July 7 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

As an adolescent, I didn’t have any scruples about telling my dad exactly what I thought when I didn’t like what he told me to do. Unsurprisingly, this led to arguments. Sometimes I was in the wrong, sometimes my parents were in the wrong, and more often both of us were in the wrong. But something that looms large in my memory is that when my dad saw that he was in the wrong, he would apologize to me. Even as a kid, I was impressed by my dad coming to own up to his mistakes, and it gave me a model of how to admit my mistakes and ask forgiveness.

Our culture hates weakness. It tells us that we need to be strong and overcome our weakness at all costs. What this means in reality is that we are taught to avoid those weaknesses at all costs because we don’t know how to overcome them. We need look no further than Superman. He is so powerful that the writers invented the weakness of kryptonite to make him relatable. In some comics, Superman overcomes the kryptonite, but in order to keep the comic interesting, the writers undo that so that the kryptonite does affect him. Ultimately it seems like the best way of dealing with this weakness is just to avoid it.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul begs Jesus to take a weakness away from him, but Jesus replies, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Our culture tells us we need to overcome our weakness, but Jesus tells us that it is only through our weaknesses, He can act even in us. Why? Because we are no longer blocking His action with our pride and illusion of strength. Instead, we see the truth that without Him, we can do nothing. This might seem depressing until we realize the flipside of this truth: with God, all things are possible. That is why St. Paul can say, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

We are called to this place of weakness, not to glorify the weakness, but because this is the only way for us to be able to love. Love calls us to be vulnerable, which literally means that we make ourselves able to be wounded. When we give ourselves to someone in love, we take the risk that the other person might hurt us. But we need to make ourselves vulnerable because that is the only way we can give of ourselves as we truly are.

Whenever my dad apologized to me, I caught a glimpse of this vulnerable love and was empowered to love in the same way. We see this love taken the utmost point of vulnerability every time we look at a crucifix: God loved us so much that He sent His Son to become man and die for us. By embracing our weakness and making ourselves vulnerable, we become strong by allowing that same love of Christ to work in us.

Father Frank