Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,”
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-15)
4:7 in earthen vessels: At present, our human bodies are frail and corruptible, like jars made of clay. The difference between earthenware and treasure points to the distinction between the perishable nature of our bodies and the imperishable riches of grace they contain. Paul fills others with this treasure through his ministry of preaching and administering the Sacraments (CCC 1420). ● Paul is using a cultic expression from the OT that refers to the sacred vessels in which sin offerings were cooked (Lev 6:28). In a similar way, we carry the sacrificial “death of Jesus” (2 Cor 4:10) in our suffering bodies.
4:8–11 The grace of apostleship safeguards Paul against despair. Although in constant distress, he is not shattered or overcome by anxiety as a result of it. Hardships conform us to Christ when we follow his example of suffering (Phil 1:29; 1 Pet 2:21), while endurance is inspired by the hope of resurrection (2 Cor 4:14; Heb 11:35).
4:12 but life in you: The sacrifices of Paul are united with the sacrifice of Jesus and, for this reason, unleash the blessings of God (Col 1:24). As Christ’s death brought life to the world, so the apostle’s ministry of daily “dying” becomes a channel of life for others as well.
4:13 I believed, and so I spoke: A citation from the Greek version of Ps 114:7. ● Psalm 116 is a hymn of thanksgiving in which David recalls his faith in Yahweh during times of distress and remembers how he was rescued. Paul and the other apostles share this faith that God will deliver them from mortal dangers—and even death itself—and expect to thank him in return.
St Paul again stresses that the effectiveness of all his apostolic activity comes from God, He it is who places his treasures in poor earthenware vessels. The image the Apostle uses—which is reminiscent of the clay which God used to make Adam, helps Christians realize that through grace they bear in their souls a wonderful treasure, God himself; like earthen vessels they are very fragile and they need to be put together again in the sacrament of Confession.
The Apostle’s words assure the Christian that he or she can always count on God’s help; no matter what trials they must undergo, victory can be attained with the grace of God. Moreover, St Paul’s example reminds us that more or less severe suffering and tribulation will be a normal thing in the lives of Christ’s followers; theirs will never be a comfortable, trouble-free life.
What should inspire all Christians is the firm belief in the resurrection glory, the basis and cause of which is Christ’s. This provides us with the hope of sharing this happiness in heaven, in the presence of God, with all the faithful for whose salvation he is working on earth.
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.