The Powerful Weakness
chubby Fr. Browne was the unlikely detective who solved the mysteries
in many of G.K. Chesterton's stories. One such story was about a much
loved and wealthy philanthropist. He was very popular because of his
unfailing good humor and generosity. When people felt depressed they
went to him and would come away feeling better. It was always assumed
that he was one of the world's greatest optimists. His death then came
as a shock - there must have been foul play. There were a number of
suspects. But Fr. Browne surprised everyone when he announced the verdict.
The man had committed suicide.
first people would not believe it. How could such a happy man commit
suicide? But soon it emerged that he was not a happy man at all. He
tried to make others laugh to cover up the pain and loneliness inside
himself. He was a deeply depressed and pessimistic man but tried to
show that he was strong by his apparent humor. He got sucked into the
role of being the funny man at an early age and did not have the courage
to set himself free from it lest others would be disappointed in him.
From playing a role he had become the role.
and again I hear people talk about being strong, praying for the grace
to be strong. A group of nursing students facing ward duties, examinations,
board exams and the struggle to go abroad, ask for strength. What they
need is weakness! A wife in a marriage threatening difficulty prays
for strength to face what is ahead but what she really needs is weakness.
It takes great strength - the right kind of strength - to be weak. Many
of us are like the amateur swimmer, who either out of fear or out of
a desire to show off, exercises immense and exhausting energy in keeping
head and shoulders above water. The smarter and more confident one rests
effortlessly into the water letting the nose surface for breath from
time to time. So too we need great strength to let go of all into the
loving presence of God which supports us like water supports a swimmer.
power of this world is the power of empire, of coercion. Can I put enough
physical, economic or social pressure on this person or situation to
make things go my way? This is seen in the bully in the school yard,
in the authoritarian parent in the home, in the pressure from Rome that
church people who do something new often suffer; in the boardrooms of
corporations and in the negotiations between nations.
today's Gospel Jesus knows that the disciples are arguing about who
is greatest amongst them. Who has the most power? Jesus takes the power
paradigm and puts it standing on its head. "He took a little child,
set him in front of them, put his arms around him and said to them,
"anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes
me." The model of greatness in the kingdom of God is the powerless
child. The child has no degrees, wealth, achievements - which we seek
to make us "somebody" great, but which, in fact, make us rivals,
competing and jealous of one another. We are constantly seeking things
that divide us. But if we can accept the poverty, loneliness and insecurity
that is within each of us, we will find ample ground for unity. When
we are afraid - seeking power and strength and control - we cannot listen
to each other. But when we really listen we will find what we all have
in common - a frightened child within. Children have a fantastic capacity
to communicate even without a common language and to forget and make-up
quickly after a hurt. They have as yet no wealth, power, prestige, role,
image that they have to defend or have become enslaved to.
Much of our traditional prayer is a sort of tour de force, on God - either trying to push him to do our will or to get him on our side to accomplish what we desire. To meditate, on the other hand, is to be weak and powerless, in the secure confidence of God's care and love for us. It gives us the joy of accepting our own weakness and of not having to pretend to be people other then who we actually are.
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