It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven, whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person, whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows, was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that nobody may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it ould leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
The angel of the Lord is encamped
around those who revere him, to rescue them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
He is happy who seeks refuge in him. (R./)
Revere the Lord, you his saints.
They lack nothing, those who revere him.
Strong lions suffer want and go hungry
but those who seek the Lord lack no blessing. (R./)
Come, children, and hear me
that I may teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is he who longs for life and many days,
to enjoy his prosperity? (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples, "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first or the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today."
In a provocative turn of phrase, Paul writes, "I must go on boasting, however useless it may be." Even if he had been priveleged with visions and revelations of the Lord and in a vision was caught up to Paradise itself, he feels the foolishness of talking about it and says he will boast no more except about his weakness, which God helps him to bear. The passage becomes more intelligible if we remember that Paul dictated his epistles (and then to prove the authenticity of the letter signed it in his own handwriting, (1 Cor 16:21). When Paul asked his secretary to re-read that part of the letter to him, he probably added "no more boasting."
He frankly admits that he was tormented by "a thorn in the flesh." Many have tried to guess what Paul meant by this intriguing "thorn." Was it an unattractive appearance, a recurrent sickness, poor eyesight, a tendency to intemperately blunt speech? Was it an unfulfilled instinct for intimacy, having set aside the natural desire to marry? All we know is that this "thorn in the flesh," whatever it was, prompted him to turn repeatedly to God for help. Paul records that in answer to his prayer, God said, "My grace is enough for you, for power comes to perfection in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9). Knowing his weakness led Paul to discover a source of strength far greater than his own gifts and talents. His weakness led him to depths of prayer and dependence on God, as expressed in Jesus' words, "Don't worry about tomorrow. Your heavenly Father knows all that you need."
"Enough for the day, let tomorrow take care of itself." According to Jesus, it is more vital to live today than to worry about tomorrow. Life is more important than food, the body more valuable than clothes. It is not fair to the environment, much less Christian, to be enslaved to exotic foods and luxurious clothing. We need to review our values and goals, "Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?" Selfish desires lead to all sorts of trouble, but as Paul points out, weakness turns into strength when it brings us to prayer and trust in God and the memory of God's goodness. This lesson can put our values back into order, for God can change our "thorns" into occasions of grace.
We all worry from time to time. Worrying is part of the human condition. Parents worry about their children. Family members worry about each other. Young people worry about their future. Jesus must have worried about his disciples, about the lack of response on the part of some of his contemporaries to his message, about many things. In today's gospel Jesus is not saying "don't ever worry about anything." The focus of worry in that gospel is food, drink and clothing, and the worry in question is excessive worry or preoccupation. Jesus says it is the pagans who set their hearts on such things.
We are not to set our hearts on trivial things. The message is really about getting our priorities right, getting them into line with God's priorities. To make it quite clear Jesus declares, "Set your hearts on God's kingdom first, and on his righteousness." Don't be so preoccupied about food, drink and clothing that there is no room in your heart for what God expects of us. The first phrases of the Lord's Prayer give what might be termed God's priorities, "Hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done." These were Jesus' priorities and we need to make them our own as well.