I. Were I to lay on you today a catalogue of my fears, failures, anxieties, and insecurities, you’d likely say, “O Father, you’re not that bad.” Or, “Father, you’re not that bad.” But it shouldn’t surprise as we all have one or more of what St. Paul calls his “thorn in the flesh.” Is this the place where we can count on finding a nifty, no-fail, no-fault method of extracting those thorns pain free? No, not so much. We don’t come here, week after week, with the aim of fixing something. What we do, and perhaps the best we can do, is direct one another to where real help is available, the radical, absolute help that none of us can give to another. No, we know that we are not the ultimate helper. We can only point to him and promise that he is there. Jesus is our companion not only in our personal struggles, but with us in the face of those thorny issues, often overwhelming, that we deal with as a community: poverty and inequality, the racism that is embedded in our society and in us, the current disaster of our broken immigration system, and the current disaster of our broken government. How weak, how powerless, we can feel in the face of it all. How impossible life would be without the Lord with us.
II. St. Paul “boasts most gladly” of his weaknesses— not because weakness is glorious, but because it’s where Christ’s power is most evident. The more vulnerable we are, the more likely we are to turn to God. The weaker we are, the more potent God’s grace. It’s a bold claim. Living the Christian way is not a matter of whether we’re strong enough, but whether we’re weak enough. While our powerlessness—and our fears, failures, anxieties, and insecurities—may seem to be “thorns in the flesh,” they can be our way to salvation. I experienced that firsthand in 2008 when I spent 28 days at Hazelden for the treatment of alcoholism and addiction. My life had never been in such chaos, I’d never been so low. At the same time, I’d never experienced the presence of the Lord more truly and deeply. His grace was sufficient.
III. I am content with weaknesses… I boast most gladly of my weaknesses…for when I am weak, then I am strong.
h/t: Michael Buckley, Richard Rohr