First Reading: Ezekiel 2: 3 – 5
Responsorial Psalm: 123
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12: 7 – 10
Gospel Mark: 6: 1 – 6
What are the thorns in our flesh?
What are the graces to handle the thorns?
We will be able to map every thorn with grace.
Every thorn has His grace.
The people of Nazareth thought they knew Jesus. The image they had of him, which they held on to with great tenacity, became a block to their learning more about him. We too can easily assume that we know someone, when, in reality, we only know one side to them. We can form strong opinions about people on the basis of past experiences. We can become so attached to these opinions that even when the evidence is there to challenge them, we are completely unmoved. There was more to Jesus than the people of Nazareth were aware of. Indeed there is always more to every human being than we are aware of. That is true even of those we would claim to know well, such as family members and good friends. We are each made in God’s image. There is a profound mystery to each one of us. We can never fully probe the mystery of another person’s life. We each need to approach everyone with the awareness that there is more here than I can see. It was Jesus’ very ordinariness that made it difficult for the people of Nazareth to see him as he really was, in all his mystery. God was powerfully present to them in and through someone who was as ordinary, in many respects, as they themselves. God continues to come to us today in and through the ordinary, in and through those who are most familiar to us. In the religious sphere there can be a certain fascination with the extraordinary and the unusual. The gospels suggest that the primary way the Lord comes to us is in and through the everyday. This is what we mean by the incarnation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The ordinary is shot through with God’s presence.
Similar to Almighty God’s voice guiding Ezekiel on what needs to be done in the First reading, we have the Little voice of the Holy Spirit guiding us now. Usually, we will obey the voice when His directions are easier to follow. But when it’s too difficult or if we do not have the enthusiasm, we tend to disobey. All across the Old Testament, we find that whenever Israel obeys God’s commands, it prospers. But whenever they rebel against God’s commands, they have either a plague or a famine or are captured by some other kingdom. But in the present times, God consistently repeats the same instructions to us through the little voice. As a responsible and caring Father, He is giving us instructions only to prosper us. If we do not obey Him, then we are missing a great blessing He has in store for us.
God gave the Apostle Paul thorns in his flesh so that he did not think highly of himself. When the Apostle Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorns, then God did not remove them. God replied that His grace was sufficient for him to go through the suffering.
Similarly, to keep us from getting proud, God provides us thorns in our flesh too. We should take them with the good attitude that the weakness is a grace for us to experience God’s strength.
In the last two weeks we saw the miracles that happened through faith. This week we are reading that Jesus could not perform any miracle because of the lack of faith. It’s a surprising message from today’s Gospel that if faith is not there (i.e. a positive attitude that ‘I am not alone, God, my Father will surely take care of me. He will never forsake me’ is not there, even God is not able to help out.) During our younger years, we may have wondered, why is Jesus always saying ‘your faith has cured you’. Jesus is the only one curing everyone, then why is He giving the credit to faith in the person.
The Lord can even come to us in and through what we initially experience as something very negative. St Paul made this discovery for himself, according to our second reading today. He struggled with what he called a thorn in the flesh. It is not easy to know what he means by this. Whatever it was, Paul wanted to be rid of it. He saw no good in it and he prayed earnestly to the Lord to take it from him, fully expecting that his prayer would be heard. Paul’s prayer was answered, but not in the way he had expected. In prayer he came to realize that God was powerfully present in and through this thorn in the flesh. When we find ourselves struggling with something inside ourselves or with something outside ourselves, some person perhaps, we can be tempted to see the struggle as totally negative and just want to be rid of it. Like Paul, however, we can discover that this difficult experience is opening us up to God’s presence. The very thing we judge to be of little or no value can create a space for God to work powerfully in our lives. There is something of a paradox in what Paul hears the risen Lord say to him, ‘My power is at its best in weakness.’ It is often when we most feel life as a struggle that God can touch our lives most powerfully and creatively.
This Gospel reading explains that for God to get to work, we need to have faith in Him.
Doable Tips for going through our daily life:
What are the thorns in our flesh? The thorn in our flesh may be poverty, sickness like Paul, growing up with a special child, unemployment, peer pressure, or so on. Have we noticed that the thorn changes as we go through life? Our thorn changes as we go through different stages in our life. As God revealed to Paul, ‘My grace is sufficient for you’, God will provide the grace to handle whatever the thorn may be. We are well equipped to handle the situation. If we have a special child, then God will give the grace to take care of the child now and would have already planned on who is going to take care of the special child, once our time is over. God will set all things right. He makes everything beautiful according to His own timetable. Hence, let us rely on God, trust in Him and not worry.
God waited for Abraham to be 100 years old, to bless him with a child. This thorn in Abraham’s life became a great blessing – his children are still being born!! (All of us call Father Abraham and teach our children also the same). There is always fruit in every good pain. When it pains us, let us remember that we are bearing good fruit.
Abraham’s timetable to have a child would have been when he got married. But God’s timetable for Abraham to have a child was when Abraham became 100 years old. Since the blessing was huge, the waiting time was also big.
Faith during pain: This Gospel reading is a beautiful lesson for all of us to apply in our daily life. When sufferings come in, do we complain and get into the self-pity mode, losing hope that even God cannot change the situation, or do we respond positively – ‘I know God allowed this for good. There is something good that is going to happen. Once the purpose of this suffering is accomplished, God will remove this suffering and make us shine in glory’. Let us think positively, and keep recalling God’s faithfulness. We will apply the ointment of faith to heal and flourish.
Instead of meditating on how big the challenge is, let us look at how big our God is.
God bless. Have a wonderful day