[Ezekiel 2.2-5; [Psalm 123]; 2 Corinthians 12.7-10; Mark 6.1-6]
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
In a few moments I will formally install Father Peter Tuan Bui as your new pastor. In that ceremony, he will renew the promises he made at the time of his ordination. He will promise to live out his commitment for the next several years with you. In turn, you are asked to assist him in leading this faith community. I hope that you will say “yes” to him with enthusiasm and joy.
Then, we will process around the church to the various places where he will exercise his priesthood (the baptismal font, the confessional, the pulpit, the altar) and I will remind him of the spirit that should guide him in his service to you. Pray for him that he may do this generously and well.
Father Bui is a Redemptorist priest whose spirituality focuses on the Crib, the Cross and the Sacrament. Redemptorists follow Christ in his incarnation, death and resurrection and believe that he is always with them.
They hold the belief that there is always a graced encounter with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. So their founder Saint Alphonsus wrote about visits to the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Redemptorists proclaim the gospel in simple ways to ordinary people
Recently, Pope Francis asked bishops and priests not to be “pilots” but rather true pastors, “stewards, not owners, humble servants like our Lady, not princes.” The pope’s words are an invitation for each priest to know the joy of being a shepherd, “as we strive to light a fire in the heart of the world” (No. 271).
The pope offers the sleeping but vigilant St. Joseph, caring for Mary and the Child Jesus, as an image of the pastor keeping watch over his people.
You know that each priest, along with his strengths and abilities, will have weaknesses and St. Paul addresses that issue in today’s second reading. There Paul speaks of something that troubled him, “a thorn in the flesh”.
Preachers have wondered about the meaning of this term. Some think that the “thorn in the flesh” was a bodily ailment (epilepsy, migraine, malaria, an eye disease, a speech impediment), others think it was something mental (bouts of depression, an experience of despair) or something spiritual (a temptation of some kind).
Whatever it was, the thorn in Paul's flesh seems to have begun around the time of his mystical experiences. Perhaps he needed to be brought down to earth after his heavenly “rapture”. But Paul did not see it that way.
So, three times he prayed to be relieved of what seemed to interfere with the effectiveness of his ministry. The answer to Paul's prayer taught him that the same God who gave him the spiritual experience had also given him the thorn.
Paul's mystical journey came about entirely by God's grace. In reply to Paul's prayer, the Lord Jesus taught Paul a profound lesson. Christ said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness”.
Jesus asked Paul to look beyond himself and see God's power at work in the weakness of his human condition.
Because we do not know precisely what Paul's thorn in the flesh was, we Christians can identify with Paul's frustration and need of divine help as we face our own experience of a “thorn in the flesh”. We are invited to make Paul's conclusion our own, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me”.
God's grace enables us to agree with Paul and proclaim, “whenever I am weak, then I am strong”.