In weakness, we are filled with God’s strength

CNS Photo

CNS Photo

In Elizabeth George Speare’s historical fiction novel The Bronze Bow, the main character, Daniel, is healed of his hatred toward the Romans through several encounters with the Teacher, Jesus, culminating in his realization that, “To know Jesus would be enough.”

Is it enough for us to know Jesus? Jesus Himself said, “I am … the Truth.” Would we be willing to say that in our lives, “To know the truth is enough”? Is knowing the truth enough to make our lives personally complete and meaningful?

To know the truth does not simply mean to know facts about reality, or even to know facts about Jesus Himself. One can learn much about the Lord without coming to know Him on a deeply personal and intimate level. One important step in coming to know Jesus, who is the truth, is coming to self-knowledge — that is, coming to know the truth about ourselves — all of our weaknesses and sinfulness and failings, but also all of our God-given gifts and virtues and the unconditional, unmerited love we receive from Him.

As a teacher, I have noticed that some of my students find it hard to hear the truth that as human beings, we are weak and sinful, but that Christ Himself is ready to be our strength. However, upon reflection, I also realized that some of these same students struggle to recognize the possibility that Jesus could really love them in a uniquely personal way. An inability to recognize our own weakness and need for God can actually cut us off from being open to receive His love. For if I am able to handle life on my own without Him, why would I turn to Him? And if I do not turn to Him, how can I allow myself to be loved by Him? Neglecting to admit the truth of my own weakness can lead me also to fail to recognize the truth of God’s infinite and transforming love for me.

We see a beautiful example of the recognition of our weakness opening us up to God’s love in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When the angel Gabriel greeted her with the words, “Hail, full of grace,” she did not respond as though she had deserved this praise because of her own greatness. Nor did she respond with a false humility that neglected to recognize her self-worth or turned away from the gift God wanted to offer. Rather, recognizing the truth of both her creaturely weakness and her great desire for God, she responded in complete willingness to embrace His will and was so filled with His love that the God who is Love Himself came to dwell within her womb.

Recognizing the freely given gift of love she has received from God, Mary cries out at the Visitation, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant …” (Luke 1:46-48a, emphasis added). As we begin this month of May, dedicated to Our Lady, may we be as willing as she was to recognize the truth of our own weakness and of the great unmerited gift of God’s love for us. May we find in these truths “enough” for us to have lives filled with meaning, purpose, and joy.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.