GLORY IS FOUND IN WEAKNESS
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 Cor 4:7-15; Ps 116:10-11, 15-18; Mt 5:27-32 ]
“We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us.” This insight of St Paul holds much truth in life. Human beings are fragile, like the earthenware jars. They are easily breakable and damaged, cracked or get chipped off. That is why earthenware jars must be handled with great care, unlike pots that are made of gold, silver, steel or bronze. They can last and withstand the impact of force. Because they are durable, they are often more valued by people for practical reasons and sometimes for their beauty. However, earthenware jars are more beautiful, often designed with intricacies, especially when we think of porcelain, which is made of clay, feldspar or flint, and silica.
In life too, we sometimes wish we were more intelligent, healthier, richer or more influential. We envy those who are blessed with all the things of this world, including physical beauty and physique, good brains and eloquence. We feel that we are at a disadvantage compared to such people. Yet the truth is that those who are born with a silver spoon in their mouth might never be able to go through the struggles of the ordinary person when things turn sour for them. Those who have all they want seldom treasure what they have, the comforts that they are accustomed to, the convenience and the luxuries of life. They tend to take all these for granted and yet they would also be complaining and are unhappy in their situation. Those who have gone through difficult times, living in poverty and in need will appreciate much more when blessed with such gifts. They will use them well and often for others, because they feel with the poor and the underprivileged since they were once one of them.
Who are those truly considered an inspiration in life? If we are successful because we have built on the success of others, we cannot be considered truly successful and have made a radical difference in the world. Only those who started from scratch and against all odds, yet managed to turn the situation around and brought a greater good out of their hopeless situations could be considered truly inspiring people. We will look up to those who came from ordinary backgrounds, without money, status and influence; and yet have become ‘somebody’ in society, not just working for their glory and success but contributing to the alleviation of the poor and disadvantaged in society. Such people give us hope that we too can also overcome all odds in life and that poverty, social status and disadvantages can be turned into something positive and work in our favour.
True success is when the glory of God is shown in our weakness. This is what St Paul wrote, “we are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body.” Allowing God to work in us and through us in the face of difficulties, challenges and limitations, is what will show forth the power and glory of God, rather than if we were able to do everything by our own effort.
How can we allow God to work in and through us? St Paul urges us to surrender ourselves completely to Him. He said, “while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” We must give ourselves to the Lord in faith and trust, accepting our weaknesses and limitations in all humility, dying to ourselves and our pride and selfishness, so that God’s power, love and strength can be in us.
We must be focused on the power that comes from God so that we will be His glory and not seek our own glory. Being focused on being the glory of God will keep us from focusing on ourselves. Singular-mindedness in seeking God’s glory will help us to give our heart and soul to what we do. Only when we keep our focus on being the earthenware that holds the great treasure which is God in us, will we then strive in every way to remove any obstacles that prevent us from allowing the glory of God to shine through us. This is why the Lord said, “If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.”
It is better to forgo what is destructive to our happiness than to allow ourselves to be divided and unsettled in our goal in life. So we must avoid the occasion of sin. This is the first step to finding focus in life. Many of us fall into sin and are distracted from our vocation in life because we are not alert to the temptations that are placed around us. Hence, if we are addicted to alcohol, then we should stay away from pubs and those occasions when we know we will fall into sin. This is true for sexual sins as well, whether promiscuity, fornication or adultery. Knowing how weak we are as human beings, we should strive to avoid those occasions of sin so that we can be at peace within ourselves. Anything that takes away our peace of mind, our focus on our vocation, our loved ones and families, should be cut off. Otherwise, as the Lord warns us, it will cause us untold harm and misery which will put us in hell, a place of torment, suffering, pain and regret.
Instead, our heart should be focused entirely on what we are called to do in life. The heart is the seat of emotions and our striving. This explains why the Lord always teaches that the real evil or goodness comes from within the heart. Before any action can be externalized, it must first be conceived in the heart. He said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mk 7:20-23) Indeed, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus traced anger, revenge, hatred and adultery to the heart. This is why He said, “You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Even though adultery has not yet taken place, the fact that it is already conceived in our heart, means that when the opportunity arises, that thought and desire will give birth to action.
To do this, we must keep our eyes on Jesus who is our leader of salvation. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1f) St Paul was focused on his mission because he placed his entire faith in the Lord. “But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us.” With the eyes of faith in the Lord, who became man, was weak like us in all except sin, was crucified, suffered death but raised by the Father in the resurrection, we can be sure that the Father too will bring glory out of our shame, strength out of our weakness, holiness from our sins, life from our death.
Indeed, when we see how God makes sinful and weak people like us serve His mission and be His glory, we thank God all the more for we know it is His grace alone. As St Paul says, “You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be to the glory of God.” Yes, we have seen how God worked through humble people, like St Teresa of Calcutta and St Theresa of the Child Jesus.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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