George F. Riley, O.S.A.
Saint Thomas Monastery
Ez 2: 2-5
Ps 123: 1-2, 2, 3-4
2 Cor 12: 7-10
Mk 6: 1-6
Some years ago, W. Timothy Gallwey wrote a book called The Inner Game of Tennis. In it Gallwey tells how one cold winter night he was driving from Maine to New Hampshire. It was about midnight, and he was on a deserted country road. Suddenly his Volkswagen skidded on an icy curve, slammed into a snowbank, and stalled. Try as he might, he could not get the motor running again. The temperature was about 20 degrees below zero, and his only protection against the cold was the sports jacket that he was wearing. It had been 20 minutes since he passed through a town. In that time he had not seen another car. Nor had he seen a farmhouse or even a telephone pole. He had no map and no idea where the next town might be.
He got out of his car and started running down the road. But the cold drained his energy so quickly that he slowed down to a walk. When he had walked about two minutes, his ears became so cold that he thought they would chip off. Again, he started running. But, again, the cold drained his energy so quickly that he slowed to a walk. The gravity of the situation struck him. He could picture himself lying by the roadside covered with snow, frozen to death. The very thought paralyzed him with fear. After a few minutes, Gallwey found himself saying out loud, “Okay, if now is the time, so be it. I’m ready.” With that, he stopped worrying about death and started jogging down the road. After a few minutes, he found himself marveling at the beauty of the star-filled sky and the snow-covered countryside. To his amazement, he continued to jog for a full 40 minutes without stopping. He stopped then only because he saw a light burning in a distant farmhouse. Miraculously, he had survived.
After his experience, Gallwey asked himself where he had found the energy that allowed him to jog so far without stopping. Then it occurred to him: Resigning himself to his fate had put him in touch with a strange power that he had never experienced before. By letting go of his conscious grip on life, he had let “the natural concern of a deeper self take over.” By surrendering to whatever God had in store for him, he paradoxically opened himself to a strange power that he never knew existed.
Gallwey’s experience helps us understand those mysterious words in today’s second reading, when Jesus Christ says to Paul, “Power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responds, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses...for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Strange words! What does Paul mean?
He 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. To put it another way, Paul is saying that had he never experienced weakness, he would never have reached out for help. And he would never have discovered the greatest source of power that a person can discover: God.
The application of this to our lives is clear. When trials come our way, when crises fall upon us, when hardships threaten to destroy us, we should not lose heart. Rather, we should take heart. For it is at these times that we discover our need for God. And it is then that God enters our lives and lets us experience His power in a way that we never have before.
A famous poem, written by an unknown Confederate soldier, puts the whole matter quite
I asked for health,
that I might do greater things:
I was given infirmity,
that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy:
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power,
That I might have the praise of men:
I was given weakness,
that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life:
I was given life,
that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for,
but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself,
my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.