Day 344: The Thorn in Paul's Side

Acts 23 1-11 The details of Paul’s trials relate closely to the trials of Christ. Both were falsely accused, sent before both civil and religious authorities, and struck in the face by the order of the high priest. What differs markedly is that while Christ said little in his own defense, Paul was quite vocal in the course of his own trials. Christ’s mission was to die for our sins; Paul’s mission was to give witness to the Gospel and die for Christ. (CCC 2473)

Ch 23:5 Nothing here offers a clue as to why Paul did not recognize Ananias as the high priest, but his apology, with its citation from the Jewish code of Law, indicates that he highly respected the authority of the Law. (CCC 1898)

Ch 23:6-10 Paul employed a divide-and-conquer strategy. Realizing that his audience was split between Pharisees (who believed in the resurrection) and the Sadducees (who did not), Paul announced his identification with the Pharisees. The argument that ensued won him some supporters from among the Pharisees. (CCC 993)

Ch 23:12-35 Upon learning of a plot by a large number of Jews to seize and kill Paul, the Roman tribune ordered a change of venue and sent Paul to be tried in Caesarea under the Roman judicial system. (CCC 2242, 2245, 2273)

Ch 23:26-30 The tribune, in his letter to Felix, white-washed the facts in claiming that he initially had saved Paul from being beaten by the mob because he knew Paul was a Roman citizen.

2 Corinthians 12:1-10 Speaking of himself in the third person, Paul revealed that he had been granted a vision of Heaven among other supernatural experiences, but at the same time a “thorn” was also given to him by Satan. He accepted this suffering because the power of Christ is perfected in such weakness. It is not clear whether this thorn represented an illness, a disability, the constant opposition he faced, a particular temptation, or some other nagging obstacle. (CCC 1508)

Ch 12:2 The third heaven: Jewish terminology of that day spoke of three levels of the heavens: the first was the atmosphere; the second was the layer that contained the sun and stars; and the third heaven was Paradise, or what we would simply regard today as Heaven. (CCC 326)

Ch 12:9 My grace is sufficient: Rather than remove the thorn, God allowed Paul to experience redemptive suffering and the strengthening grace necessary to endure his pain for his own purification. The personal experience of suffering should prompt the individual to find strength and solace in the heart of Christ. (CCC 268, 273)

Ch 12:11-21 Anticipating his next visit to Corinth, Paul assured the Christians there that he would always put their best interests first and would not be a burden to them. He confessed, though, that he was concerned that many of the people might have slipped back into sinful lives and that the visit might be a sad and contentious one. Some apparently had not repented of their sins and perhaps still supported the false apostles. (CCC 2744)

Ch 13:1-13 In closing, Paul asked the members of the community to examine their consciences and to strive for truth and all that is morally right. (CCC 648)

Ch 13:1 Under the Law of Moses, at least two witnesses were needed to prove an assertion in court. Those who failed to repent would receive a fair trial when Paul arrived.

Ch 13:4 Crucified in weakness: In being arrested, insulted, beaten, interrogated, and finally crucified with little or no self-defense, Christ appeared weak in human terms. Nonetheless, he chose to endure all of that in order to save us from our sins and reconcile us to God. Paul compared himself to Christ insofar as his sufferings won many graces in his work of evangelization and his quest for personal sanctity. (CCC 648)

Ch 13:13 This verse, which is one of the most lucid Trinitarian doxologies in the New Testament, is among the options by which the bishop or priest can greet the congregation at the beginning of Mass. Reconciliation with God and his Church is the starting point for a deeper participation in the life of Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 249-256, 685, 734, 1109, 2627)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

  • So St. Paul is in the Acts of the Apostles Ch 23 once again on the ropes

  • Here he is once again on trial

  • We led up to the trial yesterday in Ch 22 before the chief priest and the council

  • That’s what opens it up

  • It’s interesting because they included this portion of the story before the council where he snaps back at the high priest

  • Then they say, “Yo, that’s the high priest!” 😉

  • And Paul is like, “Ooops. Sorry. I take it back. I didn’t realize you are the high priest.”

  • This might be a fun little bit of trivia in the sense that this happened while he was in front of the council

  • BUT…

  • It could also be a DEEPER LESSON

  • In St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans Ch 13 he talks about OBEYING THOSE WHO ARE SET OVER YOU

  • And even St. Paul, in apologizing right away about snapping back at the high priest

  • Acts 23:5, “...You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”

  • Yeah, it’s written in the Law to not do that

  • So St. Paul is demonstrating not only that he has MANNERS

  • BUT…

  • St. Paul is also demonstrating that he KNOWS THE LAW

  • He is before the council which is very preoccupied with the Law

  • He demonstrates that he has a familiarity and desire to uphold the Law

  • BUT…

  • St. Paul gets out of this, once again, by making the argument not so much to get the people to agree with him

  • As much as he realized, “Hey there are Sadducees and there are Pharisees here. So how about this? How about I get them fighting with each other?” 🤔

  • And he does!!

  • He doesn’t lie about it

  • He says, “I’m on trial because of the Resurrection of the Body or the Resurrection of the Dead.”

  • And it is VERY CLEVER



  • So it is Paul’s nephew who usurps the plot to kill Paul

  • It’s one of those situations that it’s a small detail

  • BUT…

  • There is so much about Paul we don’t know

  • We know that he was unmarried

  • We know that Paul had a sister

  • We know that Paul’s sister had at least one son

  • So maybe here is this son, this nephew of Paul who also is a believer in Lord Jesus

  • Maybe he wasn’t

  • But he did work to save Paul’s life

  • So pretty good on nephew of Paul

  • Imagine calling him Uncle Paul


  • Here’s part of the story and not only do brothers and sisters in Christ come to each other’s aid

  • Even that extended family

  • Nephews

  • Nieces

  • Uncles

  • Aunts

  • That kind of situation

  • Here we are in the family of God

  • BUT…

  • Here in Paul’s own family, it is family by blood that he is rescued that day

  • Now onto the conclusion of 2 Corinthians

  • St. Paul, once again, gets a little bit SALTY

  • Remember, he has been criticized at this point

  • There are some “superlative apostles” who have come along and misled people

  • St. Paul, as we said yesterday, is JEALOUS

  • NOT jealous of their attention

  • BUT…


  • So St. Paul is doing EVERYTHING HE POSSIBLY CAN to win their hearts back

  • 2 Corinthians Ch 12 is one of Fr. Mike’s favorites in the entire Bible

  • St. Paul begins by talking about a man he knows

  • It’s one of those situations where, “Hey, I’ve got this friend and he’s got this rash…”

  • 2 Corinthians 12:2, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven-whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.”

  • Basically he is talking about HIMSELF

  • The general consensus is St. Paul is talking about HIMSELF


  • Later on he says 2 Corinthians 12:5, “On behalf of this man I will not boast…”

  • 2 Corinthians 12:7, “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me”

  • Ok this other guy 14 years ago had this INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE



  • “And in order for ME to not become too elated….”

  • So it makes the most sense that it is PAUL that he is talking about

  • BUT…

  • The part that is FASCINATING is not just the part that God gave so many revelations

  • But we don’t know what the THORN IN THE FLESH was

  • We don’t know if it’s a PHYSICAL AFFLICTION like he’s sick

  • We know he had problems with his eyes maybe that’s what it was

  • It could have been a mental illness

  • It could have been a SIN OR TEMPTATION that he struggled with in his life

  • It could have been a DEEPER SPIRITUAL WOUND that he just experienced

  • We just don’t know what it was

  • BUT...

  • We DO know that Paul BEGGED THE LORD THREE TIMES to take it from him

  • And God’s response is INCREDIBLE

  • Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

  • Sometimes, when we are wrestling with weakness or sin maybe in our lives

  • Maybe it is a physical ailment

  • We just want God to TAKE IT AWAY

  • Sometimes there is that sense, “I want God to take away this temptation. I want God to take away this sin because I don’t want to sin anymore. I don’t want to fail him anymore. I don’t want to break his heart anymore.”

  • BUT…

  • Sometimes it’s, “I just want to be done with this so I don’t need to rely upon his grace anymore.”

  • In some ways, I want this to be over because RIGHT NOW I have to WALK IN FAITH

  • RIGHT NOW I call out to the Lord EVERY SINGLE DAY


  • Saying, “God, please help me take this next step. I want this to be over so I don’t need to rely upon you so much anymore.”

  • In some ways, THAT IS WHAT WE ARE SAYING!!

  • But Paul got this message from Jesus

  • “No. My grace is sufficient. It is enough. For my power is made perfect in weakness.”

  • St. Paul gets SO CONVERTED by this

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

  • Now he doesn’t boast in Jesus

  • He boasts in his weaknesses

  • 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

  • For all of us who are part of this community, walking through this world, are we content with weaknesses?

  • Are we content with insults?

  • Are we content with hardships?

  • Are we content with persecutions?

  • Are we content with calamities?

  • OR…

  • Would we say, “No, I still buck against them. I still kick against them. I still rail against them. I still rage against them.”

  • OR…

  • Is there a place where we say, “Ok you know what? Ok Lord, it has come to my attention that this is your will for me. That this is what you are allowing in my life. So rather than kick against them, I am going to accept them. Rather than fight against them, I am going to lean into them. And when I lean into them, I’m going to lean into YOU. Into your LOVE and into your MERCY. I’m going to TRUST you.”

  • So I am CONTENT with weaknesses

  • I am CONTENT with afflictions

  • I am CONTENT with calamities

  • Because IN CHRIST, as St. Paul says, “Because when I am weak, then I am strong.”


  • To end 2 Corinthians like this

  • St. Paul still has some SALT for the Corinthians calling them back and pointing out to them that he hasn’t demanded ANYTHING FROM THEM

  • “I don’t want your stuff. I just want you.”


  • So often we can be on the defensive against people who would USE us

  • That’s true

  • BUT…

  • We don’t have to be on the defensive AGAINST THE LORD



  • Today maybe that is what YOU need to hear

  • The Lord does not want to destroy your life


  • The Lord does not want to break your heart


  • Fr. Mike is praying that you give this day to the Lord

  • Pray for Fr. Mike that he can give this day to the Lord


Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much for this. Thank you for this day. Thank you for your Word. We thank you for speaking to us and for pushing us. Thank you for inviting us into our weakness. Thank you for inviting us to a place of humility, to a place where we need to place our trust in you. Help us to put our trust in you this day and every day in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”