Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 8, 2018)

St. Paul has shared with us a very intimate detail of his life – a humbling detail – and an important lesson that he learned. Paul shared it because what he learnedis vital for all of us to hear and take to heart.

Most of us don’t care to dwell on our weaknesses. Usually, we spend lots of energy trying to overcome them. For most of us, weaknesses are liabilities. And, like Paul, we have asked the Lord to take them away from us.

Paul must have been surprised when he first heard the Lord’s words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” With some prayerful reflection, his “thorn in the flesh” was taking on a new meaning. It was no longer his weakness. It was now the place in him where the power of grace could dwell and transform him.

In the humble acceptance of his weakness, Paul found the power of Jesus which made him strong. This transforming experience would lead Paul to be content with weaknesses and hardships, “for when I am weak, then I am strong” as he would tell us.

In our Salesian tradition, Francis encourages us to learn to “love our abjections” not just put up with them, but embrace them. He writes this to us because he has understood Paul’s message. He knows from his own experience that the humble person acknowledges that grace alone has the power to make one strong.

What about us? We all have our weaknesses and hardships. Do we continue to spend lots of our energy trying to overcome them? How do we hear the Lord’s words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness?” We all have our abjections. Am I learning anything about loving them? Am I learning with St. Paul: “when I am weak, then I am strong?”

Each of us might benefit greatly by taking the Lord’s words to prayer. Let us be more eager to listen than to talk. May the Lord lead each of us to the humility that will open us to the transforming power of divine grace in our daily lives.