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Boasting about Weakness

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

In today's first reading, Paul states that he has learned to be content with weakness. Most of us would agree that this is no mean accomplishment, for the natural tendency of most human beings is to struggle against weakness and to aspire to strength. Who among us would not trade our disability for complete health and bodily strength? Yet Paul maintains that God's grace is enough.

It is in this context that Paul mentions his "thorn in the flesh." This particular weakness is never clarified in Paul's writings. There is some evidence that he might be referring to poor eyesight. In another of his letters, he mentions that his signature is written rather large because he can no longer see the letters unless they are written boldly. So there is the possibility that Paul's vision was impaired. However, this is only conjecture.

Whatever the so-called thorn was, it is obvious that it limited Paul's ability to do the things he wished to accomplish. Yet he "boasts" about his weakness because he has come to realize that God chooses the weak to build up the kingdom. Before his conversion, Paul was a powerful, influential man. He was both a Roman citizen as well as a trusted emissary of the Jewish authorities. When he accepted Christ, he gave up much of his power and influence. Yet God used him to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. As a result, Paul is highly regarded today as an apostle and missionary. He is at least as famous as any one of the other apostles, and more famous than most of them.

Each of us contends with a "thorn in the flesh." Our chronic illnesses and disabilities are a constant part of our daily lives. We are forced to accommodate our daily routine to these limitations. However, if we, like St. Paul, allow God to use us for the purposes of building up the kingdom, we can be sure that God's grace will also be enough for each of us.

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