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Homily for Sunday, July 7, 2024

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time | Surrender to what God has in store for you

[Father Paul]

What does it mean when God said to St. Paul,

"Power is made perfect in weakness."

And when Paul responds, "Therefore I am content with weakness... for when I am weak, then I am strong." 

It may mean this: A fellow named Tim Gallwey wrote a book back in the day called "The Inner Game of Tennis." He tells a story that some of us can relate to.

He was driving from Maine to New Hampshire when his Volkswagen skidded on an icy curve and slammed into a snowbank. He couldn't get it going again; it was 20 below zero, and he only had a sports jacket. It had been 20 minutes since he passed through a town; he had yet to see another car, a farmhouse or even a telephone pole, no map, and no idea how far to the next town. 

So, he exited his car and started running down the road. Cold drained his energy quickly, and he slowed down to walk. Within 2 minutes, his ears froze, so he started running again, but his energy was drained again, and he slowed to a walk. Suddenly, he realized that he was probably not going to survive. You don't expect that when you wake up -

"This is not how I thought this day was going to go." And he said to himself, out loud, "ok, if now is the time, so be it. I'm ready."

With that, he stopped worrying about death and started jogging down the road. He found himself marvelling at the beauty of the sky and the snow-covered countryside. To his amazement, he kept going for about 40 minutes when he saw a farmhouse. Miraculously, he survived. 

He reflected on his experience. Resigning himself to his fate, he opened up to a strange power he never knew existed. By surrendering to what God has in store for him, he opened himself up to something deeply spiritual: 

When we are weak, we finally can turn to God for help. Paul has now opened himself up to God and allowed God's power to strengthen him. To put it another way, had Paul never experienced weakness, he would never have reached out for help. And he would never have discovered the greatest source of power that a person can discover: God. 

Here is another illustration. One of my top ten favourite movies is 

the Colour Purple. It's a story about abuse and redemption, conversion and grace. In one scene, Sofia, played by Oprah Winfrey, was just released from jail - 8 years, for a confrontation she had with the mayor's wife, Millie. After she got out of jail, she became her maid. Millie gave Sofia a list of stuff to get, but Sofia was paralyzed. Little did she know that Celie, played by Whoopie Goldberg, saw her, took the list from her hand, and just got all her stuff for her. In a very touching scene, Sofia looked over at Celie, who had been beaten and abused by her husband and her father, for that matter. And all Celie did was touch the bottom of her chin as if to say, "Keep your chin up." It was a beautiful act of encouragement. In fact, in another scene a bit further on, Sofia described the real meaning of that moment: 

"Sat in that jail, I sat in that jail til I near about done rot to death. I know what it like to wanna go somewhere and cain't. I know what it like to wanna sing... and have it beat out 'ya. I want to thank you, Miss Celie, fo everything you done for me. I 'members that day in the store with Miss Millie - I'm feelin' real down. I'm feelin' mighty bad. And when I seed you - I know there is a God. I know there is a God."

I conclude with a well-known quotation from a Confederate soldier: 

I asked for strength that I might achieve; He made me weak that I might obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things; I was given grace that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy; I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of people; I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life; I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I received nothing that I asked for, all that I hoped for. My prayer was answered, I was most blessed.”

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