A Thorn in the Flesh

Jul 10, 2018

Gospel Reflection, 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Ezekiel 2: 2-5; 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10; Mark 6: 1-6a

A Thorn in the Flesh

Saint Paul says, “That I Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.” 

What was this “thorn in the flesh”?  We really don’t know.  But we do know that Saint Paul learned to be content with it.  He learned to be content with things in his life that just were not working out the way that he might have first hoped. 

He realized that if he did not have any weaknesses, that he would not cling to the power of Christ like he and all of us should.  It is so easy when we are experiencing relative good fortune or prosperity to stop relying on the power of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to get us through.  Saint Paul continues, “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.”  This is something that we should all repeat to ourselves: “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  We are strong by the power of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We do best in times of temptation to not say, “I can handle it”, but to say, “I am going to find a way to run to Christ, now and share with him how I feel.”  We do best in our lives when we are charged with some responsibility to not be preoccupied with our own abilities and resources, but with the need to pray – to ask our Lord for his help.

In our gospel, Jesus goes home and teaches in the synagogue.  He taught with authority, unlike the scribes and the Pharisees, but nevertheless, met opposition.  Many who heard him were extended family members who couldn’t accept his authoritative teaching.  They could accept his humanity as one of them, but they could not accept the possibility that he was the Messiah.  He was too familiar to them, so they wanted to limit him to what they were familiar and comfortable with. 

This, we might say, was a thorn in Jesus’ side.  Soon, many of us will visit family members and friends.  I would venture to say that, if Christianity were illegal and there was enough evidence to convict us, that there would always be some in our family for whom that evidence would not sit too well.  But this is okay because it is Christ who is strong in us.  We may suffer rejection or ostracism in ways related to Saint Paul’s experience.  We may share in the sufferings of Christ, but it is his power that has redeemed the world.  It is the power of his mercy and love.  God bless you and God bless America.

Father Tony