Weakness Which Leads To Perfection

What is meant in St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, where he notes that God spoke to him saying, “My grace is enough for you, for in human weakness the power of God reaches perfection?” Fr Vallee gives us his thoughts on it and concludes his homily this way:

The point is that it does not matter what Paul’s “weakness” is. We all have weaknesses and stuff about ourselves we are ashamed of. The point is God’s response to Paul’s weakness. Because God addresses our weaknesses with the same words. God tells Paul: “My grace is enough for you, for in human weakness the power of God reaches perfection.” We don’t have to be perfect. In fact, the fact that we are not perfect is precisely what forces us to realize our need for God’s grace. Ignatius of Loyola wrote: Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace; that is enough for me.

The email address to request to be put on Vallee’s email distribution list is Cioran262@aol.com. To see the entire homily click on ‘read more.’ Search for other Fr Vallee homilies in this blog by entering ‘Vallee’ in the search box in the upper left hand corner or look for Fr Vallee in the Labels.

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Fr Vallee Homily – July 4, 2009

I. Thorn in the flesh, angel of Satan
One of the most amazing passages of Scripture, in my view at least, is today’s second reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Paul writes: “In order that I might not become inflated and arrogant, I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan, to beat me and keep me from becoming proud. Three times I begged the Lord to take this from me. But he said, ‘My grace is enough for you, for in human weakness the power of God reaches perfection.’” This is a very beautiful and yet somewhat enigmatic passage. Notice that Paul does not tell us what exactly this “thorn in the flesh” might be. We can be pretty sure as to what it is not. It is not pain or persecution, trials or tribulations. Why? Because Paul just told us that he willingly boasts of what he suffers for the sake of the Gospel. So what is it that so torments Paul? One thing is sure, it something that Paul sees as a weakness and something not to boast of but to be ashamed of.

II. First Possible thorn: character flaw
There are many possibilities as to the nature of this “angel of Satan.” Let’s look at three. First, Paul could be referring to some sort of a character flaw on his part. He had several to deal with. His worst problem was that he had a terrible temper and an acidic tongue. When Barnabas in Acts, asks him to take back John Mark, Paul says he is a baby and should go back home to his mommy. In Galatians, he writes, with a somewhat poisonous pen, “how stupid can you be!” Later in Galatians, Paul writes, “Henceforth, let no man bother me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord’s passion.” One thing is certain, Paul was not so good at playing nice with the other children.

III. Second: Physical problem
The second possibility is that Paul could have been talking about some sort of physical problem which may have gotten in the way of his preaching the Gospel. For example, it is believed that Paul stuttered. This, of course would have affected his ability to preach the Gospel. In the 20th chapter of Acts we read that Paul was preaching, “on and on” and a young man got so bored that he fell from a third story window and died. Paul had to go down and raise him from the dead. My homilies are not always great but I have never killed anyone. Which is all for the best, being that I am not at all confident about the raising from the dead part afterwards. Also, when Paul describes his fits and seizures, some modern doctors have surmised that he was perhaps an epileptic. Of course, is always a bit dangerous to perform such anachronistic diagnoses.

IV. Moral Problem
The third and, I think, the most interesting possibility is that Paul is alluding to some sort of moral flaw, some sort of sin he struggles with. We have already seen that he has a bit of trouble with wrath and pride and envy. But maybe it is something else. A French psychologist wrote a book in the 1980s which analyzed all of Paul’s comments about women and suggests that Paul does not like them very much. Not to put too fine a point on it but that Paul perhaps struggled with desires which ran contrary to nature. Of course, there is no way to know being that Paul doesn’t say.

V. Grace is enough
The point is that it does not matter what Paul’s “weakness” is. We all have weaknesses and stuff about ourselves we are ashamed of. The point is God’s response to Paul’s weakness. Because God addresses our weaknesses with the same words. God tells Paul: “My grace is enough for you, for in human weakness the power of God reaches perfection.” We don’t have to be perfect. In fact, the fact that we are not perfect is precisely what forces us to realize our need for God’s grace. Ignatius of Loyola wrote: Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace; that is enough for me.
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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