The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Book III Chapter XL: “Man has no Good of Himself and can Glory in Nothing” (first entry)
Chapter 40 is the disciple’s response to Christ. He acknowledges his nothingness and that any progress he makes is with God’s help. Praise of God is abundant here and, as seen in the quote above, all glory is to go to God, not to the disciple.
|Today’s first reading: 1 Cor 3: 1-9
Paul is commenting on the Corinthians’ spiritual progress or lack thereof. Paul and another disciple, Apollos, have evangelized in Corinth but progress is slow. The Corinthians are still very much thinking in worldly, not otherworldly terms. Apparently they’ve even broken up into factions and pledge allegiance to either Paul or Apollos. Thus the quote above (Paul as planter, Apollos as waterer, but God who gives life). He closed by calling himself and his friend “God’s co-workers” and the Corinthians “God’s field.”
With this reading I am reminded of two other passages of Paul’s:
For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor 1:11-13)
When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they cried out in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in human form.” They called Barnabas “Zeus”* and Paul “Hermes,” because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, for he together with the people intended to offer sacrifice. The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments* when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Men, why are you doing this? We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God, ‘who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.’ (Acts 14;11-15)
Talk about directing praise, magnification, and blessing to Christ! Paul understood he was a chosen instrument of God, and all that he accomplished was due to the Lord. The “praises of men” seemed to not even tempt him in the least to pride (imagine what he could have had had he acknowledged that he was a god!).
So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” (Lk 17:10)
Words to live by. Paul did.