Homily for July 5

Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

(This homily ends with a song which you can hear on the audio above.)

“A thorn in the flesh…”

That’s how St. Paul describes a troublesome infirmity he experienced
- although in all of his writings he never discloses what it is.

He writes of a thorn in the flesh,  but scripture scholars wonder
whether Paul’s trouble was physical
or possibly spiritual or emotional – or perhaps all three.

And what about us?
Don’t many of us have a “thorn in the flesh”
- something we long to be free of?
It might be something physical, something in our life’s circumstances,
a problem, a habit,
something emotional or something spiritual.
We can all relate to Paul’s situation.

And what did Paul do about his affliction?
He tells us he prayed, that three times he begged the Lord,
to be set free of his burden.

How many times has each of us prayed and begged the Lord
to free us from what haunts or ails us?

But the Lord’s answer to Paul’s prayer here is a hard one.
The Lord says, “Paul, my love and my grace are enough for you.”

And can’t you just hear Paul saying, 
“Lord, I didn’t ask for grace!  I prayed for relief, for a remedy,
a reprieve, a cure – I prayed for a break!”

There are times, I’m sure, when my prayer and yours
sound just like that.

And the Lord’s next word to Paul is even more mysterious. 
He tells him:  “My power is made perfect in weakness.” 
How nearly impossible it is for us to understand,  
to accept these words, against the background of a culture
that so prizes strength  -  and demeans weakness.

But the Lord says that it’s precisely in our human weakness
that the love and the grace of God, the power of God,
is made perfect.

When and where we are at our weakest,
then and there might the power of God be most fully revealed.

And that leads Paul to say,
“Well, then - I will gladly boast of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ might dwell in me.”

What Paul is doing here is choosing
to value the love and grace of God in his life
over and above his own comfort and relief.
(We do this often ourselves when we value others we love
over and above our own comfort and well-being.)

But Paul goes yet a step further when he tells us that he is
content with weaknesses, insults, hardships and constraints”
because it’s in his powerlessness that he comes to know and rely on
the power and strength, the love and the grace,
of Christ within him.

I know very well how hard it may be for you to hear this message:
I know how hard it is for me to hear it.

Paul’s faith here  s  t  r e  t  c  h  e  s   us  – nearly to the breaking point.

• A faith such as this calls us to name our relationship with God
as the most important relationship in our lives – bar none.
(That’s not to diminish all the other important relationships we have,
rather, it’s to help us look at how we prioritize our relationships
and to ask,  “Who comes first?”

• A faith like this calls us to look beyond our suffering and to know
that no matter how great it is – it’s not the end of our story.
That’s not to suggest that we stop praying for the Lord’s help
but rather to acknowledge in how many ways
God’s help and strength come to us
- but not always in the way we hope and pray for.

• And a faith such as this calls us to a new relationship with our troubles:
inviting us to see them not as evil, not as the enemy,
- but as a way, sometimes even the most important way,
we grow closer to the Lord who love and grace are our strength.

This isn’t easy.  As I said, it  s  t  r e  t  c  h  e  s  us
and it might stretch us far beyond what’s comfortable.

Paul puts the question squarely before us today:
Is anything in our lives greater than the love and grace of God?

If you haven’t already, then call to your mind
what might be the thorn in your flesh, in your circumstances,
in your heart or in your spiritual life
and come to the foot of the Cross, to the altar, come before God with it:
asking the Lord to accept it,
asking the Lord be your strength in your weakness,
asking the Lord to let his love and his grace be enough for you.

St. Ignatius wrote a beautiful prayer based on these words of St. Paul.
Ignatius prayed that God’s love and grace might be enough for him.

I invite you close your eyes and open your hearts
as I sing that prayer for all of us…

(If you listen to the audio above you’ll hear the song,
“Take, Lord, Receive”)
1) Take, Lord, receive all my liberty,
my memory, understanding, my entire will.

Give me only your love and your grace:
that's enough for me.
Your love and your grace are enough for me.

2) Take, Lord, receive all I have and possess.
You have given all to me; now I return it.

3) Take, Lord, receive, all is yours now;
dispose of it wholly according to your will.


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