“God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). He does not take account of nobility of birth, length of time in his service, or the number of our good works. What counts with God is a devout soul’s increased fervor and more ardent love. He does not consider how you once behaved, but what you have now begun to be.” – St. Bonaventure
One of my favourite Scripture passages is from a letter St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in which he mentions the “thorn in his flesh.” This thorn was permitted by God in order to prevent St. Paul from becoming too proud or elated in the many consolations that had been sent to him.
The presence of this thorn serves as a reminder to St. Paul of his humanity and weakness. It leaves Him nothing to boast of except our Lord. In fact, this is where the beautiful gift and grace of his suffering blossoms. As a broken instrument, St. Paul shines forth the majesty and works of our Lord through the simplicity of his surrender and the silent shout of his struggles to God.
Like all of us, St Paul battled with imperfection and the toil of temptation. The experience of temptation may vary from one person to the next, but there is struggle. We can at times live in the shadow of our past experiences and wounds. Some of our sins can still linger in the corners of our hearts and minds even after many Confessions and moments of repentance. There are wounds that may resurface and still burn.
God’s mercy and love is unconditional. As St. Bonaventure reminds us God “does not consider how you once behaved, but what you have now begun to be.” We can often become so self-absorbed with the difficulties we face and the “thorns in our side” that we overlook the profound grace God has sent us. We can long for the quickest fix to our problems and pain, especially when faced with many messages in our surroundings preaching instant gratification. From fast food to instant communication, we can fall into the temptation of longing to have even our deepest hurts healed with the press of a button. Unfortunately, and thankfully, thorns remain.
If we remain rooted in Christ and honestly seek to follow Him with “increased fervor and more ardent love” we can be assured that our “Divine Physician” will bring about the healing we need in order to carry out the mission He has called us to at the pace that we can handle for His good. Should we be pricked by a thorn or two from time to time, let us recognize in these moments the way that this is for our good and the good of others. We are not polished and perfected because we strive to live in accordance to God’s plan. We are broken and wounded and in that we share good company with some of the best! I question the motive of those who claim to “have it all together” as they strive to witness to God’s goodness. The truth is we are all as together as we can possibly be because of the goodness of God. The only thing we should claim to hold together are our hands in perpetual prayer.
I live with the thorn of my past in my side. Not in a scrupulous way, but it reminds me time and time again of God’s goodness and mercy in my life. It reminds me of the ongoing journey of conversion. I used to fear encountering those who knew me before I began practising my faith. I was worried about their judgement and truthfully a bit self absorbed in how “they” would see me, or remember me. Over time I began to recognize the amazing way God’s transforming grace spoke through in these encounters and eventually brought great joy. Hearing “there’s something so different about you” reminded me of the Someone greater than all of us that knocked me off my horse! The memories, not so glorious have been healed by our Lord, but every now and then there is the grace of a thorn prick to remind me Who God is and who I am not. A prick that corrects my judgement and allows me to recognize that being perfect is not important to serve God. The prick of the thorn reminds me to see others through the lens of my own brokenness and not with partiality.
God “does not consider how you once behaved , but what you have now begun to be.” May we strive to remember how we once behaved, so that we may forever live rejoicing to God by the witness of our lives and what we have begun to be by His mercy. (CC)
Catherine Spada is a Public Middle School educator and is currently loving her new role as a full-time mom. She enjoys giving presentations on chastity and sharing the beauty of the faith through her blog entitled Sacred Sharings for The Soul. Catherine resides outside of Toronto with her husband and beautiful baby girl.