Lecturer’s Report: July 2018: Theme, what of the thorns in our side? References: Friar Mark Mary’s mass sermon on EWTN TV, St. John Paul II, St. Thomas Aquinas. JMJ

[Last Sunday’s Epistle about Paul begging the Lord to remove the thorn from his flesh may have caught our attention. Why? Because, in Saul, God chose a very complex man, who had a talent for writing and a curiosity to match his ambitious nature. There have been many volumes written about him. He was well-educated for those times and he sought a meteoric rise to become a powerful voice in the Jewish Sanhedrin. He saw a providential opportunity in this new Christian cult, as it was a God-send to bear fruit in achieving his ambitious nature. He put all his energy into hunting down these blasphemers to have them killed. Doing so made him immensely popular with the Jewish clerics. But we have to love the way the Lord made this personal, when he knocks Saul off of his high horse saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" The Lord was making it clear that when you reject and attack my followers, you are rejecting and attacking me.]

Friar Mark begins his sermon. “In the 2nd reading we hear about Paul’s thorn in his flesh – his weaknesses, his sufferings, the difficulties he had, and it is a great analogy for our difficulties and weaknesses and how it can be a thorn in our side in holding us back from the necessity of God to work in our lives.

In 2 Corinthians Chapter 12: v2-10 we are told that Paul has had visions, dreams and aspirations. He says that he was caught up in the 3rd heaven. That he was in paradise and heard things that cannot be told. About 10 years after his road to Damascus experience he has other revelations. Very profound ones that he cannot even communicate, [as there is no equivalent on earth to explain it.] Paul admits that he refrains from talking about these revelations so that no one may think more of me from what he says or hears from me. That it might even distract from his preaching of the gospel that is necessary for his salvation. Or that he might get puffed up with pride with the gifts and abilities and talents that he has been given.

He says to keep from being too elated from the abundance of revelation, a thorn was given to me in the flesh. A messenger of Satan was sent to me to harass me to hinder me from being too elated. We are not told specifically what this excruciating thorn is. Some writers believe it was his poor eyesight, as he increasingly had to use bigger letters when he wrote. It might have been opposition to his ministry at every turn and those relentlessly giving him a hard time. It might be a direct harassment by Satan, or someone under the influence of Satan. [ It might be his conscious coming back to haunt him how he persecuted the Lord, by killing the very disciples he sent out to save the world.] The thorn could be anyone of these or an accumulation of many or all of them. We are uncertain as to the cause or causes, but these possibilities give us aids in understanding the truth of it all in relying on God’s grace in our own lives. As we can fill in the blank line with our own difficulties and weaknesses in our lives that are thorns unto us to see it as an opportunity to trust the Lord as Paul did.

He writes that 3 times he begged the Lord for this thorn to leave him. And through prayer and wrestling with these difficulties, he receives a revelation.” My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is perfected in your weakness.”. In an aha moment Paul is transformed and says, “I will boast gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of God may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” By learning to be content with and accepting his personal weaknesses and oppositions by others, he places his complete trust in the Lord, as he offers them up together with the sufferings of Christ. And through the Lord he turns his distress, an antagonistic hindrance, into a providential opportunity for Christ to act in his life. We can benefit greatly from Paul’s discovery.

When we say, “Jesus, I trust in you” it can be a way to overcome our anxiety by following his directions and guidance in our lives. Over time we learn we can do anything God asks us to do, as he will give us the grace to accomplish it. God only waits for our own personal fiat.

Pope John Paul, said that “God can use our weaknesses as easily as our strengths in order to accomplish his will.” The great theologian Thomas Aquinas concluded that not only is God’s grace sufficient but that God’s grace is a necessity for us to accomplish anything in God’s plan for us. We are radically, totally, and completely dependent on the Lord’s grace. And at times, especially in the Western world, we can have an illusion of self-sufficiency. We can depend on things that we are sure to be secure and that we can rely on in this world. But it is a passing illusion and won’t sustain us, can’t fulfill us. We radically have to depend on God. We need the necessity of his grace in every moment including at the end of our lives, when the Devil approaches with his wily ways in attempting to ween our souls away from God. This is another reason why, in the rosary, we plead with Mary to pray for us at the hour of our death, both to prevent the devil’s appearance and also to plead for the Lord’s mercy, because we have little else to stand on.

Spiritual writers tell us that “God, at times, withdraws his hand to let us taste the clay from which we are made, as an important lesson that we need to trust and depend on him.”

Let us pray, worthy knights that in our devotion to the charitable causes of Christ, coupled with our prayers of petition and adoration. we receive the necessity of God’s graces to ignite the spiritual fire within us; providing us the courage to always hear our Lord’s call, and that the Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom, the strength and the ability to do the Father’s will. For we must each allow the Master Potter to transform the clay within us into a new creation in Christ, far beyond our expectations, as it is perfectly aligned with his providential will for us all.

Alleluia, Amen.

Vivat Jesus