Saturday, June 20, 2015

St Paul and the Catch 22

What happens when you have a summer schedule with more free time? For me, it means several things:

1.) an infinitely more relaxed Julia.
2.) more time to read
3.) more time to pray
4.) more reading + prayer + more relaxed = more time for blogging.

And so, after a couple of non-blog months, we have the two posts in one week summer special.

(Also, thanks to those of you who saw my tweet re: my last post and assured me that there are others besides my mother who still read this blog. Also, hi, Mom. :)

I spoke earlier this week about Joy and how if we want to grow in Joy, we need to grow closer to Jesus. And as I've defined other times on this blog, joy is underlying and long term. It is not the same as temporary happiness. And it is motivated by love.

St. Paul points out another way that we can remain close to Jesus: the thorns in our sides. I know that I've also posted about this as my long-standing love affair with St. Paul and his boasting in weakness is well documented. Today, the first reading was from Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians (also, btw- his rant yesterday about "talking like an insane person" I also found endearing) is one of my favorites:

"Brothers and sisters:
I must boast; not that it is profitable,
but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows),
was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know that this man
(whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows)
was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things,
which no one may utter.
About this man I will boast,
but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.
Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish,
for I would be telling the truth.
But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me
than what he sees in me or hears from me
because of the abundance of the revelations.
Therefore, that I might not become too elated,
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". - 2 Corinthians 12: 1-10

I love this passage for so many reasons but mostly because I think that we all identify with Paul's pleading to God to take "the thorn" away, whatever it may be for us. And that Paul goes on to identify that thorn as the thing that God allows so that we might stay close to Him.

I know that this may sound a little messed up, but this is the heart of the Paschal Mystery: suffering and death is what brings about new life. And while I know I often tell God: "Hey! I will praise you forever if you give me what I want! You don't have to use this thorn in my side! Give me all the good stuff and I will stay close to You! Promise!" God knows humanity better than that. How often do we truly go to God in prayer when things are going all smooth vs how often we go to Him when things are not? It's humanity that's a little messed up. We are the ones who often only turn to Him when we have "thorns."

And so God uses these thorns and allows them so that we can rely on His strength, and therefore, draw closer to Him.

It's a Catch-22, I know. We want to grow closer to God to understand Love and Joy and sometimes (read: most of the time) that requires suffering. It's a Catch-22. It's the Paschal Mystery. But hey, at least we are in good company:

And! And! Jesus tells us "not to worry"! Another fav reading was the Gospel for today! No coincidence that the Church pairs this with St. Paul's thorn tales, lest we begin to worry about our weaknesses:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” - Matthew 6:24-3

I mean, c'mon guys. Wild flowers are pretty and so are birds, but we know they got nothing on us.

Happy Summer! Beware of post-Italy blogpost coming soon! 


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