14thSunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B – July 8, 2018
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville 4:00pm
Saint Matthew Parish, Baltimore 11:00am
Weakness and Strength
“When I am weak, then I am strong.”
These are the last words in today’s passage from Saint Paul. “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Just think about this. The idea here is counter-intuitive.
At least privately, when we feel weak in some way, we don’t see ourselves as strong. This would be contradictory.
This idea is also counter-cultural. We pride ourselves on being strong.
We often see any weakness as a deficiency. We want to project at least an appearance of strength.
So, what does Paul mean here?
“When I am weak, then I am strong.”To understand this, we have to look back to something that he says earlier in the passage.
Paul says: “[A] thorn in the flesh was given to me.”He repeatedly asked God to remove this “thorn in the flesh,” but it was not removed.
Paul never tells us what this was. Some speculate that the “thorn in the flesh” was a physical ailment or disability.
Or maybe it was an emotional problem or maybe a moral fault. We just don’t know what it was.
We do know, if we think about it, we do know that we all have some “thorn in the flesh.”
We all have some weakness that we wish God would remove from us. Maybe it is physical pain – like migraine headaches or arthritis in our joints.
Or maybe it is an emotional problem – like depression. Or maybe it is a moral fault – like getting angry and flying off the handle all the time.
My bet is that we all have some weakness. We all have some “thorn in the flesh,” to use Paul’s expression.
Weakness and Power
Now God gives Paul an insight into this “thorn,”this weakness, and this is the key to the entire passage.
God says: “Power is made perfect in weakness.”“Power is made perfect in weakness.”
This is a great and, I mean great insight. The idea here is that each of us has a certain amount of “power”.
By“power”I mean that each of us has a certain amount of self-sufficiency and a certain amount of influence over others. The insight that God gives Paul is that our “thorn in the flesh,”our weakness, whatever it is, can lead us to use our power much better.
So, if my “thorn”or weakness is some physical issue, this can lead me to be more empathetic to a family member who is having significant back pain. If my ”thorn”or weakness is an emotional issue, it can lead me to be more understanding of a child who has ADD.
Or if my “thorn”or weakness is a moral issue, it can lead me to be less judgmental of others. These are examples of what God means in those profound words: “Power is made perfect in weakness.”
In other words, my “thorn” or weakness can have a good side to it. It can lead us to grow and be better persons.
Weakness and Divine Power
Finally, God also says: “My grace is sufficient for you.”
God is speaking here of the divine power that helps us to deal with our “thorn”or weakness. This is a great irony of our human condition.
When we feel the most broken, divine power is potentially at its greatest. Why? Because when we know our weakness, we can be most open to the presence and power of God.
This happens because we realize that we cannot do it by ourselves. The divine power helps us to deal with our weakness.
So, when we are aware of that “thorn”or weakness, whatever it is, we can turn to the divine power of God, of Jesus Christ. Then we can experience in dealing with it.
So, God says: “Power is made perfect in weakness.” And:“My grace is sufficient for you.”
And that is why Paul asserts: “When I am weak, then I am strong.”