Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
The second reading for this Sunday is very special. It is taken from second letter of St. Paul’s Letter the Corinthians. “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.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” In the lives of each of us there may be something painful, big or small, something that we wish to be different. In the lives of each of us there is a cross.
Paul’s “thorn” has baffled theologians throughout the years, but they have come to the conclusion that no one really knows what it was. It could have been a demon that really did physically beat him. It could have been a temptation to sins of the flesh, or that Paul kept losing his temper and couldn’t seem to control it on his own. It could have been a person that continually gave him a hard time. It could have been the guilt that Paul felt over the way he formerly persecuted Christians and was even responsible for Stephan’s death. Maybe he couldn’t get over his guilt. It could have been any number of things. Whatever it was, it was annoying and distracting and it was something Paul couldn’t seem to handle on his own. He kept petitioning Christ to help him. He knew Jesus had the power to do something about it, so why wouldn’t he?
What’s interesting to note about the whole thing, is that Jesus already knew all about it. He allowed it. It sounds like Saint Paul had no choice in the matter but to accept it. Jesus spent his entire life showing his love and concern for people. He healed them of their illnesses, he fed them, forgave people of their sins and healed their souls. Like Saint Paul we may ask Jesus in prayer, why he doesn’t take away our weaknesses, sinful tendencies and aggravating people or circumstances of our lives either? But, maybe Jesus doesn’t do this because he wants us to learn to depend on him instead of ourselves. If Jesus heals these things, then why would we have any further need of him? Also, the weaknesses and sinful tendencies and aggravating circumstances we have in our lives, keep us from having too much pride and becoming overly confident in ourselves. Our imperfections actually make us a lot more compassionate with other people sometimes.
When we face the crosses I think we go through four different stages. They are denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance of our cross and grace. At first we may deny that we have a cross. Perhaps we do not want to face the pain of the cross so we pretend that everything is fine, we have no cross. If we deny our cross, we are losing out on the grace God has planned to give us. After we move beyond denying our cross and admit that we have a cross we may experience anger. We ask the question, “Why?”, “Why me?”, “I didn’t deserve this.” “Why did God allow this to happen to me?” It is natural reaction. At this stage of coping with our cross we may be angry with others, or even angry with God. It is easy to blame God when we cannot understand why we are in pain. When we have a cross instead of blaming God let us get to the root of the problem. For some people this type of inner work and healing needs therapy or counseling. But I want to remind you no one has yet come up with an adequate answer to explain the mystery of human suffering, all we have are bits and pieces of answers.
After admitting the pain, and accepting that there is a painful situation some people make bargains with God such as, “God, if you get me out of this I will be I will do this and that. It is good because sometimes it takes a cross to prepare our souls to receive God’s grace.
When we move beyond anger with ourselves or depression because of our cross we arrive at where it was meant to lead us all the time, grace. We accept and cherish a grace in the plan of God for us because of our cross. One of the mysteries of life is that a grace accompanies every cross or we will receive a grace if we carry our cross. Jesus would not have risen from the dead if he did not die on the cross and we are running away from a grace that awaits us if we are running away from our cross. We move through these stages of healing by sharing our pain with the Lord when we pray. We don’t have to be perfect when we pray.
Let us pray, Lord, thank you that your power is made perfect in weakness. Help us, like Paul, to delight in our weaknesses. Thank you that hardships, persecutions and difficulties are actually a source of strength because your power is made perfect in weakness. Thank you that your grace is sufficient.
God Bless You,