Way back at the beginning of this month (14th Ordinary Sunday cycle B) we heard this passage, one of the last Saint Paul wrote to his beloved people of Corinth. One of many confessions of the apostle recorded in his letters, it is one of the most memorable.
Christians want to know. It is human nature. What was his thorn? My pastor preached it might have been failing eyesight. I had not heard that one before. I have also heard it was some addiction, or a spiritual malady that dogged the man. It’s all guesswork. All we know is that Paul considered it a serious hindrance. But God denied relief.
Why would this Scripture be suggested for the care of the sick? Interesting that it appears as a Lectionary option for a Mass for the Sick, but not in the sacramental rites themselves.
Therefore, that I might not become too elated,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me,
an angel of Satan, to beat me,
to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this,
that it might leave me,
but he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
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 strong.
Some commentary …
This strikes me as one of the most Ignatian passages, though I suppose Paul came first, right? God’s grace is enough. Our human perspective isn’t always clear or the very best. Human flaws are an opportunity. First, that other persons may take action–as substitutes or successors. In the case of the sick person, as a companion or caregiver. Importantly, when imperfect people are in the picture for a Christian success, observers can note that this goes against their expectations. Is God part of the picture, however hidden or subtle?
So, sick persons can give spiritual control to God, and earthly control to loved ones, friends, and medical professionals. Thus contentment is sought, and perhaps found.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.