[I will not post until Saturday. Pax!]
For the world, there is no power of God. The world does not see and does not know the power of God: it laughs at the power of God. But Christians know that the sign of God is powerlessness in the world — the Infant in the manger. — Sergei Bulgakov
On November 27, 2015 while in Nairobi, Kenya, Pope Francis said to a group of youth, “I am going to tell you something private. In my pocket I always carry two things: a rosary to pray. And something which seems odd. This here, this item, is the history of God’s failure. It’s the Way of the Cross. A small Way of the Cross. As Jesus suffered, when they condemned him, right up to when he was buried. With these two things I do the best I can. And thanks to these two things, I never lose hope.”
“Esto es la historia del fracaso de Dios.”
I heard this by chance the other day and said aloud, “What??” Francis is the master of the stark.
The history of God’s failure, of God’s weakness (1 Cor. 1:25), of God’s folly (1 Cor. 1:18). Such a God is a source of hope. By becoming a condemned man, suffering heroic defeat, God made known His radical solidarity with humanity in all things, especially failure (Heb. 4:15). As St. Gregory Nazianzen said, “Christ took the worst upon himself to make us a gift of the best.” So amazing. Our failure, our sin, our weakness, our brokenness, our fragility, because of God’s merciful folly, now becomes the royal road to union with Him. What is despicable in our lives, when handed over to God through repentance and surrender, God raises glorious. Again, Pope Francis reminds us, “Jesus too makes himself weak for us, he becomes bread. There is strength.”
French author, Georges Bernanos, wrote,
How easy it is to hate oneself! True grace is to forget. Yet if pride could die in us, the supreme grace would be to love oneself in all simplicity—as one would love any one of those who themselves have suffered and loved in Christ.
The sinful woman in Luke 7:47 could have hated herself, after the example of Simon the Pharisee, who despised her. But coming to know herself as lavishly loved by Jesus, she surrendered the paralyzing pride of self-hate and learned to love herself in concert with His love. These are the world’s greatest lovers. “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
Yes, God wishes us to “be perfect” (Matt. 5:58). But in the Kingdom, perfection is seen through the lens of the folly (mōria) of the Cross. The first one to enter Paradise is the co-crucified kakourgōn, “evil-doer” (Luke 23:40-43). Bound naked to the cross, he recognizes his absurd likeness to Israel’s King and by an act of reckless hope, repents headlong into the Heart of a wrecked God.
“Permit me,” St. Ignatius of Antioch says to the Romans, “to be an imitator of the passion of my God.”
So when things turn hard in life, and show up your (and others’) many weaknesses, hold tight to St Paul’s witness,
Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? …
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
— 2 Cor. 11:24-30, 12:8-10