14th Sunday Ordinary Time
July 8, 2018
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Have you ever had the experience of asking God over and over for something that you considered to be really important, only to have God seemingly turn a deaf ear to your request? St. Paul certainly did. Paul doesn’t tell us exactly what he was praying to be rid of, only that it was what he described as being “a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and keep me from becoming too proud.”
In this Sunday’s second reading, St. Paul articulates one of the greatest of all spiritual paradoxes: God’s power often shines through us most clearly when we are at our weakest. That is to say, when we are unable to avoid the cross, or suffering, or feel particularly powerless against some foe in our lives, be it physical, mental, spiritual or personal, this is when God’s grace often manifests itself the strongest.
People who don’t understand this spiritual principle often get angry, depressed or discouraged when they don’t receive the answer they want in their prayers. Others, like St. Paul, come to realize that God wishes, not to take the trial away so much as to give us the grace to get through it, to grow stronger because of it, and to glorify God by accepting it. Our “weaknesses” allow God’s strength to be more powerful in us.
Parents understand this very well. Stores often position candy and sweet cereals and other goodies children want where the child can see them and demand them as they roll by, but a good parent knows that to always give into these types of desires is bad for the child in the long run. In the same way, God will often withhold something we are asking for, that we desire, in order to give us something else that, in the end, we would really prefer.
Of course, to see things this way takes trust. It took St. Paul quite a long time
to come to understand what Our Lord was saying to him when the Lord said “No” to
St. Paul’s repeated requests, and we will not always understand God’s answers to us either. A smart disciple will persevere in asking and practice saying “thanks” to God, no matter what his answer is, knowing that God always has our best interests at heart. It is ironic that it is precisely the times when we may feel we have the least going for us that God often does his greatest work in and through us, because we are more open to God’s action at these times and he can get in!