“The Weakness Of God” –by Father Phil Bloom
In our Christmas Mass we celebrate the weakness of God. Few creatures are more helpless than a newborn child. Unlike a lion whelp or a puppy, he has no coat to protect him against the cold. A tiny fish can seek its own food, but a human child depends totally on his mother. God – who created the oceans, the mountains and the night stars – freely chose to become so weak.
God embraced our weakness for a reason. He desires to communicate to us his strength, his very life. Someone who had a great appreciation of God’s weakness was St. Therese of Lisieux. Her mother died when she was only four and since Therese was the youngest of nine children, her father babied her. Therese became hypersensitive – at the slightest setback or criticism, she would burst into tears. If she even imagined someone was criticizing her, she would start to cry. Then she would cry because she had cried! In spite of her extraordinary intelligence, it seemed she would always be emotionally crippled. She prayed to Jesus, but there was no answer.
Finally on Christmas Eve 1886, when Therese was almost 14 years olds, the answer came. Shortly after saying a prayer to the Infant Jesus, she overheard a comment by her dad. Normally any negative word from her father would cause her to break into tears. But she didn’t. In an instant God made her more sensitive to her father’s feelings than her own. This was the turning point in Therese’s life. Here is how she described that moment in her autobiography:
“On that blessed night the sweet infant Jesus, scarcely an hour old, filled the darkness of my soul with floods of light. By becoming weak and little, for love of me, He made me strong and brave: He put His own weapons into my hands so that I went on from strength to strength, beginning, if I may say so, to run as a giant.'”
The Holy Child, she said, had healed her of undue sensitivity and “girded her with His weapons.” It was by reason of this vision that she became known as “Therese of the Child Jesus.”
Therese only lived ten more years. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 – but she became one of the most remarkable saints of modern times. Millions of people have read her Autobiography and have gained encouragement from her “Little Way.” St. Therese of the Child Jesus knew that God shows his greatest strength when human beings feel the weakest.
Some of you have seen a movie which illustrates this truth. In the Lord of the Rings, the person chosen to carry the ring of power is not the strongest or most clever. No, he stands only three feet tall and his greatest ambition in life is to tend his garden – and to enjoy six or seven meals every day. He is a hobbit called Frodo. Upon him is the crushing burden – and the terrible temptation – of the ring.
J.R.R. Tolkien did not write the Lord of the Rings with an explicit Christian message. However, he was a devout Roman Catholic – and his Christian vision shines through the story. The Catholic Christian vision is that God uses what seems most insignificant to achieve his purpose. So it was in the event we celebrate at Christmas – God’s birth as a helpless baby in Bethlehem. So it is in the Mass we celebrate. God uses the most ordinary substances – bread and fermented grape juice – as the vehicles to communicate his divine life to us.
And, dear brothers and sisters, when you feel most weary, most tempted, it is precisely then that God wishes to make known his love through you. To paraphrase St. Therese:
O blessed night
When the sweet infant Jesus
Scarcely an hour old
Overcomes the darkness of our souls
And floods them with his light
© Copyright 2003 Father Phil Bloom http://geocities.com/seapadre_1999/ All rights reserved. Used with kind permission.
Nativity image courtesy of Hermanoleon Clipart
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