Sunday, July 5, 2009

When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

In today’s First Reading, the Holy Spirit comes to Ezekiel, raises him to his feet, and speaks to him. The LORD is sending him to the people of Israel, who have been rebellious against Him for several generations. He is told to announce his message with these words: “This is what the sovereign LORD says.” They might listen, or they might block their ears. Either way, they will know that a prophet has been among them. At the end of the Spirit’s message, the prophet is given a scroll, and told to eat it. He comments that the message tastes like honey in his mouth.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is once again visiting his hometown of Nazareth. The people there think they know him, and they are amazed when he stands up in the synagogue and begins to explain the scriptures. “Where did he get all this learning? What is the source of all this wisdom? Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary? Aren’t James, and Joseph, Jude and Simon his brothers? Don’t his sisters live here, too?” They were offended by him.

The amazing thing is that their insults were effective! Matthew’s version of this incident in Nazareth reads, He did not work many miracles there. But Mark writes: He was unable to perform any mighty deeds there. He only cured a couple of sick people by laying hands on them.

It is a troubling notion, that you and I have the power to tie the Lord’s hands, the ability to prevent miracles from happening. It is all the more disturbing that we do not look at other people for who they are as persons. Instead, we judge them by how they earn their living – with their minds, or with their hands. Or how they talk – like city folks or country folks. Or the color of their skin – not simply white, black or brown, but whether the skin tone is light tan, or dark chocolate, or somewhere in between.

The people of Nazareth represent all of us when we seek to make ourselves the measure of our world. We tend to ignore –even to reject – anything that we can’t understand or control, and anyone who is different from us. But, if we look closely at what we think and how we feel, it is not so much who other folks are, or what they have, that bothers us, but our own sense of inadequacy, our own weakness.

That is why the last part of this meditation is focused on the words of Saint Paul in his second letter to the people of Corinth. God gave Paul great gifts as a preacher, a teacher and a writer, and favored him with wondrous revelations. But, to prevent him from getting high on himself, he was given “a thorn in the flesh” to torment him. Three times he asked God to free him from that “messenger of Satan”, and three times, God refused. Instead, God told him, “My grace is enough for you. My power is make perfect in your weakness.” Paul tells us that the only thing he can boast about is his weakness. He says that he is delighted with difficulties, with hardships, with insults, even with persecution. Why? Because the more he admits that he is weak, the more Christ’s power can be effective in him. The same is true for you and me – whatever part I play in God’s work, it is when I am weak that I am strong.

No comments: