A good yardstick for assessing our success as living as a faithful Catholic is not to wonder how holy we are but how weak we are. A good question to pose would be if I have experienced confusion and doubt. Have I been broken and lived through depression and anxiety? Have I tasted failure and defeat? Do I realize my tendency to sin?
In fact, I would say the most effective Catholic priests, authors, mothers, and leaders rely on God, not on their own gifts and strengths because they have experienced their own weakness. They have been broken and healed by the Father and so can show compassion to their children, friends, and neighbours.
When I am Weak
Christians tend to rate their level of sanctity by their success in service and prayer. We would be thrilled to share in Saint Paul’s mystical experiences, assuring us of our sanctity. Yet Saint Paul upsets our worldly notions of spiritual success in his second letter to the Corinthians. Saint Paul is wise enough not to brag about his spiritual prowess but only brag about his weaknesses. Christ tells Paul:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:5-12)
Do we really understand what Paul is talking about?
The Mystery of Strength
The mystery of strength made perfect in weakness is the power of the cross. The cross is crucial; it is the basis of our Catholic faith.
Christ can only save us and set us free when we are weak. We do not readily admit we need a Saviour. A practical illustration of this truth is the case of a drowning man; the best time to save him is once he has exhausted himself. Then he does not have enough strength to fight the lifeguard. If a drowning man is not weak enough, in his panic he can pull the lifeguard under with him.
Similarly, Christ often waits until we have exhausted ourselves and are weak enough to realise we are desperate to be saved from ourselves. Only then do we not put up a fight. When I feel strong, I cling tenaciously to the little life I have constructed. Everything in my psychological make-up forces me to cling to control, even though it is destroying my inner spirit. It seems most of us must hit the proverbial rock bottom before we are ready to change. I know for me, only when I was weak and shattered, only then did I resign and give God back His job. Only then did I surrender an egocentric point of view and embrace the fact that I need salvation.
We cannot find Him unless we know we need Him. We forget this need when we take a self-sufficient pleasure in our own good works. The poor and helpless are the first to find Him, Who came to seek and to save that which was lost. Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
Living day-to-day reality as if God is not in charge is definitely absurd but I only saw this fact after I surrendered and let go of control. I thought I was a committed Christian, but I could not find what is important in life in self-created delusions. I could only discover the truth as I learnt to live in harmony with a bigger universe than the one, I created.
Even when I try to be a good Catholic, I am still stealing God’s job. Unfortunately for me, this whole process of redemption is not a one-shot deal. It is a process which delves deeper every time I go through it.
I will trust God, especially in times of weakness, trusting in His strength, even in the darkness.
connecting with Theology is a Verb