MY WEAKNESS, GOD’S STRENGTH
READ: II Corinthians 12:7-10
“So that I should not get above myself, I, Paul, was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from the Tempter to batter me and prevent me from exalting myself. As to this thorn, I have pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but the Lord has answered, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is at full stretch in times of weakness.’ It is, then, about my weaknesses that I am happiest to share with you, so that the power of Christ may then rest upon me. This is why I rejoice in my weakness, and I can rejoice in the face of insults, constraints, persecutions and distress when they come when I am pursuing the cause of Christ. For it is when I am weak that I am also strong.” – II Corinthians 12:7-10
Each morning young Brother Joseph lifts the elderly Brother Ambrose from bed. He dresses the old man, readies him for the pre-dawn prayers. He offers his strong shoulder for the old man to lean on as he slowly makes his way. At night, after our late evening prayers, young Brother Joseph returns Brother Ambrose back home, and back into bed. Day after day, the strong, young Brother provides his physical strength for the weakened, old Brother … and if you ask young Brother Joseph, he would tell you that the old Brother shares his own kind of strength with him, the old man’s strength of soul .. a strength to keep going … to keep being faithful … until his journey is finally done. Here at Greyfriars’ Abbey, these two Brothers are usually spoken of in the same breath, as if they were the two halves of the one whole … We tend to refer to them with words such as …”Has anybody seen Brothers Joseph and Ambrose lately? Please, would someone get Brothers Joseph and Ambrose? I need to speak with them.” And in their being yoked so together … they somehow seem together so very strong.
An Irish monk once wrote cryptically …“It is the softness of the sail that captures the wind, and it is the strength of the wind that completes the sail.” In other words … when we live with humility, we allow our souls to become as sail cloth, soft enough, flexible and pliable enough to capture the Wind. And when our cloth and the Wind come together to be as One, then across the vast seas we can sail. But if we choose rather to be but ship’s timber, rugged and self-sufficient, boasting of our own strength … we can do little more than drift with the currents that come upon us.
The Christian disciple in the Benedictine spirit is neither proud nor boastful, neither rigid nor judgmental, neither arrogant nor haughty … the Christian disciple is rather a humble soul, a soul that is honest and open, simple and sincere, a mere sinner thankful for being saved and sanctified, setting sail with the Wind over the waters.
Yet … how puffed up we Christians can be, how better-than-thou we can act, how strong and self-sufficient is the persona we can project … a towering idol of self-made success. My Loved Ones, how tragic and foolish is this religion of self-importance and self-indulgence … for it keeps us from knowing in full measure the strength and power of God that can fill the sails of a humble soul.
Like Paul, we all have our thorns in the flesh … our weaknesses and our wounds. We struggle with them … but they do serve a holy purpose … they lead us into the far reaches of God’s loving heart.
Young Brother Joseph and old Brother Ambrose, they lean on each other … as they voyage together. It is something wise and it is something beautiful and it is something so very holy.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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