God with human language, and this useless” because “it is not life giving”. (Morning Reflection in Domus Sanctae Marthae, September 4, 2014)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of Contents

I – Introductory Exegetic Clarification
II – Of what Weaknesses did Saint Paul really Boast?
III – Sin is not a Factor of Union with God, but Rather of Separation
IV – Those who Stray from the Lord should Repent and Receive Sacramental Absolution
______________________________________________________________________

I – Introductory Exegetic Clarification
II – Of what Weaknesses did Saint Paul really Boast?


Saint Augustine of Hippo
– Boast of evil? But this is not glory but misery
– St. Paul recognized his own nothingness, and that all must be attributed to the God’s grace
– Weakness is the power that holds pride in check

Saint John Chrysostom
– Grace is increased in proportion to the intensity of trials: where affliction is, there also consolation; where consolation, there grace
– By weaknesses, Saint Paul means also persecutions and trials

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– Infirmity is the material on which to exercise humility, patience and temperance; and the occasion for fighting unto perfect virtue
– Glorying of weaknesses: through them the Christ’s grace dwells and is made perfect in us
– Joy in weaknesses: they are the occasion to suffer for Christ and to receive God’s help

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon
– The Apostle shows that man is delivered over to his infirmity, lest being uplifted he might fall away. By means of infirmity, man is acquainted with God’s power

Benedict XVI
– St. Paul is well aware that he is an earthen vessel in which God places the riches and power of his grace
– St. Paul understands clearly how to face every event: God’s power is revealed at the very moment when we experience our own weakness
– We must entrust ourselves to God as fragile earthen vessels, so that He may work miracles through our weakness

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori
– We should glory in the knowledge of our insufficiency, that thus we may acquire the virtue of holy humility

Catechism of the Catholic Church
– Only faith can discern God’s power when it ‘is made perfect in weakness’
– God’s almighty power shows forth by converting us from our sins
– There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle


III – Sin is not a Factor of Union with God, but Rather of Separation


Catechism of the Catholic Church
– Sin is love of oneself unto contempt of God – it is diametrically opposed to obedience which achieves salvation
– Sin turns our hearts away from God’s love for us

Saint Augustine of Hippo
– Even little sins cannot be disregarded: they are like drops of water, which although small, form rivers and drag away boulders
– Sins stink foully

Saint Basil the Great
– Sin is the use of human faculties against the will of God

John Paul II
– Sin is an abuse of the freedom received from God
– The Church believes and professes that sin is an offense against God
– Sin is aversio a Deo – and consequently choosing death
– … and conversio ad creaturam, something contrary to the divine will
– Disobedience to God destroys the bond that unites man with his life principle – an act gravely offensive to God

Benedict XVI
– Sin ruins man’s relationship with God

Saint Augustine of Hippo
– To arrive at a clear understanding of the truth: begin in confession, then let good works follow


IV – Those who Stray from the Lord should Repent and Receive Sacramental Absolution


Catechism of the Catholic Church
– To receive God’s mercy we must admit our faults

Saint John Chrysostom
– Even more than by sin, God’s wrath is caused by sinning without remorse for having provoked Him
– How can we expect forgiveness when we take no account of sin first?

Saint Francis de Sales
– Why die a spiritual death when a sovereign remedy is available? – having consented in sin, make haste to seek purification

John Paul II
– Through the Sacrament of Confession man renews his friendship with God


I – Introductory Exegetic Clarification


 In chapter 12 of the Second Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle repeats the terms ‘boast’ and ‘weakness’ (καυχήσομαι / ἀσθενείαις): ‘I must boast; not that it is profitable, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord’ (2Cor 12:1). ‘About this person I will boast, but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses. Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth’ (2Cor 12:5-6). ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2Cor 12:9-10).
What are these weaknesses? Is it true that they are sins? It seems not, for in other parts of the same Epistle, when he uses the word ‘sin’, he uses other terms: ἁμαρτίαν / προημαρτηκότων.


II – What is meant by the ‘weaknesses’ Saint Paul boasted of?


Saint Augustine of Hippo

Boast of evil? But this is not glory but misery
St. Paul recognized his own nothingness, and that all must be attributed to the God’s grace
Weakness is the power that holds pride in check

Saint John Chrysostom

Grace is increased in proportion to the intensity of trials: where affliction is, there also consolation; where consolation, there grace
By weaknesses, Saint Paul means also persecutions and trials

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Infirmity is the material on which to exercise humility, patience and temperance; and the occasion for fighting unto perfect virtue
Glorying of weaknesses: through them the Christ’s grace dwells and is made perfect in us
Joy in weaknesses: they are the occasion to suffer for Christ and to receive God’s help

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

The Apostle shows that man is delivered over to his infirmity, lest being uplifted he might fall away. By means of infirmity man is acquainted with God’s power

Benedict XVI

St. Paul is well aware that he is an earthen vessel in which God places the riches and power of his grace
Spoiler title
We must entrust ourselves to God as fragile earthen vessels, so that He may work miracles through our weakness

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori

We should glory in the knowledge of our insufficiency, that thus we may acquire the virtue of holy humility

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Only faith can discern God’s power when it ‘is made perfect in weakness’
God’s almighty power shows forth by converting us from our sins
There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle

III – Sin is not a Factor of Union with God, but Rather of Separation


Catechism of the Catholic Church

Sin is love of oneself unto contempt of God – it is diametrically opposed to obedience which achieves salvation
Sin turns our hearts away from God’s love for us

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Even little sins cannot be disregarded: they are like drops of water, which although small, form rivers and drag away boulders
Sins stink foully

Saint Basil the Great

Sin is the use of human faculties against the will of God

John Paul II

Sin is an abuse of the freedom received from God
The Church believes and professes that sin is an offense against God
Sin is aversio a Deo - and consequently choosing death
...and conversio ad creaturam, something contrary to the divine will
Spoiler title

Benedict XVI

Sin ruins man’s relationship with God

Saint Augustine of Hippo

To arrive at a clear understanding of the truth: begin in confession, then let good works follow

IV – Those who Stray from the Lord should Repent and Receive Sacramental Absolution


Catechism of the Catholic Church

To receive God’s mercy we must admit our faults

Saint John Chrysostom

Even more than by sin, God’s wrath is caused by sinning without remorse for having provoked Him
How can we expect forgiveness when we take no account sin first?

Saint Francis de Sales

Why die a spiritual death when is a sovereign remedy is available? – having consented in sin, make haste to seek purification

John Paul II

Through the Sacrament of Confession man renews his friendship with God

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