I am encouraged by today’s readings. I look at the men who the Lord chose. If I was hiring for the twelve positions of Church leadership, these are not the ones I would have chosen. The amazing thing is the Church survived. (I have thought to myself that I would not be a good political leader. I carry too much baggage. I would not feel worthy of such a position. As I learn more about many of our leaders, I begin to realize that they are equally unworthy. The amazing thing is that our political system survives.)
Who did God choose as the founding fathers of the Church? A group of men, many of whom were uneducated, all of whom could have their loyalty called into question, became the early leaders. The eleven apostles and Paul, what did they have in common? They all had the experience of conversion. They all had the fire of the Lord in their hearts. This experience gave them their calling and the power to live it out. I believe this was an insight that Ignatius of Loyola would highlight 1,500 years later in his Spiritual Exercises.
God calls the weak. God transforms the weak with the Holy Spirit. The weak learn not to fear their weakness. They believe in the transforming power of our faith, the power that turns our weaknesses into strengths. St. Paul’s strong will is very likely a personality disorder, but Paul turns it into an agent for the development of the early Church. The leaders of the early Church took on the roles of suffering servants (not the role of dominant authorities). In this way of “weakness” they formed the basis for communities that survived and prospered.
Like the experience of Paul or the experience of Ignatius, my conversion gives me direction, but it does liberate me from darker feelings. I can write this reflection because on some days the presence of the Spirit is so clear, but I must also admit that in other moments I can question and rationalize these experiences reducing them to events devoid of transcendent origin. (I feel that I would make a good “patient” in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.)
My prayer today is thankfulness for the gift of the Spirit. I pray that I am not brought down by cynicism. I pray for the strength to Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News. I pray that when working with students I remember to remind them that the most significant events of their education will happen outside of the classroom.
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