The word “encourage,” in some form, is written ten times in Paul’s salutation and greeting. When something is repeated, we ought to take notice!
This letter is written in response to great turmoil in the relatively new Christian community at Corinth, after the community had first been turned away from Paul’s teachings by false prophets and now – through the encouragement of Titus – had returned to support and follow Paul’s teachings. Rather than criticize their failures, which would discourage them, Paul encourages them to great trust and faith. Paul offers these in order to build hope and trust with the people of Corinth, as well as to animate and energize their Christian lives.
At the same time, Paul is not just writing to the Corinthians, but to himself. His preaching and teaching ministry is not easy, not without challenge and aggressive counter-attacks. Paul himself needs to be encouraged in the same hope and support, and to be energized and animated in the Spirit.
Encouragement is like hope, love and forgiveness: the giving and offering of these does not diminish, but increases the overall “supply” of encouragement, hope, love and forgiveness – for both the giver and the receiver. Unlike material goods, in which the giving is a personal diminishment of these goods, with Spiritual Goods, the giving grows and “bear fruit thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:20)
What opportunities have I been given today to offer encouragement and hope, rather than the temptation towards criticism and regret?
—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is minister of the Loyola University Jesuit Community, Chicago, and also serves on the vocations staff for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus