Homily for 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time — Sacred Heart, Prince George, VA
“I’m too weak to be a deacon.”
I shared these words with a priest in confession a couple of weeks into my life as a brand new baby deacon. And the priest’s response was frustratingly wise:
“Good! This is good news!”
Excuse me? How? How is being WEAK good news?
Not sure about you, but I want to be like… really strong. I want to be a strong deacon! A STRONG priest! Maybe you’re thinking: “I want to be a strong husband. I want to be a strong wife — a strong father, mother, grandparent…”
We don’t like weakness. No — weakness implies failure, and the last thing we want to do is fail. We are terrified of failure…
The only problem is… the Gospel of Jesus Christ seems to hold weakness up as an incredible gift. That priest’s was right: It’s VERY good news if we are weak.
Just listen to the sobering words the Lord has for the 72 disciples he is sending out to proclaim the Kingdom of God:
“Behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves!”
Last time I checked, Lambs are the definition of weakness. They don’t stand a chance against wolves. Wolves have teeth, claws, and a ravenous appetite. They hunt in packs. They are well organized in their attacks. Lambs, on the other hand, are oblivious to danger. They wander off and get lost. They’re easily separated from the flock. Plus, they are so fluffy and soft. They have no armor, no sharp fangs, no defense at all. They are weak… doomed to fail it seems…
Jesus has quite a different idea of success.
Herein lies the unique genius of the Gospel: The goal is NOT to beat the wolves at their own game. The goal is not to overpower or to conquer the enemy by sheer force…Jesus is not commanding us to go out and eat the wolves before they eat us…
No! Far from it! In fact, the Kingdom of God is just the opposite: Go out and be weak for the life of the world! Go, and be defenseless! Love the wolves who are poised to attack you!
Do we not realize that we are called to cry out with Jesus on the Cross: “Father, forgive them! They know not what they do!” We are like the 72 disciples — Willing to be sent like lambs among wolves, willing to be defenseless — without money bag or sandals — willing to lose… trusting that our ultimate victory is secure no matter what happens to us! Or as Jesus himself puts it: “Rejoice! Because your names are written in heaven!”
Think about it. Jesus is THE Lamb of God. He was sent into this world by the Father to love the wolves who would ultimately exert all their strength and hatred to devour him. He was sent into this world precisely to BE WEAK, to be pinned helplessly to a Cross and bleed for the sake of us sinners… for the sake of ravenous WOLVES! It was in this strange and beautiful way that His power was made perfect: He submitted to the weakness of death…even death on a Cross — for his enemies.
Now Saint Paul’s words from our second reading begin to make more sense:
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
But what if we begin to get discouraged by all our weakness and failure? It’s so easy to feel the heavy weight of the Christian life. Our world is so hostile to holiness. Our culture often seems allergic to religion! It’s seems downright impossible to stay hopeful in the face of so many wolves…
I think a big temptation is this: We begin to let our weakness become an excuse to give up: “I’m not good enough — I’ll never be able to — I’m not religious enough …so I’m throwing in the towel. This life is not for me.”
To that, I offer this amazing quote by St. Josemaria Escrivá:
“You realize that you are weak, and so indeed you are. But in spite of that, rather, because of it, God has called you. He always chooses inadequate instruments so that the work may be seen to be His. From you, He asks only docility.”
God’s mercy is so unbelievable! He doesn’t call us IN SPITE of our weaknesses — but somehow, in the great mystery of salvation, He calls us precisely BECAUSE of our weaknesses! We need only to be open to grace.
What better way to prove that WE CAN DO NOTHING APART FROM GOD’S LOVE AND GRACE? What do we have left to prove? What strength can we brag about — if from the dark tomb of our nothingness, God raises us to Resurrection Light? Often, it’s only when we hit the rock bottom of our weakness that we can understand how desperately we really need God.
As St. Faustina once said so beautifully: “Lord, You know that I am weakness itself. Nevertheless, with You I can do all things. O my Jesus, I beseech You, be with me at each instant.”
These are the words of a Saint who truly experienced the depths of her own poverty. Faustina knew full well that she was a weak little lamb totally dependent on Divine Mercy. She had no defense but her Savior, and she boasted in that liberating fact!
So yes — if you feel weak today and are frustrated, I’d like to echo the words that wise priest told me:
“Good! This is good news!”
It’s a sign that you are in this great fight for holiness! Keep struggling! The Christian life is not a question of how long it takes you until you become big and strong and independent. Instead, the Lord poses this bitter, crucifying question to each one of our souls: How will you walk in weakness?