As the Lord spoke to me, the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard the one who was speaking say to me: "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: "Thus says the Lord God!" And whether they heed or resist - for they are a rebellious house - they shall know that a prophet has been among them."(P) The word of the Lord.
To you I lift up my eyes who are enthroned in heaven - as the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters. (R)
As the eyes of maid are on the hands of her mistress, so are our eyes on the Lord, our God, till He has pity on us. (R)
Have pity on us, O Lord, have pity on us, for we are more than sated with contempt; our souls are more than sated with the mockery of the arrogant, with the contempt of the proud. (R)
Brothers and sisters: 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.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. 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.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands? Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Jones and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
A man owned a house that had a flat roof. Most nights he used to sleep on the rooftop. One night when he was sleeping he turned over and fell down onto the ground. As a result he broke his arm and leg and had to stay in bed for many months. One day a friend who was visiting him asked, "Friend, what happened to you? And how did it all happen?" The man replied, "If you want to know exactly what happened, try to throw yourself down from the roof."
Pain is very subjective and a very personal thing. No one can ever know or see the pain a person feels inside, whether it's physical or emotional. Do you not sometimes wonder why you have not been healed miraculously or transformed or touched by God like the miraculous healings in the Bible or the stories of personal and spiritual transformation of others? Today's readings remind us that everything is possible with God. We can experience miracles and transformation in our life when we have faith and invite God to intervene - even in situations that seem impossible. In today's gospel, Mark (6:5-6), we read that Jesus was not "able to perform any mighty deed" in his native place because of their lack of faith. Whereas in the second reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, (12:7-10), we learn that Paul found comfort and hope in turning to Jesus Christ in his suffering and difficult times.
In the passage Paul recounts how he cried and begged God to take away his suffering, but then realized that in his suffering, he found Christ's power. Paul does not mention exactly what was troubling him but rather calls it "a thorn in the flesh". "Thorn in the flesh" is just a figure of speech, like a "pain in the neck" which is commonly referred to a troublesome person. What does Paul mean by a "thorn in the flesh"? There are many views as to what exactly the thorn in his flesh was. Some biblical scholars suggest that Paul refers to some form of physical ailment or affliction. Some believe that he was speaking about his opponents who doubted his conversion; despised his teaching; questioned his integrity and authority. Some point out that the thorn refers to the false teachers who were trying to destroy people's confidence in Paul and undo the work that God had begun among the Corinthians. Some others believe that Paul is simply referring to a painful and unbearable circumstance or situation in his life.
Because in his second letter to the Corinthians, particularly in chapters 9, 10 and 11, Paul, more extensively than in any other letters, speaks about hardships in his ministry, such as, imprisonments, shipwrecks, beatings, hunger, thirst, sleepless nights and other hardships he suffered during his travels as a preacher. Therefore, I believe the pain or the trouble he was facing at the time was unbearable for him. So in his deepest pain he turned to God and begged Him to remove the problem. But instead of finding relief from his suffering he learned four lessons.
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."
Paul says that the thorn was "given" to him implying that the thorn was a gift from God but by way of a messenger of Satan in order to torment him. Why was the thorn given to him? He says that it was given to him, "to keep me from being too elated". What does he mean? Paul had received many divine revelations which at times led him to put himself above all others and, even boast of his knowledge and faith in God. So he believed that God gave him the thorn in his flesh to counteract his pride and arrogance. God gave a noble and righteous purpose behind the thorn - to make him humble. That is to say, Paul realized that God uses suffering to humble His children.
times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me."
Paul says that he begged God three times meaning that he was persistent in his prayer that he might be delivered from the trouble. The thorn turned Paul's attention to God. He could no longer bear the pain anymore so he sought God. If there were no "thorn" he would have ignored God. In other words, Paul learned that God uses suffering to draw His children to Himself.
said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you."
Paul says that he heard God responding to him that he has been given sufficient grace. God gave relief but not by removing the problem, but rather by pouring out His grace on Paul. God increased Paul's confidence in the presence and the goodness of God. God gave Paul sufficient courage and strength to get him through the pain and suffering. That is, Paul realized that God uses suffering to display His grace on His children.
power is made perfect in weakness."
Paul says that in response to his prayer God said to him that He shows His power when he is weak. God's glory and power were magnified through Paul's suffering. The more pain he endured the more God displayed His power. So, Paul learned that God uses suffering to perfect His power.
Therefore, Paul gladly boasted of his weaknesses and afflictions, and declared that he was in fact "content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints." Paul was willing and happy to suffer for Christ because the power of Christ was being perfected in him.
What are the thorns or pains or troubles in your life? Do you have any physical pain that you need immediate relief from - a disease or a terminal illness? Do you have any emotional pain that comes from broken relationships, rejection, loneliness, stress, slander, gossip, unjust criticism, separation or divorce of your parents or your own, anxiety or depression or financial hardships? Do you have any spiritual pain caused by your own sins, like anger, hatred, envy, greed, selfishness, pride, impure words, thoughts and actions?
I am sure that each of you know what your thorns are. Your families, friends and others may be able to offer you tips and means to help you heal some of your physical and emotional pains. But to deal with all the pains, most especially your spiritual pain and abasement you need divine intervention. The thorn may be small but unbearable. In fact, the small thorns or troubles are often the hardest to deal with but with God's grace, being constantly available and sufficient, we shall be able to get through both the big and small situations. We can always approach God with confidence. Prayer is the most comforting in times of suffering. As someone rightly says, "The sweetest times of communion with God come in the most crucial times of suffering."
But too often, we neglect to ask God to intervene and perform miracles in our lives, and end up settling for less than God's best for us. Sometimes we are hesitant to pray for miracles or for our needs, both big and small, or for personal spiritual transformation.
Let us seek God's counsel in the scriptures. Let us turn to God in deep prayer. Be persistent and firm in our faith and pray constantly that we might be delivered from hardships. As we pray for relief, healing and miracles, let us remember that we are human beings and we are weak, but God can work miracles in our weakness. Moreover, we shall remember that God works more powerfully in our weakness than he does in our strength. Let us also keep in mind that God is in control, and that God has a purpose behind our pain and that purpose must be accomplished before the pain can leave us. Let us truly believe that through our trials and problems, we are blessed, protected and perfected by the power of God.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!