Grimy, fragile, and crumbling
We may often think of ourselves very poorly by comparison: unworthy messengers of God’s perfect truth.
Sadly, history (recent and ancient) overflows with examples of such “Super Christians” collapsing in a cloud of failure (if not hypocrisy and fraud).
Today’s first reading (2 Corinthians 4:7-15) reminds us that one of the greatest of the true “Super Christians” – indeed, one of the greatest of Apostles – did not have a perfect, happy life.
Sadly, as we hear this reading, many of us think first of the St. Louis Jesuits’ famous song “Earthen Vessels” (Radio DJ voice: the title track of one of their biggest albums).
It is a sweet song, albeit not to everyone’s taste, and it has its place, but what St. Paul is writing about – his day-to-day life - is NOT sweet and cute.
For St. Paul, “earthen vessels” are grimy, fragile, and crumbling – just like his life.
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God
and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way,
but not constrained;
but not driven to despair;
but not abandoned;
but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body
the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus
may also be manifested in our body.
Such is the lot and the life of one of the greatest Christians: one of the most powerful and effective proclaimers of the truth ever to walk the earth.
And so, when we feel that we are not measuring up, when we feel perplexed and afflicted, may we remember how perfectly God’s surpassing power can flow in grimy, fragile, and crumbling vessels.