My grace is enough for thee

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Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
Fourteenth Sunday of the Year B

Ezekiel 2:2-5
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Mark 6:1-6

God Chooses the Broken Man

Prophets are often held in contempt and rejected by those to whom they are sent. The choice of God rarely, if ever, meets the narrow and shortsighted criteria set up by men. God chooses the broken man and promises to repair him. He chooses the fallen man and promises to raise him up. He chooses the man deformed by sin and promises to reform him by grace. Even more surprising is that God does not wait until the broken are completely repaired, the fallen steady on their feet, and the deformed totally reformed, before using them. He chooses his prophets, entrusts them with a mission, and sends them out while they are still imperfect.

Faults, Limitations, and Neuroses

In his best seller, My Life With the Saints, Jesuit Father James Martin tells about coming to terms with the paradox of having a vocation and having at the same time a lot of sinful baggage. This is what he says -- I don't often quote Jesuits, so pay attention -- "It seemed that I was being called to be a Jesuit not despite my faults, my limitations, and my neuroses, but with them, maybe even because of them. God was calling all of me -- even the parts of me I didn't especially like -- to be with him."

Get Real

About thirty years ago a certain Abbot decreed new admissions policies for his monastery. In order to be accepted as a postulant one had to have had a happy childhood; one could not come from a broken home; one had to have affective and sexual maturity and a blameless record of unsullied virtue; one had to have no past history of problems with drugs or alcohol and no alcoholism or mental illness in one's family; one had to have an undergraduate degree and be free of debts; and one had to have good teeth with no cavities. Paradise is peopled with saints who would not have measured up to the Reverend Father's standards. As a youthful friend of mine would say, "Dude! Get real!"

My Grace Is Enough for Thee

Saint Paul, in a very candid autobiographical passage, speaks today of his thorn in the flesh and of his own weakness (2 Cor 12:7-9). "And indeed, for fear that these surpassing revelations should make me proud, I was given a sting in the flesh to distress my outward nature, an angel of Satan sent to rebuff me. Three times it made me entreat the Lord to rid me of it. ; but He told me, My grace is enough for thee; my strength finds it full scope in thy weakness. More than ever, then, I delight to boast of the weaknesses that humiliate me, so that the strength of Christ may enshrine itself in me'" (2 Cor 12:7-9).

Stings in the Flesh

What kind of person does God call to live intimately with Christ, preferring nothing to His love and putting nothing before the Work of God? Men and women who are weak, imperfect, struggling along, like Paul, with a sting in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7) or, like Jacob, with a thigh put out of joint from having wrestled with an angel (Gen 32:25). Weakness is no obstacle to holiness, not in priests, not in nuns or monks, nor in anyone of us. Writing to the Fathers of Jesus Crucified in 1938, Mother Marie des Douleurs had this to say: "It is with nothing -- and with us who are nothings -- that God is doing something. Your weakness or your defects are, therefore, not an obstacle."

The Choice of God

All too often when the choice of God doesn't correspond to what folks think it ought to be, they reject it and reject the one chosen. Our Lord, in the Gospel, is rejected by those who saw Him grow up, by those who knew His mother and family, by those who knew Him first, not as a rabbi of astounding wisdom and mighty works, but as a lowly village carpenter (Mk 6:1-6). The townsfolk knew the mother of Jesus and His relations. Their familiarity with Jesus, and with His human background, blinded them to His mission. It made them skeptical and doubtful of His message. They were unwilling to admit that God had chosen one of their own. "Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to Him (Mk 6:2)?

Unbelief

Saint John describes this very drama in his Prologue. "He came to His own home, and His own people received him not" (Jn 1:11). The unbelief of Jesus' own people impedes His work and frustrates the fruitfulness of His mission. Saint Mark says, "He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them" (Mk 6:5).

Thwarting God's Plan

Each of us has the frightful possibility of thwarting God's plans, of frustrating His desires, and of impeding His work by refusing God's choice of ourselves or by refusing His choice of another. Each of us also has the blessed possibility of corresponding to God's plan, of living out the mystery of our vocation.

The World

A vocation is an invitation to paint one's life with broad strokes and bold colours. As prophets chosen by God, priests and religious are bound to be critical of prevailing cultural standards, philosophies, and systems. Shortly after the Second Vatican Council when people were reading Gaudium et Spes through a kind of rose-coloured haze, they thought they were being called to blend in with the world. It was all very heady stuff: dialogue, adaptation, and openness.

Crisis

What happened? The reality was one-sided: the Church listening to the world without the world listening to the Church. The Church adapting to the world without the world adapting to Church. The Church open to world without the world open to the Church. Instead of the Church evangelizing the world, the world began secularizing the Church. Confusion ensued. In many cases, the General Chapters of Renewal for religious Orders and Congregations mandated by the Second Vatican Council were, in effect, Chapters of Demolition, breaking with the past and intoxicated with change for the sake of change. Seminaries and novitiates closed. People stopped going to Mass. Children stopped learning their catechism and their prayers. In a single generation, families that had been strong in the Catholic faith for centuries fell away from the Church, some into agnosticism, some into neo-paganism, some into materialism and indifference.

An Adult Faith

Pope Benedict XVI alluded to all of this when, in his homily before the opening of the Conclave that elected him, he said: "How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking." Only now are we beginning to recover from it. The Holy Father announced the dawning of new day when he said: "An 'adult' faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth."

A New Day

The new day dawning in the Church will be marked by the return of prophets and of saints. God will demonstrate again the power of His grace by choosing and calling the weak, the broken, and the fallen. Weak men will again become the living evidence of His power. Broken people will become the vehicles of His all-sufficient grace. Fallen sinners will be raised up and sent forth as the heralds of spiritual resurrection. Divine mercy will have the last word as, one by one, souls are brought, under the protection of the Mother of God, to the Eucharistic Face of Christ and to His pierced Heart. The priesthood will shine with a new holiness.

A Prophet Among Them

There is every reason to be full of hope, "gladly boasting of our weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon us" (cf. 2 Cor 12:9). If we have fallen away from our first love, it is not too late to recover it. If we have compromised with worldliness and exchanged the patrimony of the saints against a few tawdry comforts, it is not too late to change. Looking for prophets, the eye of Christ has fallen on us. No one of us is too old, too sick, too dull, or too far-gone to be used for the designs of His Heart. Approaching the adorable Mysteries of His Body and Blood today, say "Yes" again. "And whether they hear or refuse to hear . . . they will know that there has been a prophet among them" (Ez 2:5).

4 Comments

Thank you for another inspiring post.

It is truly astonishing what God can do with us. A couple of years ago, aged 18, I became a Catholic. If you'd told me a few years ago that this would happen I'd never have believed you. I was a typical (worse than typical!) irreligious teenager, getting up to all kinds of things... But somehow God's grace has brought me to where I am today; has given me a new life. And now I'm discerning a call to the priesthood. I'm not saying I'm a future 'prophet and saint'. But I hope that God will grant me in some way to be a 'vehicle of his all-sufficient grace.'

Dear San, Thank you very much for sharing your own experience of the transforming grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I ask Our Blessed Lady to help you as you go forward in discerning a call to the priesthood.

Dear Father,
I am profoundly inspired by your teaching today.
Thank you.

As one whose body at best could be described as "broken", I am greatly encouraged to persevere contemplating afresh that God chooses the broken.

http://tonusperegrinus.blogspot.com

Dear Fr Mark
Thank you for this post.
Like San, I was a fairly irreligious teenager (and twenty-something!), but became more convinced, especially through an experience at Paris World Youth Day in 1997, that God wanted me to be a priest. This despite (or even, because of, as Fr Martin suggests can happen) my weaknesses. I am often consoled by the fact that Christ came to save us WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS (Rm 5). He doesn't wait for the cavity-free superman. Otherwise, I suppose, there is nothing to redeem.
Anyway, thank you for your blog. It is the best of its type on the internet.
Yours,
Fr (since the feast of Mary Magdalene, 2006) John Flynn

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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