Homily – July 4, 2021

Just a thought before my reflection on the second reading of Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Corinth..

In light of the discovery of the hundreds of unmarked grave found at residential schools it is hard being a Canadian these days. Because of our church’s involvement in the effort to rob the indigenous people of their land, their language, their culture and their religion it is hard to be a Catholic these days. In our failure to make the financial recompense called for by the courts, it is hard to be a Canadian Catholic. Until our own leaders set matters straight our difficulties will continue…

Just something to think about.

In his different letters to the early Christian communities Paul shares with them the consequences of his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. He had permission from the religious authorities to arrest people who were following Jesus of Nazareth. A disgraced popular preacher who had been crucified for the crime of blasphemy. Christ appeared to him and asked him. ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me? The bewildered Paul asked, ‘who are you’? I am Jesus who you are persecuting.

Paul spent a lot of time in prayer and solitude coping with the fact that it was necessary for the Christ, the Messiah, to suffer his crucifixion and so enter into his glory.

Paul tells the people of Corinth of the blessings he received in prayer, he was caught up to the third heaven and heard things that are not to be told and cannot be repeated.

In today’s second reading we hear of another aspect of Paul’s life, this famous ‘thorn in the flesh that kept him from being too proud. Scripture scholars have speculated on what that thorn might be that was meant to keep Paul humble. One author speculated that it might have been Paul’s irritably, he was short tempered and didn’t like being questioned, a hard person to work with.

Time and again he faced this shortcoming; with all his visions Paul was a hard man to work with..

Let’s face it; we all have a thorn in the flesh, a fault or failing with which we struggle and which will not go away. It could be a bad tempter; we fly off the handle at the drop of a hat. Maybe we struggle with moodiness, or controlling our tongue, or how much we eat or drink or the way we spend our money. It could be our struggle to understand or be sympathetic with the hurt and pain our Indigenous brothers and sisters are going through these days as they deal with the unmarked graves of unknown children.It might be our wonder of ‘why can’t these people be like us’? Is our thorn our impatience with accepting men and women of a different color, a different faith, a different nationality or a different life style?

Try as we might, pray as we might we still struggle to pick out that thorn. Spiritual writers call it our ’predominant fault.

Paul gloried in his weakness because it drew the strength and power of Christ into his life’ struggles. Paul’s thorns didn’t go away but he was given the patience and strength to cope.

Christ showed his open wounds to the apostles, can we show Christ our wounds, our thorns in the flesh?

There is an old Negro spiritual that sings;

It’s me it’s me O Lord standing in the need of prayer. Maybe our simple and honest prayer can be; it’s me, it’s me it’s me O Lord standing in the need of patience, standing in the need of self-control, standing in the need of an open heart, an open mind – always standing in the need of the power of Christ dwelling in me.