Sunday, July 8, 2018

Six Words You'll Need Someday: 14th Sunday OT 2018

I want you to remember this verse from 2 Corinthians and tattoo it on your brain, because someday you’re going to need it, and I hope it’ll come back to you when you do. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God tells St. Paul: “My grace is enough for you.”

It’s a verse that’s popular in music, printed in greeting cards, and embroidered on pillows, because it sounds so nice and reassuring and comfortable… and good, great! It’s always a good time to remember that His grace is enough.

But I said this verse will come back to you someday when you need it. Maybe it’s today, maybe it’ll be a long time from now. But I can tell you some things about that day. The day you need this verse you won’t be swinging in a hammock between two coconut trees sipping a Mai Tai. The day you need this verse you won’t be celebrating a big win that’s got everybody telling you how great you are. That day you probably won’t be surrounded by supportive friends who make you feel loved and wanted.

No, I don’t guess that anyone who was having a day like that ever thought much about this verse.



The day you do need this verse: “My grace is enough for you,” it’ll be a day you feel like a failure. St. Paul knew all about failure, about pouring his heart and soul into something and watching it turn to dust. You can read about it, you can feel his hurt.

The day you need this verse, you’ll feel very alone. St. Paul knew about being let down and abandoned. You can read about that, too, and his hurt is too deep to hide even if he wanted to.

When you need this verse, you won’t be feeling like a willing martyr, facing a sacrifice that you understand with a clear vision of why it’s for the best and why God is asking it of you. St. Paul didn’t have that... not this time.
“This thorn in my side was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated… Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, “My grace is enough for you…”
He didn’t understand. He just hurt. He begged, and begged, and begged again, and… nothing. It didn’t budge. It didn’t start to make some kind of sense. It just kept hurting. And that’s when God told St. Paul what God is telling us today: “My grace is enough for you.”

Paul is a Saint because it was enough for him and because he learned that all the way down to his core. His faith was heroic, not because he was so strong and comforted that it wasn’t hard, but because he was weak and fighting so hard and never gave up.

Because God loved Paul enough to forge him into a Saint, and God loves you just as much. That's good news or bad news, depending on what you want out of life.

Now, plot twist: His grace is always all you have. You just don’t always know it. You have to learn, and God will teach you. The day He does, it won’t be your best day, if by ‘best day’ you mean feeling awesome and winning at life. But it may absolutely be your best day, if by ‘best day’ you mean becoming someone who is fit for Heaven.

Because his own weakness and failure and hurt weren’t the end of the road for Paul, any more than the Cross was the end of the road for Jesus. Listen to this, from just a few verses before our second reading, listen to the story of this man who’s calling himself weak:
Five times I was given forty lashes minus one, beaten with rods three times, once I was pelted with stones, I was shipwrecked three times, spent a full day and night floating in the open sea, and always on the move… [He goes on.]
And from other Scriptures, we know there’s so much more. Weak? The man is indestructible! That’s what Jesus Christ did for him. Because the more he encountered and faced his own brokenness and hurt, the more he learned to rely on grace instead of on himself. That’s what he comes to understand about the thorn in his side, whatever it was, when God wouldn’t take it away but told him “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul understood and responded, “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.”

Grace will give you days of easy comfort and serenity and happiness, and grace will give you days of brokenness and struggle. It’s all grace. But bet on this: from the perspective of eternal life with Jesus, you will be more grateful for those harder days. With faith you can accept and even embrace your weakness… because with faith you can see God’s strength being brought to perfection in you. It might help you to see it if you remember 2 Corinthians 12:9, when you need it most. Tattoo these words on your brain for when you need them, because you will. My grace is enough for you.

Pompeo Batoni, St. Paul

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