Sunday reflection by Reverend Thomas Macdonald, Vice Rector of Saint John's Seminary - July 11, 2021
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Last Sunday we heard the the Lord speak these words to St. Paul in the midst of his vexing struggle with an unspecified “thorn in his side.” Paul had prayed and prayed that this thorn be removed from his life. He, like many of us, approached God with the expectation that living in Christ grants us an ever more serene and secure mastery over our lives and circumstances. If God is all-powerful and we are His servants, we should participate in His power to sweep away the obstacles that stand before us. This seems only logical.
This is not, however, the logic of the Cross. It is not the logic of the Son taking on the weakness of human flesh. It is not the logic of God’s upside-down Kingdom, won by defeat and death.
Like all of us, Paul had to learn this lesson for himself the hard way, after many hours of anxious and frustrated prayer. He had to learn that God’s power doesn’t dispense us from our weaknesses, but rather flows through them.
In today’s gospel, we hear of how the Apostles came to learn and live this paradox for themselves. Christ sends out the Twelve to preach repentance, two by two. While He clothes them in extraordinary supernatural powers to heal and to cast out the powers of darkness, He strips them of the most basic necessities of life on the road: food, sack, and money. He makes them poor.
This lived poverty is essential to the message they proclaim and the wonders they work. To live and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires embracing the weakness and vulnerability that He assumed. Poverty is the channel through which Christ’s saving power flows. Proud, self-sufficient strength dams and chokes this life-giving stream.
Sadly, the world teaches us that we should make every effort to hide or offset our weaknesses. At all costs we strive not to appear poor and needy. This spirit can easily seep into the life of the Church as well. Far too often we worry about the resources we think are necessary for our mission. “If only we had more programs, more money, more talent, then we would be making progress.” As long as this kind of thinking consumes us, Christ’s power will lay dormant in us. We will only go as far as our money bags permit. Jesus, however, desires to carry us so much further.
Today the Lord is inviting us to come and learn the lesson He taught the Twelve by sending them out poor and St. Paul through the thorn in his side. He beckons us to divest ourselves of all the showy strength with which we have made a parade of ourselves in the world. He calls us to follow Him in His way of poverty and His path to the Cross. On this way, He will clothe us with power we never thought possible, power made perfect in the weakness He embraced to be all the nearer to us.