My brethren, since many others boast according to human standards, I will also boast. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that.
But whatever anyone dares to boast of, I am speaking as a fool, I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman, I am a better one: with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the desert, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not eak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise always on my lips;
In the Lord my soul shall make its boast;
tThe humble shall hear and be glad. (R./)
Glorify the Lord with me;
together let us praise his name.
I sought the Lord and he answered me;
from all my terrors he set me free. (R./)
Look towards him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called; the Lord heard him
and rescued him from all his distress. (R./)
Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness."
The Sermon on the Mount raises a problem we instinctively feel about Paul's tendency to boasting. Whereas Jesus says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," sometimes we get the uneasy feeling that St Paul speaks too much about himself.
Poor Paul gets caught up in a confusing whirlwind of boasting. "Since many are bragging, I too will boast," he says, with evident embarassment. We need to see this in context. Paul was trying to answer some bitter criticisms that came back to him from Corinth, where he had planted the church some years earlier. Oddly enough, the " boasting" that he does is mostly about the failures, disappointments and rejections he has suffered. When drawn into the boasting game, he can list only his sufferings while pursuing his apostolic work. Yet he leads the people to put their confidence in the power of the Spirit. Paul's eloquent bragging is not really an attempt to lay up earthly treasures, for he hopes to direct them to the source of any real strength that we have. His way of handling the false claims of others is such a delicate balance that it is hard to imitate. But it enables us to reconstruct his personal biography and to have a rare insight into his personality.
Other words of Jesus provide more practical advice. He advises us to have a "good eye," filled with light and so able to see goodness and light in the actions and hearts of others. Rather than be annoyed by their faults and idiosyncrasies, our "good eye" can recognize their good side. We should commend them for their virtues, not condemn them for their vices, and not imitate them in bragging or boasting. But if we must brag, let it be about the grace of God that helps us in whatever are our weaknesses, failures or moments of rejection.
St Paul boasts of experiences that most people would consider misfortunes, only to be mentioned in hushed tones. He speaks of beatings, imprisonments, floggings, stoning, shipwreck and much more. If he "boasts" of all these negative experiences it is because they came to him in the service of Christ. It was because of his preaching the gospel that all this suffering and misfortune came his way. They demonstrate where his true treasure lay. Paul valued Jesus Christ above everything else in life., As he says to the Philippians, "I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
When Jesus invites us to store up for ourselves true treasures in heaven, he is calling on us to take him as our one and only Saviour. In the language of the parables, Jesus is the pearl of great price. The Eucharist gives us an opportunity to treasure his priceless presence in our lives.