A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The unkindest thorn

In today's second reading (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), St. Paul writes eloquently of painful frustration and of the grace of the Lord.

That I might not become too elated,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me,
an angel of Satan, to beat me,
to keep me from being too elated.

Three times I begged the Lord about this,
that it might leave me,
but he said to me,
"My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness."

Many of us have thorns in the flesh, pains and frustrations and troubles that will not go away, no matter how hard we try or how hard we pray.

The Lord speaks his words of comfort to us as well.

"My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness."

And like St. Paul, may we say

I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

What was Paul's thorn? Different scholars have had many different ideas over the millennia.

One idea is that Paul's "thorn" was the failure of so many of his fellow Jews to accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

Whether or not that was the actual "thorn" to which Paul refers, many of us can understand how painful it would have been for him: the great Apostle Paul, worker of miracles, personally and extraordinarily commissioned by Jesus himself, with impeccable education and background in Jewish culture and theology, cannot convince his fellow Jews, his brothers and sisters according to the flesh, to accept Christ.

This feeling is echoed in today's other readings (Ezekiel 2:2-5 and Mark 6:1-6) as both the prophet Ezekiel and our Lord himself must endure not only personal rejection, but also the prospect of spiritual disaster for his own people.

Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them:

Thus says the LORD GOD!
And whether they heed or resist

- for they are a rebellious house -
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Jesus said to them,
"A prophet is not without honor
except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house."

Many of us know what it is like to have our faith rejected by those who have been close to us.

Many of us know what it is like to have children and other family members fall away from the faith or even attack it.

Many of us know the hurt, the frustration, the feeling of helplessness and weakness and sometimes even betrayal.

But it is not about us: faith is a gift from God.

We need to do whatever we can to plant the seeds of faith, to help nurture the seeds of faith, but ultimately we must put into the hands of God - God who is all-merciful, all-powerful and all-wise - our loved ones and everyone to whom we preach the Gospel of Christ.

Therefore, I am content
with weaknesses,
and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak,
then I am strong.