First Reading: 2 Corinthians 11:18, 21-30
(Since many boast of worldly things, I too will boast.) To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever any one dares to boast of -- I am speaking as a fool -- I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one -- I am talking like a madman -- with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 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? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-7
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
Gospel: Matthew 6:19-23
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
I'm broken. Oh, so broken. Your words, Saint Paul, ring in my ears as I drag myself out of bed to face my face in the mirror—full of weak, apprehensive, hesitant, brokenness. Yet you say, "I [should] boast of things that show my weakness."
I glance at the clock, moving far too fast for my weary soul, and frantically slap on some foundation to mask my inadequate skin and fumble for the mascara to widen my drooping eyes. One tired eye lined, the other still sagging, I catch a glimpse of my reflection and straighten up. I think of all the other put-together ladies who will fill my world once I step out that door. This? Is this the weakness of which I should boast?
What about the uncomfortable outfit I chose over exercise pants, because I'm foolishly intimidated by all those lovely ladies? And the cake I failed trying to bake and the friend I forgot to call and the initiative I didn't take and the goal I didn't make? These weaknesses . . . should I boast of them, too, Paul?
Should I air all my woes and sufferings to the world, like my lack of sleep and pain that won't end and my work load that's loading up? But I don't think they'll measure up, Paul. I've got nothing on your shipwrecks and beatings and that mom with cancer . . . or that struggling marriage and family grieving their loss and friend searching for a job. It seems like all this boasting of weakness is some kind of suffering contest.
Or . . . is it more? Are you telling me that in my weakness, in our humaness, in your shipwrecks and my giant cakewrecks, we can help expose humanity's fatal flaw? The missing piece we've all got—the God-hole in our hearts that can only be filled when we let the walls down and show we can't do it alone?
Yes, Paul, I think that's what you're telling me. That you were too weak to make it through another beating or arrest on your own . . . but for God. God carried you through five more. And if I can't do another morning of pushing through pain in order to show up with my smudged eyeliner at another school drop-off while muttering a Hail Mary, You can carry me through five more . . . while using my vulnerable exposé for that other weary Daughter of Yours over there, the one who can somehow still see You through the cracks of imperfection in my thin worldly shell--and for once, she will give herself some grace.
Okay, Paul. I will boast as you tell me. I am broken, oh so broken in all my weak and hesitant and apprehensive brokenness . . . but for my God, who fuses my broken pieces into holy wholeness with His strength; my God, who through my exposed weaknesses allows others to see the safety, the confidence, the endlessness of His unfailing love.
Today may we let Him shine through our brokenness, sisters, and fill the world with His light.
Megan Hjelmstad is a wife, mom, writer and sometimes soldier whose real passion is equal parts faith and chocolate. You can find out more about her here.