Ave Maria! “Not that we are sufficient
to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is
“Not that we are sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God.”
As I prepared to write today’s sermon, it occurred to me that I have probably preached about the Good Samaritan each and every year I have been a priest. He is such an easy character to talk about: A Samaritan—an outcast among the Jewish people. An outcast, yet one who clearly does outstanding good. One who does good for strangers, when even their own people won’t help them. He is a sterling example of what our Lord meant when He said:
Love of neighbor is the second thing we must do to gain eternal life—and it would be best if our love of neighbor was as powerful and effective as that of the Good Samaritan.
So, having said that, let me say a few words about today’s Epistle.
In it, Saint Paul refers to the conversion of the Corinthians to Catholicism, and clearly gives credit to God for their conversion. We can read in the 18th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles that Paul began in Corinth by preaching about Jesus Christ at the synagogue every Saturday. But we also read that “they contradicted him and blasphemed” so he moved his preaching to “the house of a man named Titus Justus” to preach to the gentiles. Some of the Jews, including a man named “Crispus, the president of the synagogue, and his family” were converted, but it seems that most of his converts were from among the pagan gentiles. In any event, the Corinthians were a difficult bunch to bring to the Faith, and Paul recognizes God’s hand in it.
Those who had read the Old Testament understood what Paul wrote about Moses and the glory that shone forth from his face when he came down from meeting God on the mountain. Moses meeting with God made his face so bright that it hurt people to look at him, so he began to wear a veil over his face.
But the Law of Moses consisted largely of things not to do. To use Saint Paul’s term it was a “ministration of condemnation.” The Gospel, on the other hand, he calls a “ministration of justice,” because most of the things of the Gospel draw us closer to God in holiness, rather than being lists of things we must do or not do. The Gospel does not annul the moral law, but it does speak to us as the adopted children of God, whom Jesus Christ has made capable of receiving diving grace. The Mosaic Law was good and glorious, but the Gospel is very good and very glorious:
But, again, Paul recognizes that the Glory of the Gospel is not his own doing, but rather the work of Jesus Christ acting through his ministers. We heard something like this in our Catholic Studies Group a few weeks ago:
St. Thomas Aquinas likens the minister of a Sacrament to “a pipe through which water passes, be it silver or lead.” He concludes:
One might ask why the Gospel then did not convert all of Paul’s listeners in the synagogue—it was God’s power and not Paul’s—how could it not have been effective? A few verses later, in the material we did not read this morning, Paul suggests that the veil worn by Moses somehow dulled the heatts of his listeners—that when they read the Old Testament they were blind to its predictions of the coming of Christ. They knew that a Messias was coming, but they were blinded to the ways in which He would be made known. But Paul is optimistic, for after all it is the power of God at work and not his own insignificant power:
There is an important lesson we can take away from reading Saint Paul’s epistle today. We should, with a similar sense of our own humility, recognize that all of the good things we do in our own life with God come to us from Him. Our own efforts may be important, but in all things, it is God’s will that must be done, and His power that must flow through us to do it.
Saint James puts it in a more poetic way in his epistle, also worth reading and taking to heart:
We must still do the work, but we will be successful only if God wills and aids us to do what He wills. Saint Benedict together with Saint Augustine put this into perspective:
 “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.”
 Acts xviii: 6-7 Confraternity translation
 Acts xviii: 8 Confraternity translation
 The spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict and generally used motto of his Order.