(1 Corinthians 11, 21-12)
God is calling us today to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the place that Apostle Paul was preaching for the first time in the Asia Minor land. And this first His Speech, is preserved in the New Testament, in the Acts of the Apostles, (cf. 13: 17-41). From here, the Gospel of Christ spread in the wider region. But here the Apostle also accepted the first persecution when the enemies of Christ saw that the city and surrounding villages were filled with Christians. We admire the wonderful personality of Apostle Paul and his vast work in East and West. But one the aspects of the life of this Apostle, who particularly impress us, are that he has experienced so much sorrow in His life and work as no one else. In summary, what He has suffered in its present verse to Corinth's Second Letter: illnesses, hunger, thirst, cold from lack of clothing and dwelling; exhausting hikes with constant dangers from robbers; slander, persecution by Jews and idolaters; his body was filled injuries ; stoning to kill him; wreck when he went to Rome to sue him; courts, imprisonment for four years; and with all of this, and "a thorn in the flesh”(12, 7) that constantly disturbed him without leaving.
You would expect all this to make the Apostle Paul an unhappy, pathetic person! Where has the great grievance toward God: -Lord, what I have done to You and You are tormenting me so? I work for You to teach people to believe in You! Why are you letting all this happen? When people see me in such a situation that I believe in You, they will be afraid to come near You to not suffer themselves!
But none of this was felt by St. Apostle in his soul: On the contrary: "I now rejoice in my sufferings," he writes in the Colossians (Col. 1:24). And to the Corinthians he writes: "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). Strange looks in human logic. But the Apostle Paul was looking very high. Athletes who aim to get gold medals at the Olympic Games are constantly practicing, hard-working, deprived of many things, do not count on pains and inuring to hardships. Similarly, Paul had set very high goals in his life: I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:14). He believed that “ the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” ( Romans 8:18). That is why he did not even hesitate to say to the newly baptist Christians of Antioch of Pisidia: "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14,22). Apostle Paul did not say words “according to their own desires, because they have itching ears” as did the false teachers (2 Tim. 4,3). He was not afraid of listening to people for sorrows and persecutions leaving the Church. He was saying what was in accordance with what Jesus had said: " narrow is the gate and difficult is the the way which leads to the life" (Matthew 7:14). And the Lord provoked: "strive to enter through the narrow gate" (Luke, 13,24).
My brothers, speaking from here, let us take with us the great lesson that the Great Apostle gave us today with his speech and his example. We will have afflictions in our lives. And the Lord said to us, "In the world you will have tribulation" (John 16: 33). But treat each sadness as a challenge for a fight, with the certainty of winning and winning out. Saint Paisios the Athonite was saying, as far as my illnesses were concerned, I had not benefited all the fasts, vigil and exercises of ascetic life. Besides, we are not dealing with sorrows on our own. Christ is always close to us to empower us. And God's Word assures us: “God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). So never to say: - I can not stand any more. Let us face each sorrow with courage, patience, fighting mood and optimism, such as the Apostle Paul. So that at the end of our lives we can say: "I have fought the good fight ... Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give to me” (2 Timothy 4:7- 8).