James couldn’t figure out why he had to deal with the same sins over and over again. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just make up my mind not to do them anymore, and follow through with that promise? What are the words of the act of contrition that I say all the time: ‘I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to confess my sins, do penance, and to amend my life?’ Well, so much for the firm resolution part of it!”
I would venture to say that most of us feel the same as James. That’s why I love the reading we heard from St. Paul. He writes about a “thorn in the flesh” that he wanted taken away. Initially, he doesn’t understand why the Lord didn’t do as he wished. But notice where he goes with it: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses…” I’m sure St. Paul didn’t just come to this realization overnight; he had to struggle with it, but eventually came to the conclusion that he was in this with Christ, and Jesus had a bigger plan for him in mind. And it wasn’t about Paul just finding the strength within himself to conquer that “thorn in the flesh”.
The wonderful Jesuit writer, Father Thomas Green, offers and insight on this very matter. Here’s what he said: “The Lord leaves them (those thorns in the flesh) in us to keep us humble, to make us realize how totally we depend on him and how helpless we are to do good without his grace and power.” He then uses the parable of the weeds growing alongside the wheat as he expresses this next thought: “The wheat of our virtues—trust, humility, gratitude, zeal—could not come to full maturity, it seems, without the weeds of our instinctual failings.”
The lesson that St. Paul learned is the one that I think we are all asked to learn, that these weaknesses are really for our growth in humility and in trust. Nevertheless, we still hope that all these struggles will be gone “in the morning.” But when we find that they are not gone, we know how to channel our energies. We cooperate in the Lord’s plan to purify us and make us real disciples who know and find peace in allowing the Lord to be the one in control.
In the end, we must make our will and God’s will become one. Because it is only through the freely given gift of grace that we can be healed. Personal power must be aligned with the power of grace.
So, if you are on the journey that our friend James is on, which is the same one as St. Paul experienced, then you know that it is in your wounds and your sins that Christ will work his healing. Pray for the grace to resist temptation and learn to come to the same conclusion as St. Paul. God’s grace is enough for us. Actually, it’s everything. Through your weakness Christ’s power will dwell within you!