Monday, July 9, 2018

"Power Made Perfect in Weakness"—What Does This Mean?

It must be a painful ordeal to pass through the mystery indicated by the text cited below from the twelfth chapter of 2 Corinithians. I admit that I am afraid of it, and feel powerless to walk with others as they endure it.

How much do I really trust in the mercy and the goodness of God?

Still, "God is good." What else could he be? He is that goodness that creates, sustains, and draws to himself every person.

But why, then, the darkness? Why suffering?

Sin has brought suffering and death into the world. But why does God allow us to sin? Why does he allow sin to devastate the world? Of course, I know that love can only be embraced in freedom, and he allows us to reject him. He also empowers us to participate in his redeeming love.

Freedom is profound, but sometimes it seems so complicated, and even overwhelming. The little human being—the bodily person in the world of time and space, who spends a third of his or her life asleep and much of the rest of it eating, drinking, and "going to the bathroom"—the little human being gets beaten down, gets sick, gets old, or just gets exhausted.

Saint Paul doesn't tell us the concrete details of his "thorn in the flesh." But we know of the many hardships he endured, of his own fragility, of all his suffering. In 2Corinthians12, Paul says he begged the Lord to give him some relief.

God's child begs him for help. What is God's answer? How does God answer our begging, when we're just helpless and there doesn't seem to be a way out?

There is no discourse that can communicate this "answer." God's answer is that he comes to be with us, to seek out each one of us, and to stay with us. His "answer" is to love us, and draw us into the experience of the infinite mystery of his goodness, of communion with his very being, He who is Absolute Love.

He created us for this communion, and it corresponds to what our hearts truly seek. To accomplish this fulfillment, to bring us to himself forever, God comes to dwell with us in our weakness.

In limited, human terms, he says that "power is made perfect in weakness." I am very far from understanding what this really means for me, for my actions today, my motives, my hopes and aspirations for the future, my love for Eileen and the kids, for my brother, my family and friends, for my Dad and my Mom...

Still, Jesus is here.

Jesus is here with me in my confusion and anxiety. He is with every person on the unique path they travel. Jesus is with us in our weakness.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

Here is the love of God expressed in relation to the suffering of each one of us. To the natural mind it sounds like an incomprehensible paradox, but faith grasps that it refers to the fact that Jesus has embraced all the suffering of each one of us on the Cross, carried it (and us) as his own, and thereby has revealed the infinite measure and depth of the love of God in his resurrection.

He begins to draw us into that Love by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and enables us to hope in that Love as the ultimate fulfillment, the true meaning of everything, of every moment—even the moments that seem impossible to endure.

Jesus wants to stay with us. He is with us, whether we suffer because of our own sins or are afflicted by others or even just constrained and hindered by the restrictions of the most banal circumstances of life.

In speaking of his own afflictions, Saint Paul told the Corinthians:

"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.'
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong."

~2 Corinthians 12:8-10