5 July 2009 - Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard

On the second reading:  2 Corinthians 12.7-10: There are two spiritual conditions which make it very difficult for the grace of God to help us.  One is self-pity.  The other is self-sufficiency.  Self-pity (which is different from real suffering) blows everything out of proportion, and says that the world should come to us and make things right.  Self-sufficiency says that we do not need any help, thank you, that we can do everything ourselves.

St Paul invites us to a different way.  He knew his own need.  We do not know what the thorn in his flesh was, but this phrase from the King James Bible has become so well known that it has become common currency in today's English.  Whatever it was, it was something that Paul longed for God to remove, or to heal.  Instead, he had to learn to live with it. He learned, in fact, that it was precisely through his own neediness that he would be more open to God.  Because he knew his need, he would be more able to receive.  He shows neither angry self-pity nor vain self-sufficiency.  Instead, his vulnerability, his thorn in the flesh, draws him closer to God, for it teaches him to rely on God's strength which is made known precisely where Paul's strength ebbs away.  This same mystery helped Paul to understand more deeply the meaning of the cross.  He could say that we are able to be there with Christ, and to find his wounds a source of healing for our wounds.

On the Gospel, Mark 6.1-6:  All of us feel our lives are very ordinary.  Yet it is so important that we feel that it is into our lives that God comes.  This, surely, is part of the meaning of the incarnation.  God does not despise the daily round of human living.  God does not disdain the ordinary, the particular, the here and now.  It was into this world and among its ordinary people that the Christ came.  I can understand the incredulity of the townsfolk of Nazareth.  They doubt that God could be shown through the life of a carpenter.  They are doubting not only Jesus, but actually they are doubting themselves, for they can hardly believe that they would be the place of grace.  Each of us has been tempted to think the same thing, that our lives are too humdrum for God to take much notice.  But he does.  To each us he comes in the grace of the sacraments, to touch the ordinary moments of our lives, so that they may reflect his love.  To us he listens in prayer, so that we may work with him.

Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6.

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