Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Is anyone still without power? (If so, please see me after Mass to see how we can help you) For those with power, how many were out for 2 or less days? For 3 or more days? Did any of you boast most gladly in being without power? Since the loss of power to our homes and places of work can have a crippling effect on us physically, mentally and emotionally – and even financially – I suspect that no one was celebrating or boasting that they were without power this past week. In today’s second reading, the Apostle Paul boasts most gladly of his “thorn in the flesh.” It has been debated since Paul first wrote these words what his thorn in the flesh might have been - maybe a physical or mental condition, or it may have been an individual or group of individuals that persecuted him – it certainly was not the lack of electricity. What we do know is that Paul accepted and even took joy in this weakness of his. He writes to the Corinthians: 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. For Paul, there is strength, even power, when he is at his weakest and most vulnerable. Paul believed that he was given this thorn in the flesh to keep him in check, to bring balance to his life, so that his mystical knowledge of Jesus would not overwhelm him or give him too big of an ego. It was this weakness then that gives him clarity of thought and integrity in action to love and serve God. The power outage may have given us a similar opportunity to bring some balance and focus in our lives. Without power, notwithstanding the miserable heat, we had the time away from the noise of TV, radio, email and the Internet, to think and pray; time to slow down from our busy lives and appreciate what is truly important, what we truly value. Certainly the more dramatic and difficult experiences in our life, such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or our home, or a battle with a serious illness, also provide the opportunity to reflect on what is important and to seek greater balance in our life. Like Paul, these are also opportunities to grow closer to Christ – opportunities for the power of Christ to dwell within us. In our moments of weakness, we have the power of Christ to surrender our ego and pride, our vanity and greed, and to place all our trust and hope in Jesus Christ – in who he was and is, in what he taught and did, and the grace he offers us now. In our moments of weakness, we can seek the grace of God – the wisdom, the courage, the strength – whatever we need now - to better hear and follow God’s will for us. In our weakness, we can grow in faith. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith in him by the people of his hometown. They did not believe in Jesus because they could not accept that a prophet, let alone the Messiah, could come from the poverty and simplicity of their rural community. They could not accept God working in their midst and in their life. There is a second account in the Gospels in which Jesus expresses his amazement at a person’s faith. In Matthew’s Gospel, a Roman centurion asks Jesus to cure his paralyzed servant. When Jesus agrees to come and cure him, the centurion responds: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed…When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Let us amaze Jesus with our faith! In just a couple of minutes we will echo the words of the Roman centurion, just before we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We pray: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. In our weakness, let us pray these words with great humility. In our weakness, let us pray these words with a sincere desire for God’s mercy and love. In our weakness, let us pray these words with confidence that through the reception of the Eucharist, the power of Christ may dwell within us and heal us. Let us pray that in receiving Christ, we may find peace and even joy in our weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints – whatever our thorn may be. Let us amaze Jesus with our faith!