Today’s second reading is from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. He says to them, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him, crucified.” In this letter, he reminds the Corinthians that the first time he came to them, he did not throw his weight around. Even though he was a scholar of the law, he presented the word of God in its simplicity, Jesus Christ crucified, and nothing more.
How did Paul get here? Remember, he was a very smart scholar of the law. He studied under the great scholar, Gamaliel. He relied very much on his wisdom, and he was zealous for the law. It was this zeal to defend the law that motivated him to persecute Christians; he saw Christians as enemies of the law until his conversion on the road to Damascus. Before he came to Corinth, he was in Athens. Acts of the Apostles 17 tells us how he relied on philosophy, and how he used human logic to preach to the people, but the result was a failure. From that point, Paul must have learned his lesson that it is not by human power; it is not by human wisdom, but by the power of God do we succeed. He learned his lesson that the word of God in its simplicity already has all that it takes to effect conversion. So, when he arrived in Corinth, he decided to preach the simple message of Christ crucified.
Central to the first reading, the responsorial psalm, and the gospel passage of today is the theme of light. Christians are the light of the world. They do not have to become that light through their own power. Their responsibility is to show who they are as evidence of God’s grace. The first reading and the responsorial psalm show us how we can shine by caring for the poor. The first reading says, “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.”
St Paul thought he could shine with his wisdom, but he learned from his failure and he began to rely entirely on the grace of God. He said to the Corinthians, “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” After he tried his strength, and he failed, he decided to make his weakness available for the service of God. He left himself in the hands of God, his strength, and his weakness, and he realized that the power of God was made perfect in his weakness, so he was no longer ashamed of his weakness having seen how God was reaching his people even through the simplicity of his language.
As Christians, many of us feel called to share the light of Christ with our communities, but we hold back because we think we are inadequate, we feel we are not as talented as other people who are doing it, we think we don’t have the solid background that they have. Sometimes we feel we can’t find God; we feel God is so far away from us. But the truth of the matter is that we are way ahead of God, He is just where we are, in our simplicity, in our ordinariness, in our weaknesses, but we are running so fast away from ourselves, trying to be sophisticated, trying to be who we are not. We want to impress others. We want to be in control, when that is not our responsibility. Remember, you are already the light. Just shine where you are now. Be true to yourself, and you will be surprised at what God can do through you even in your simplicity. Before you give in to the voice of discouragement, remember that God does not choose the qualified, he qualifies those he chose.