Brothers and sisters: As God is faithful, our word to you is not “yes” and “no.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not “yes” and “no,” but “yes” has been in him. For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him; therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory. II Corinthians 1:18-20
As you may remember, this year is the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of St. Paul the Apostle.
Since the end of the Christmas season, we have been reading at Sunday Mass from St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.
As we remember, Corinth was the capital of the Roman province in southern Greece, and it was a capital of pagan decadence. When he first preached in Corinth, St. Paul had great success. He won many enthusiastic converts, who became his beloved spiritual children. When he continued his travels, however, St. Paul received reports about the Corinthian church that troubled him. The Corinthians had begun to doubt his authority.
As you recall, St. Paul wrote First Corinthians while he was in Ephesus, across the Aegean Sea from Corinth. Then he had to leave Ephesus suddenly. The Ephesian silversmiths made a tidy profit producing pagan idols. They were not pleased with St. Paul’s success in converting their customers to Christianity. They started a riot. Cooler heads prevailed, but if they hadn’t, St. Paul and his companions likely would have been martyred then and there. After this close call, St. Paul’s friends persuaded him to leave town.
It may be that the Apostle then went to visit Corinth. We can gather from Second Corinthians that, on this visit, the Apostle encountered crushing hostility from the very spiritual children he had come to help. It appears that he left Corinth abruptly.
We know this for sure: At one point St. Paul planned to go yet again to Corinth, but he decided against it, because he feared another painful encounter there. Instead of going in person, he wrote Second Corinthians.
The fact that St. Paul had changed his travel plans is what moved him to write the beautiful passage of the letter quoted above.
He had heard that the Corinthians were accusing him of playing games with them, saying he was coming to visit and then not showing up.
This report broke the poor Apostle’s heart even more than anything that the Corinthians had done to him previously. Could his beloved spiritual children think that he would be insincere? That he blew hot and cold, that he had a divided heart?
The Apostle wrote: “The Son of God was not ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ but ‘yes.’ However many are the promises of God, their Yes is in Him.”
God is truth. The Word of God is truth. St. Paul took the occasion of the Corinthians misunderstanding his motives to make this all-important point. Almighty God does not play games with us. He does not say, ‘Maybe I love you, maybe I don’t.’ He is not confused. He does not change.
No. In Christ, God has said an eternal and unchangeable ‘Yes.’ Did He make us out of love? Yes. Does He have a perfect plan for our salvation and eternal happiness? Yes. Is He willing to do anything to get us to heaven, even sacrifice the only-begotten Son? Yes. Is God absolutely faithful to all He has promised. Yes. Yes. Of course He is. He is God. He is Truth Itself.
In this passage, St. Paul told the Corinthians something that we do well to remember ourselves. The Apostles were human beings just like us, prone to the same struggles.
But the Apostles did not teach on their own human authority. St. Paul did not go to Corinth and teach his own opinions or philosophy. St. Paul taught the truth about God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the holy, infallible Word—the Almighty Yes of the Father’s infinite love for us. This infallible Word of truth is the bedrock of the Church’s life.
Our Catholic faith is not an opinion, nor is it a logical conclusion of human reason. It is our obedient response to God Who has spoken to us.
What the Church teaches about God is not one proposal among many. It is not something we hear and say, “Oh, that certainly is interesting!” or “I like what you’re saying, but I have my own take on it.” It is not something we vote on, or take a poll about.
No. God has spoken His all-encompassing Word in Christ. Our response is also one word: “Amen.”
We receive the Truth of God in its entirety. We receive every consoling part. We receive every difficult part. We receive every part we understand. We receive every part we don’t understand. We receive it all—the entire solemn teaching of the Church—and we say, “Yes, Jesus. Yes. Amen.”