Saturday, June 20, 2015

Perfect in Weakness

Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:7B-9A

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” Matthew 6:32B-34

Let us therefore bring our tribute of praise to our Creator "for the judgments of His justice" (Ps. 118[119]:164) at these times: the Morning Office, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline; and in the night let us arise to glorify Him.
How the Work of God is to Be Performed During the Day
Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 16

On the one hand, Paul has to be about the luckiest man on the face of the earth (until Lou Gehrig came along). He was a leader and was so powerful that he could oppress those around him. Then, he gave up all the power of his former position and took on a new identity – even a new name – to have a fresh start and a new beginning.

Paul's gifts quickly put him in a leadership position in the new church to which he had been one of its main oppressors. Yet, after rising back to the top, he faced the physical challenges that weakened him, he faced imprisonment that limited his missionary work, and he felt the obstacles of other opponents who replaced Saul as the thorn in the side of the growing church community.

However, through it all, Paul realizes that any obstacles, imprisonment and challenges are provided by God as part of his growth. Paul realizes that there is no “negative component” to how we experience him on our life. What we see as the negatives are placed there to provide us with proper perspective. Even when God delivers a physical limitation or a rival or opponent on the personal level, we can overcome that.

Jesus does not deny the reality of human needs – eating, drinking, providing for our basic needs. However, he warns us against becoming too anxious about the items on the first step of our needs and to instead focus on getting to the higher reasons for being.

Paul's experience works for us on both a personal level and on a missionary level. None of us are perfect. We have to cope with the limitations that we have been given. We have to rise above our physical weaknesses for activating the Daily Tripod in our lives.

These are easy words to type yet harder to live. All of us have times (daily) when our faith in Jesus is not as deep as it should be. We are not alone. We share that human condition with the saints and the sinners in our lives and in history. Maybe the lives of those in monastic communities may be an inspiration. No matter what their assignment – from abbot to porter to college president-- they break from that work seven times throughout the day to place themselves in the presence of God. How much easier it might be when they leave morning prayers or any of the seven “offices” of the day, to bring that presence with them into the world. That office is as important as any office to which they are assigned to do earthly work.

Our job is to be aware of our thorns and like Paul, rise above them and recognize that in our weaknesses, Jesus becomes strong. Our job is to retreat from the office enough that Jesus dwells in us and that we bring his presence back into the world in our work and His work.

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