What Is an Acceptable Time?

A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 6:1–10

“Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: 

‘In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We cause no one to stumble in anything, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry; on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God, through much endurance, in afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in a holy spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech, in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left; through glory and dishonor, insult and praise. We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful; as unrecognized and yet acknowledged; as dying and behold we live; as chastised and yet not put to death; as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” 

Working together implies community, relationship, and mission. As Christians, part of our mission always involves seeking common ground with others whom we encounter—unity—while at the same time drawing others nearer to God – truth through charity as an aspect of evangelization.

It’s interesting that St. Paul found it necessary to explain some of the incredible struggles he endured, which he lists as:

  • Afflictions,
  • Hardships,
  • Constraints,
  • Beatings,
  • Imprisonments,
  • Riots,
  • Labors,
  • Vigils,
  • Fasts.

Each of these can be applied to the modern-day Catholic. In our cancel culture, we find it increasingly difficult to apply the gospel in our personal interactions with others. Thus, we find ourselves facing various spiritual and psychological afflictions by way of misunderstandings or even estranged friendships. We endure hardships of all varieties — loneliness, feeling like the lone voice. We experience constraints when we are limited by time, restricted in what we feel we are “allowed” to share on social media, etc. 

In countries outside of the United States, it’s common for Christians who speak out against dictatorial regimes that force them to violate their faith to experience beatings and imprisonments. Even within our nation, we have seen the devastation caused by rioting. I am not speaking of the politicization of rioting, but rather the social and spiritual damage such division has caused. 

Our wounds carry into our labors, too, beyond merely working for pay. Labor means to work hard, especially at something difficult, to toil, to do something with great effort. If we consider that living as Jesus taught is not something to be taken lightly, we know that it involves a great deal of labor. We must be vigilant in keeping our souls holy, making amends when we have sinned against God and others, plus leading those for whom we are responsible on a straight path.

It appears that vigils and fasts were means by which St. Paul mortified himself, so that he could be strengthened by God’s grace as he approached another trial. Such wisdom for those of us who tend to reserve such sacrifices for Lent. We all benefit immensely from fasting and keeping vigil, such as offering up a Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Few understand the power of such gifts to God, but the devil is especially averse to us when we combine fasting with prayer.

How do we bring about the reign of God – what St. Paul describes as “an acceptable time” – when we are continually confronted with obstacles and tribulations? He says to the Corinthians that we do this by:

  • purity, 
  • knowledge, 
  • patience, 
  • kindness, 
  • in a holy spirit, 
  • in unfeigned love, 
  • in truthful speech, 
  • in the power of God,
  • with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left, 
  • through glory and dishonor, insult and praise.

Here we receive instruction on what specific virtues and behaviors will combat the struggles we inevitably face as we attempt to faithfully live out our calling as Catholic Christians. Perhaps purity is listed first, since all sorts of sins of the flesh bombard and tempt nearly all of us at some time or another. Knowledge of spiritual truths lay the groundwork for what we say and do as holy witnesses.

Patience, kindness, in a “holy spirit” (which may mean through the Holy Spirit or by cooperating with God’s grace so that our souls may be holy) all intertwine to provide us with ways we can outwardly express the inward creed to which we have been consecrated by our baptism and which we profess. The last several require fortitude to prepare ourselves for conflict in any form, be it physical assault, slander, accusations, or spiritual attack.

Finally, St. Paul, ever the encourager, leaves us with examples of paradoxes in how our faith is lived out, how it is often perceived, and how we can choose to respond. Instead of becoming despondent, as we may be inclined to do when faced with persecutions, St. Paul reminds us that, while we may feel poor or chastised or sorrowful or empty, we are actually rich in what matters to God, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, bearing our sufferings for the sake of Jesus, and empty of self so that God alone may fill our needs.

In acceptable time, God hears us. He answers our prayers. We ask through prayer, then accept whatever He permits through praise. Regardless of what we face in our daily lives, we can recall the words resounding in our souls to uplift us: “In an acceptable time, I heard you and on the day of salvation, I helped you.”

Photo by Eduard Militaru on Unsplash

By

Jeannie Ewing is a Catholic spirituality writer who writes about the moving through grief, the value of redemptive suffering, and how to wait for God’s timing fruitfully. Her books include Navigating Deep Waters, From Grief to Grace , A Sea Without A Shore For Those Who Grieve, and Waiting with Purpose. She is a frequent guest on Catholic radio and contributes to several online and print Catholic periodicals. Jeannie, her husband, and their three daughters (plus one baby boy) live in northern Indiana. For more information, please visit her website jeannieewing.com.  Follow Jeannie on social media:  Facebook | LinkedIn |Instagram

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