The Lord’s Strength Shines Through Our Weakness

User’s Guide to Sunday, July 4

‘When we seek his mercy and trust in his goodness, his strength will shine through our weakness,’ writes Susanna Spencer.
‘When we seek his mercy and trust in his goodness, his strength will shine through our weakness,’ writes Susanna Spencer. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, July 4, is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Ezekiel 2:2-5; Psalm 123:1-2,2,3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6.


Jesus in today’s Gospel (Mark 6:1-6) for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time has returned to his hometown of Nazareth after performing miraculous healings in the towns around the Red Sea. He has even brought a little girl back to life as we heard in the Gospel reading from last Sunday. It is the Sabbath, and Jesus goes to the local synagogue. He stands up to preach, and his friends and relations, who have known him his entire life, instead of listening Jesus, question his authority to preach. Surely, they have heard tales of the miracles he has performed, but they refuse to acknowledge that this carpenter’s son has anything worthwhile to say. 

As a side note, when we hear about Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” in the Gospels, we need to keep in mind that we must hold that the Blessed Virgin Mary did not have any other biological children besides Jesus. Traditionally, the “brethren” in the Gospels are thought to be cousins or more distant relations. The same word is used in Greek for actual siblings and other relatives, and this is the way it is used throughout the Old Testament. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, 500).

In the first reading (Ezekiel 2:2-5), the Lord describes the Israelites as “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” He sends Ezekiel to speak to them — reaching out even when he knows that they will not listen. It is easy to look at the Israelites and judge them for not heeding the words of Ezekiel, for turning away as their ancestors before them. It is easy to judge those in Jesus’ own country for failing to see that the Messiah grew up in their midst. We forget that we, too, are hard of face and obstinate of heart. In our own relationship with the Lord, it is easy to slip into a habit of expecting the Lord to act in certain way. When he does not act as we expect, we question the validity of what he has to say.

This is where the second reading (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) can help us. St. Paul speaks of a thorn in his flesh that he asked the Lord to remove three times. Instead of removing the “thorn,” the Lord says to St. Paul, 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

St. Paul, rather than going back to the Lord and telling him to do things differently, accepts that the Lord will use his weakness for good. He surrenders to the Lord’s plan and finds that he is stronger when he relies on God’s strength.

We all have a thorn in our flesh, perhaps even multiple. We often struggle with concupiscence toward sins of lust, gluttony, laziness, etc. We often wish for more things and are not satisfied with our lives and blessings. We sin often in our minds as we judge others and give free reign to uncharitable thoughts. We wallow in unbelief or pride — telling the Lord how he should act in our lives instead of asking for his will to be done. 

The Lord wants to break through our stubbornness in persisting in our sins and pour in his grace. He desires for us to fix our eyes upon the Lord and plead for his mercy, as in the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 123). The Lord desires us to earnestly pray the words of the Psalm, to see how much we need his mercy and consider whether we are the arrogant and the proud. When we seek his mercy and trust in his goodness, his strength will shine through our weakness. When we are weak, he makes us strong.