Moses said to YHWH, “But, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence,
either before or since you have spoken to your servant.” Ex 4:10
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B:
Finding Pains Purpose
The lectionary readings for this Sunday are rich in meaning for us. The young Ezekiel (2:2-5) is empowered by the Spirit to "stand up" before God and to listen. It can take great courage to listen deeply to what God wants of us and to follow God's mission for us in life. God assured the young Ezekiel that the unfaithful Israelite community "shall know that there is a prophet in their midst." A prophet is 'a truth speaker' with deep insight. I believe all of us can be an Ezekiel wherever we stand in life. The Spirit will give us the needed courage. In Mark's gospel (6:1-6), Jesus experiences rejection in his own "home town" because as he said "a prophet is only despised in his/her own country." The people who he grew up with thought they knew him and could not let him be for them who he was. They saw him as someone 'ordinary' and were "astonished" by his wisdom and power as a miracle worker. They could NOT BELIEVE and ACCEPT him as he revealed who he was to them. Rejection can be painful and I am sure Jesus felt their response to him deeply. "He was amazed at their lack of faith." What lenses of perception limit us?
In the reading from 2 Corinthians (12:7-10), Saint Paul learns through prayer that God's power is made perfect in his weakness: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (9-10) Paul who had been given so many special graces now has to endure what he describes as a "thorn in the flesh" the scripture scholars do not know exactly what the thorn was, although many have tried to have an educated guess. He realised that the 'thorn's purpose was to keep him humble and relying on God. It seems to be so easy for us who are striving to be spiritual to become 'ego inflated' and start thinking that we can somehow achieve spiritual holiness all by our own efforts. Helen Keller who was born deaf and blind said: "I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work and my God." It is all to easy to try and become something that we are not. All of us disciples of Christ have to come to terms with the fact that true spiritual growth comes from coming to terms with the pain of life's limitations. We have to be willing to move beyond what keeps us comfortable.
Our spiritual lives, begin in weakness and ignorance; we never suspect that anguish, a sense of loss, profound changes of heart and mind, dark nights of soul and spirit, the confusions of power and powerlessness of the soul’s unfolding journey. Like so many of life’s endeavours, if we knew what we were in for, we would probably never have begun. When pain comes into our lives it seems so easy for us to cry out to God for healing. I know a man who was a most energetic and gifted helper of others. When he had a stroke and became disabled, his self-image of being an able helper was shattered. But all through his rehabilitation he learnt the difference between healing and curing, self-will and God's will. He eventually came to learn despite his tears and tantrums, that healing does not mean going back to the way things were, but allowing 'WHAT IS' NOW to move one closer to God. Like St Paul and many others before him, he found the blessings that can only be found in the pain and limitation. "God does not see as humans see."
So to be like Ezekiel or Paul we need to the Holy Spirit for the strength for daring to find courage to set forth on the unknown path of faith. Somewhere along the way we will awaken to the immensity of our endeavour. Finally, we must summon a deep grace-inspired courage to continue and by God's grace to unexpectedly find ourselves with a deep acceptance of what is. The French poet Guillaume Apollinaire writes; "Come to the edge, he said. Come to the edge, he said. We are afraid, they said. Come to the edge, he said. They came to the edge, He pushed them and they flew. Come to the edge, Life said. They said: We are afraid. Come to the edge, Life said. They came. It pushed them... And they flew.” The power of God's grace is given for us to help others, not ourselves, a power that does not force or coerce others to do our will. Like Saint Paul we learn to place our fate in God's hands accepting our weaknesses and limitations, and like Ezekiel to accept God's Spirit and the word God speaks that empowers us to "stand up" for truth.