Mark 6: 1-6
I’d like to say a few words on today’s second reading from Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Corinth. Paul had a lot of difficulties with this community. His authority, his preaching, his integrity was challenged by disgruntled people in the community. Paul refused to back off from his vocation as an apostle, just as Ezekiel and Jesus refused to back away from their vocation as prophets. As we know, prophets were men or women who didn’t foretell the future, they named the present properly – often times in a way that exposed it faithlessness and injustice.
In defense of role as overseer of this Corinthian community Paul – in the verses previous to today’s reading Paul tells of some of his spiritual experiences, about visions and revelations he had from Christ. He found it difficult to put these experiences into words. He claimed he was caught up into paradise and heard things which must not and cannot be put into human language.
Then we have today’s reading where Paul tells us that in view of these extraordinary experiences, to keep him from getting too proud, too self confident, he was given this ‘thorn in the flesh’. In other words, in spite of all these gifts Paul still had to deal with his own humanity, his own short comings. We have no idea what this thorn was but it was meant to keep Paul mindful of the fact that it was God’s grace, God’s gift that made him apostle and preacher and kept him faithful to Christ. Paul knew he had to hand over to God his human needs and weaknesses because he knew from his own experience it was the weak things God chose to confound the strong and the foolish things God chose to confound the wise. Paul was deeply aware of the reality of his life ‘the good that I would, that I do not and the evil that I would not do, that I do.” Paul trusted that Christ could see through Paul’s opinionated ways, his impatience with those who disagreed with him and see the basic goodness that was in him.
We’ve all heard the expression ‘ pulling yourself up with your own boot straps’ we’ve heard of the self made person, we’ve heard the song,” I did it my way”. All these expressions smack of pride, arrogance and egoism. When we try to live our lives guided by these convictions we are in for trouble and disappointment. We are bound to be overwhelmed by a sense of failure and shame as we try to cope with our own personal ‘thorn in the flesh.’ We are bound to be hurt if we fail to put aside such convictions of doing it our way and open our lives to try to do it Christ’s way. Like Paul we have to trust the truth that Christ can see beyond our weaknesses and love the basic goodness that is in all of us. Like Paul we could be glad of our weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in us.
At each Eucharist when we hear the words, this is my body, this is my blood – as Christ hands himself over to us, we can respond by saying to Christ, this is my anger, this is my discouragement, this is my unwillingness to forgive, this is my resentment toward others, this is my lack of care for the poor, this is my self indulgence, this is my temptation toward infidelity, this is my indifference to You, my lack of faith. I hand them over to You and the power of Your grace.
Whatever be that thorn in our lives that keeps us from being the person we wish to be, the Christian we wish to be; let these be our offerings at Mass. As Christ gifts Himself to us we give Him all these wounds and weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell is us. Whenever we offer our weakness to Christ then He offers His strength to us.
At each Mass we can say ‘this is me, gifted with many gifts, this is me weakened by my self inflicted wounds, nourish me with Your body and blood, save me from being discouraged by my weaknesses, help me realize that when I am weak, then I am strong.
As we continue this Mass having heard in the scriptures of the struggles of Paul may each of us be blessed with the conviction that kept him faithful, for all his failing, that the power of Christ was with him and that is was by God’s grace he was who is was – as it is with each of us – by God’s grace I am what I am.