Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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2 Corinthians 12:7-10 : What Do You Boast About?
In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

One of the questions that Saint Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians addresses is the distinction between true and false apostles. Paul refers to the false apostles as “super-apostles”, who boasted of having great “spiritual gifts” and prided themselves in being able to speak well (2 Corinthians 11:5-6), in having experienced a vision of God (12:1-5) or in being able to perform wonders and mighty works (12:11-12).

Paul does not consider himself to be inferior to these “super-apostles.” He eloquently proves that he too has been given all these gifts. However, Paul has understood that as an apostle of Jesus Christ, God has decided to reveal himself in a different way in him. For Paul, the only valid sign of apostolicity is the “weakness” the apostle is willing to accept so that the “power of Christ” may be manifested. Thus Paul says: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (11:30), “for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (12:10).

How has Paul come to understand this? He says that in order to keep him humble he was given “a thorn in his flesh” (12:7). Many have tried to guess what Paul meant by this “thorn”. Some have said that it refers to an incurable illness, and others to his failure to win over his own nation, the Jewish people, to the Gospel. In any case, this is Paul’s living experience of the “cross”, which is one way of translating the word that is used for “thorn” in the text. This experience is fundamental in Paul’s understanding of how God reveals himself in the person of Christ and how he will save the world.

Paul’s experience can shed light on our own existence. Often we do not know what to do with our own weakness, except to hide it or run away from it. It frightens us to discover our own fragility. For we say to ourselves: “If others see what is broken in me, they will not love me.” In Jesus, especially in the way he welcomed those who were considered to be weak in society, and finally by giving his life on the cross, we understand that God uses the door of vulnerability to enter the world. God is vulnerable because God is love. Anyone who has decided to love knows that to love means to become vulnerable. In Jesus, we understand that God is the most vulnerable of us all.

Thus, for Paul, it is when he is weak, poor, sick, rejected by his own people that God’s power is seen most clearly. “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). In a world that exalts power and efficiency, where weakness is a sign of failure, this is a very big challenge.

- What makes me proud? What do I like to boast about? Can boasting be positive?

- “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Do I agree with these words? Why or why not? Do they change the way I see myself and others?

- “For Christ to grow in me, I must know my own weakness and the weakness of others.” What do these words written by Brother Roger in the Rule of Taizé mean to me?

Other bible meditations:

Last updated: 1 July 2022