Fourteenth Sunday: His Power Is Made Perfect
St Paul had a problem. And it was serious. We don’t know what the exact problem was, but it really got to him. He tells us in the second reading for today, from Second Corinthians, that it was a thorn in the flesh, a weakness that beat him down. What was it? Was it his pride? Paul was a little guy, actually his name was Saul, but it was changed to Paul probably as a nickname. Paulus means little. A lot of little guys get really domineering. There’s Napoleon, and Hitler, and, now thinking about it, I’m not that big myself. Next topic. Anyway maybe Paul realized that was how he was and prayed to God to help him be humble, Christ like. Maybe it was Paul’s anger. He must have been something. He fought with Mark, Barnabas and Peter. Mark and Barnabas dumped him, or he dumped them. Peter was an original disciple, and the chief apostle. Paul had no problem in telling him that he was wrong in the way he was treating the Gentile Christians. This guy was a piece of work. He told the Galatians that they were simple minded. Maybe his problem was his temper, and he knew it. He needed anger management classes.
Or maybe, or probably, the thorn in the flesh was a difficult personal weakness. There is no use letting our minds run wild here. Suffice it to say that Paul was pretty embarrassed by his weakness and pleaded with God to take it away from him. He begged God to free him from this. How could he proclaim Jesus Christ if he was so weak morally, inclined to sin, wasting his energy fighting off temptation? What if he were to give in? “Lord, take this away from me!” he called. And God heard his call. And God answered. Do you know what God said? He said, “No.” He said, “My grace is enough for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.”
We are no different than Paul. We all have really embarrassing personal weaknesses. We all would like to scream out to God, “Lord, how can I be a committed Christian, even a leader in your kingdom, with this continual problem, continual temptation hitting me.” So we bargain, “Here’s the deal, Lord. You get rid of this, take this from me, and I’ll be able to do your work better.” And God answers our prayers. And says, “No. My power is made perfect in your weakness.”
“My power is made perfect in your weakness.” What does that mean? It means that God works his wonders through us, despite our weakness. Good things happen. Great things happen. One or us, many of us, suffer from some sort of addiction. If it is one of us, it is all of us. But that is getting a bit mystical on you. Anyway, others may know about the addiction. But they also know that we are committed to Christ. They feel His power in our commitment and in our determination to live His life. And they come to the table of the Lord. This happens in all our lives. And we are realistic and say, “This can’t be my work. I’m too weak.” That is right. It’s not you, it’s not me. It is the Power of Jesus working in us.
Or you sit at table and one of your children shocks you with their faith and their charity. And you say, “I am continually fighting doubts. How can my children have such great faith?” And you recognize that this can’t be your doing. It must be the Lord’s. Sometimes, I listen to my voice on tape and wonder how anyone can stand hearing me preach. It’s like Jerry Lewis on helium. But somehow or other people listen, at least a few people. And my voice is the least of my problems. How an I be a priest when I know how often I am tempted to sin. But I can be a priest, and I am one. He shows His Power in my weakness. Substitute yourselves into this equation. God works within us all.
Our lives must be about Jesus, His Power and His strength. It’s God. It’s Him. It is His Power and His strength.
You and I, none of us, don’t dare take credit. We know our weakness. The credit, the glory, the power is all his. His power is made perfect in our weakness.
When Paul says that he boasts about his weakness, he is not saying that he is happy with his sinful inclinations. But he is happy, ecstatic, that the power of the Lord is working despite his weakness.
That is why we, committed Christians are also ecstatic. God’s Power is so real for us. We can see Him working in us despite us.
One more point. Sometimes, in our pride, we get so overwhelmed by our weakness that we give up. We don’t say the words of faith that need to be said. We don’t pray like we should. We hesitate. Who am I to say something? When you do this, when I do this we are so very wrong. We are putting our trust in ourselves. We lose confidence in that truth, we lose confidence in ourselves, and God’s work is not done. Of course none of us are worthy. Of course I am not worthy to do what a priest does. I speak the Words of Scripture, I hold the Body and Blood of Christ in my hands, I say Mass, I mediate the forgiving presence of Jesus in confession. Of course, I am not worthy to say the things and do the things that continually edify me, lead me to Christ. None of us are worthy. Jesus makes us worthy. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain for us,” we read in Revelations. It is not about you. It is not about me. It is all about Jesus. We do not have the right to put His Work on hold. Rather, we have to spread his faith despite ourselves. His grace is enough for us to fight off temptation and to do His work. The faith, the love, the Power of Jesus will spread despite our weakness.
The Power of God is evident and made perfect in our weakness. We are involved in a battle, folks. It is the battle of God vs the devil. We are on the front line. His power will win the battle.
Pray with me now that we never allow our pride to cause us to give up the fight for Jesus.
“Lord, Merciful One, God of Infinite Patience, God of Infinite Compassionate, work through us. Heal our pains, help us to conquer temptation, and give us the humility to allow the battle to be yours. May your Power made perfect in our weakness conquer the world.