The Apostle’s jealousy

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2 Cor 11:1-11

I wish you would put up with a little foolishness from me – not that you don’t do this already. The jealousy that I feel for you is, you see, God’s own jealousy: I gave you all in marriage to a single husband, a virgin pure for presentation to Christ. But I am afraid that, just as the snake with his cunning seduced Eve, your minds may be led astray from single-minded devotion to Christ. Because any chance comer has only to preach a Jesus other than the one we preached, or you have only to receive a spirit different from the one you received, or a gospel different from the one you accepted – and you put up with that only too willingly. Now, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to the super-apostles. Even if there is something lacking in my public speaking, this is not the case with my knowledge, as we have openly shown to you at all times and before everyone. Have I done wrong, then, humbling myself so that you might be raised up, by preaching the gospel of God to you for nothing? I was robbing other churches, taking wages from them in order to work for you. When I was with you and needed money, I was no burden to anybody, for the brothers from Macedonia brought me as much as I needed when they came; I have always been careful not to let myself be a burden to you in any way, and I shall continue to be so. And as Christ’s truth is in me, this boast of mine is not going to be silenced in the regions of Achaia. Why should it be? Because I do not love you? God knows that I do.

The jealousy of God!

The words of St. Paul tell us clearly about it…. Often the term “jealousy” has a negative connotation, and certainly there are cases where it has almost pathological traits.

But listening to today’s reading, we can better understand when jealousy has a just reason. It is about surrender to God; a surrender that is exclusive; only to God can we belong; our heart is created for Him, and no one but Him can possess it!

Marriage is a palpable reflection of this reality, because this exclusive self-giving of body and soul to one’s spouse does not tolerate that there is any other person with whom one relates in this same way. And if this exclusivity applies to marriage, it is all the more essential for the commitment to God, because marriage is but a reflection of the love between God and and the human soul.

Today’s reading should be understood in the context of the Apostle’s concern for the Gentiles that the community might turn away from Jesus because a different Jesus is announced to them. It is the jealousy of the Lord that moves St Paul.

And what is behind this “jealousy”?

It is a burning love! Paul has recognised the Lord, who brought him out of the confusion in which he was living and with whom he has entered into a very close and intimate relationship. The Lord has entrusted him with the ministry of Apostle and allowed him to look into His plans of salvation for mankind. Paul has not only gained a deep understanding, but he has also been called to an incomparable ministry, to an enormous responsibility, to set his whole life on fire for the proclamation of the gospel. It pains him, therefore, to see the people entrusted to him turn away from Jesus, from the Jesus he himself has authentically proclaimed to them. Paul senses this “different spirit” to which the Corinthian Christians are opening themselves.

If we look at the landscape of the Church today, we can often find this “different spirit”. It is a spirit that no longer takes the doctrine of the Church so seriously and, in pastoral practice, often deviates greatly from it. It is a spirit that also influences the liturgy, turning it into a mere human conviviality rather than allowing the sacramental actualisation of the Sacrifice and Resurrection of Our Lord to be experienced. This is particularly the case when “liberation theology” influences the life of the Church. We could mention many more examples of how this “different spirit” manifests itself.

One cannot simply label as rigorists those who stand up to defend the doctrine of the Church when it is threatened, even if at times their positions seem harsh and severe. Perhaps one can rather perceive in them the Apostle’s jealousy, not wanting the great treasure of the true doctrine to be altered by this “different spirit”.

The holy Catholic faith is an enormous treasure that has been entrusted to us; a treasure that we must defend with the jealousy of God, fighting like St. Paul so that a “different Jesus” is not proclaimed, nor a “different spirit” end up distorting our faith.