14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It is said that in ballroom dancing, one partner must be the leader and the other partner must be the follower. You cannot have both partners trying to be leaders at the same time.
If the partner who is supposed to be the follower surrenders fully to the leader, then the couple has a chance of winning in a competition. The follower’s strength lies in her or his ability to surrender to the directions of the leader.
St. Paul, in today’s second reading, realizes something like this: that relying only on himself he could do nothing, he could not win. But relying totally on God, he could do all things – he could certainly win. His strength lies in his ability to surrender to God. Paul says, “Power is made perfect in weakness.” “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” When you read it, it does not seem right. It seems that you have entered some topsy-turvy, inside-out universe.
What does Paul mean in saying “For when I am weak, then I am strong”? Paul means that when he is weak, it is then that he turns to God for help. It is then that he opens himself to God and allows the power of God to strengthen him. The power of Christ is most effective in his weakness rather than what he thinks are his strong points. He says, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weakness, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”
St. Paul actually celebrates his weaknesses, because as he does, the power of God rests upon him. He does not live a fearful, discouraged, and envious life. Paul is content because he knows in his heart that weakness is the doorway to real power – power that only God can and willingly does supply.
Where is God in relation to our greatest flaws or weaknesses? One time I overheard somebody saying, “God just ignores our weakness and failings since he is busy running the world.” Perhaps we also have this kind of mentality: that God hardly has anything to do with our weaknesses, limitations, and inadequacies. But that is not what the Bible says. God knows our flaws and our weaknesses.
When we admit our weakness and allow God to touch our life, his strength begins to reinforce our resolve to do right. Instead of being defeated time and again, we will see God’s Spirit giving us the strength we need to do the right thing.
We all have strengths, and we all have weaknesses. The point of wisdom is to evaluate our resources honestly, and then to reach out for what we need. True strength is knowing what our weakness is. Our weakness becomes strength when we acknowledge it and reach out to take hold of the greatness of God. God is our strength!
Paul David Tripp has this reflection on today’s second reading: “God chooses for you to be weak to protect you from you and to cause you to value the strength that only he can give.” “In this way, the weaknesses that he sends your way are not impediments to the good life. They are not in the way of his loving plan. They are not signs of his lack of care and concern. They are not indicators of the failure of his promises. They are not indications that the Bible contradicts itself when it says that God will meet all of your needs.” “No, these weaknesses are tools of his zealous and amazing grace. They protect you from the arrogance of self-reliance. They keep you from thinking or believing that you are capable of what you are not. They remind you that you are needy and were created to be dependent on One greater than you. They cause you to do what all of us in some way resist doing – humbly run to God for the help that only he can give.”
We even glorify God in our weakness when we allow him to enter into our life, and thus, allow ourselves to experience God’s power and grace. We have to humbly acknowledge our need, and allow God to turn our weakness into strength.
Let us end with a prayer: Lord God, I come to You humbly acknowledging my weakness, consciously abandoning my independence, and willfully renouncing my delusion of power. I surrender my own wishes and projects for Your wiser plans and purposes. Deepen my sense of need of You and make me run with resolve toward Your abundant grace. Amen.