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July 1994

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

Paul writes about having received great revelations (2 Cor. 12:14). But God also permitted him to have great trials. Having spoken of the tribulations, dangers and difficulties inherent in his apostolic activity (2 Cor. 11:23-27), Paul now speaks of an altogether special trial which was always with him and tormented him constantly. He writes: 'So that I might not become too proud, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too proud.' (12:7) Paul repeatedly begged the Lord to take away this suffering. But he answered:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Commentators have made various different suggestions about the type of trial to which Paul was referring. The most probable theory seems to be that it was an illness, a physical ailment which was particularly troublesome and also hindered his apostolic activity making him clearly aware of his human limitations.

What interests us most, however, is the meaning that Paul derived from this particular trial.

My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.

He sees it as an effective antidote to any danger of spiritual exaltation. Above all, he discovers great value in it. A trial, especially when it makes us fully aware of our own weakness, provides an arena in which and through which the power of God's grace is fully manifested. This is why Paul declares: "I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (12.9)

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

How shall we live this month's Word of Life? By living through our various trials with faith: the illnesses, limitations, lack of understanding, the things that seem to be against us, which at times stop us. We should live with faith especially during the trials that most disturb, afflict or humiliate us. Each one of us, in fact, might have a physical or spiritual suffering that sets limits on our aspirations, our desires and our plans.

Let us try to see this as an expression of God's love which purifies us, and remember the teaching that comes to us here from Paul. Trials make us ever more aware of our nothingness and make it clearer to others that all that is good or altruistic in us - a piece of advice, an act of generosity, an effective witness, a fascinating talk - comes from God.

Nothing better than our weakness can show that 'the power' at work in us does not come from us but from Christ. Then we too can become authentic instruments of his plan of salvation for humanity.

Chiara Lubich

 

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