Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beset by Weakness

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin...He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness."

Before I entered the Jesuits, my spiritual director gave me an article entitled "Because beset by weakness..." by Fr. Michael Buckley, SJ. I think many of my Jesuit brothers are probably acquainted with this beautiful reflection which I link here for your reference. In this article, he advocates the position that all those who desire to enter the priesthood must be beset by weakness--a man open and capable to the experience of suffering and utter helplessness--one completely touched by the frailty of human nature, and thus one who can be in touch by the weakness and frailty of others. If he does not understand that pain himself, how can he ever serve and minister to those who grapple with pain all their lives?

My spiritual director probably gave me this article since the tapes that ran in my head (and still do, although I now have a greater awareness of how the dark spirit works in this regard) often said things like: "I'm not good enough"; "I'm not strong enough"; "I don't pray enough;" etc. etc. In giving me this article, what my spiritual director was really trying to tell me was that those sources of weakness that I saw in myself are exactly the places in which God paradoxically brings out great strength. My own experience of suffering and weakness can help me to connect to those who have experienced similarly. This is probably what Anthony de Mello meant when he said: "Be grateful for your sins. They are carriers of grace."

I find for myself that the people that I tend to gravitate towards and highly respect are those people whom I sense have an understanding of this weakness in their own lives. They are not perfect people by any means, but I also wouldn't have it any other way. A number of recovering alcoholics that I have met exemplify this weakness par excellence. I am fascinated by their experience of hitting rock bottom, of losing complete control of their lives, and the realization--really the conversion moment--that they will not be able to correct the course in their lives until they have the courage to tell themselves that they need help, help that they cannot give themselves. When you meet someone who has been sober for something like 25-30+ years...those kinds of people you cannot help but admire and respect. And indeed, you find those types in the Society.

I especially admire those who carry their weakness with great humility.

The one beset by weakness I believe is ultimately one who is able to truly embrace the world despite its many flaws. The one beset by weakness does not scoff at the world or constantly pick at the splinters in his neighbors' eyes. In the end, he can love the world many deem unlovable.

It is perhaps fitting as we enter Holy Week to contemplate the weakness experienced by Christ during his journey to the cross. The sort of weakness he must have felt when the people condemned him to die, or the weakness he felt as he looked into the eyes of those who drove the nails through his flesh. Yet, it is precisely this weakness through which Christ was able to display his great love for the world. His moment of weakness became the source of our greatest hope.

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