14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 8, 2018 (Thoman)

Ez 2:2-5
II Cor 12:7-10
Mk 6:1-6a

I. Do you have a thorn in the flesh? Do you have something – we might name it as a
burden or “cross” - that never really goes away? It might be:

  • a physical illness, aches and pains
  • or an attitude, idea, prejudice, mindset you just can’t seem to shake and one
    which is harmful and damaging
  • it could be a temptation which continually leads down an immoral path
  • it might be a person, or a situation, which never leaves, is always present, keeps
    you restricted or limited

St. Paul tells us he has a “thorn in the flesh.” The way he deals with it can teach us a
great deal about prayer and God’s grace.

II. Responses:

A. Our first desire is to get rid of it – maybe just hoping, literally running away,
reacting angrily to this annoying problem. This hardly ever works. Such a
response can only lead to anger, despair, to give up on God, to walk away from
faith, to become closed and isolated, at least spiritually. The “thorn in the flesh” is
ours and we just can’t escape it.

B. The next level of response is prayer. We turn to God and expect God to “fix it.”
We expect God just to magically make it go away. St. Paul did that – he said he
begged the Lord three times to do this – three times is a way of saying, “a whole
lot” – and it did not leave.

The response he got was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made ‘
perfect in weakness.”

C. That insight is an invitation to go to the third level: embracing it and allowing
oneself to be led into grace. The people in Ezekiel’s time and the people in Jesus’
hometown had yet to learn that lesson.

  1. Ezekiel preached a message of warning of future destruction. But he met
    with indifference and outright hostility. They knew all “about” God, but they
    did not “know” God in the intimate way Ezekiel did.
  2. Likewise, the people in Jesus’ hometown knew all about Jesus – from the time
    Mary and Joseph brought him home from Egypt, through his growing up
    years, to his first preaching. But they had not yet come to really know him –
    for who he was and what he was really all about. They did not know Jesus
    like Paul who had an intimate and personal relationship with him.

III. Those “thorns in the flesh” we carry around can really become opportunities to
come and know Jesus in a personal and intimate way. Through them, God’s grace
can come to us in a fuller, richer way.

  • it may be a thorn, a situation which we simply must realize is part of our life –
    it’s just the way it is. It’s part of who we are or what our life is to be. And in that
    mere acceptance can come a relief, a peace of mind and heart. St. Paul learned to
    accept his “thorn.”
  • if it is a thorn of temptation it may be a way for us to learn humility: we come to
    the realization we are not perfect: that might help to guard us against judging
    others and thinking we are better than them. We realize, in all humility, our
  • the thorn in our flesh may be an opportunity for us to grow in some virtue.
    Maybe there is an annoying person in our life and we need to grow in patience.
    Or maybe that thorn helps us to grow in compassion. It might be a motivation
    for us to reach out to others in a more spontaneous and generous way.
    We can think of those “thorns in the flesh” as holes in our spirituality which can be
    filled with God’s grace.

It would serve us well to remember Paul’s conclusion about his own struggles:
“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, insults, hardships,
persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am

IV. We come to the Eucharist today just as we are: in all our weakness, thorns and all,
to give ourselves newly over to God. And just as we pray the bread and wine will
be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, so, too, we pray that we will be
transformed into more genuine, more holy, more noble disciples of Jesus.
Fr. Dwayne Thoman