In Our Weakness, We Find Strength

In the moment of our lives when we are experiencing our greatest elation, we can find ourselves brought to the moment of our greatest humbling. I remember one such moment in my life. When I was in my final semester of seminary I was getting ready to be ordained a priest. I was flying high and was a bit full of myself.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 7-July 8, 2018

From Fr. Anthony Ligato

In our weakness, we find strength

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

In the moment of our lives when we are experiencing our greatest elation, we can find ourselves brought to the moment of our greatest humbling.  I remember one such moment in my life.  When I was in my final semester of seminary I was getting ready to be ordained a priest.  I was flying high and was a bit full of myself.  So, when the time came to take the final comprehensive examinations to earn my Master of Divinity prior to ordination, I was feeling confident.  The comprehensive examinations were a compilation of all the courses I had taken over a four-year period to earn my degree.  The comprehensives were comprised of written and oral examinations.  For the oral examinations you would be assigned to a team of two professors who would quiz you on any subject matter that was studied over the four-year period.

When the day came for the faculty teams who would administer the oral exams were posted, I was one of the last Seminarians to get to the bulletin board where the teams were posted. My class mates saw the team I was assigned and as I was walking down the hall they all began to say, Oh, Anthony wait till you see your team. You have the toughest team of us all. I was thinking they were just kidding around, little dd I know! When I look at the posted examination team I received, I developed a lump in my throat. For the team I received were two of the toughest professors, if not the toughest in the entire Seminary. I did not want to let them see that I was concerned, and I said, I am not worried; I did well in the classes I took with them. As the day and weeks went on and we were meeting in our study groups preparing for our comprehensive exams I felt more and more confident. But I could not forget the day when the teams were posted, and the words of my class mates echoed in my head, Oh, Anthony wait till you see the team you were assigned.

When the first day of the comprehensives came and I had to take the essay examinations, I was confident and the questions I drew made me even more confident. I had no problem with the written exam and I went into the next day’s oral exam with a high level of confidence. By the time the next morning came I was feeling very different. I was nervous, and I had psyched myself out with worry. When I went into the exam and they ask me the first question, it was as if they were speaking a foreign language. As I tried to answer the questions I could feel myself spiraling downward. I could not come up with any answers. They could have asked me who is Jesus Christ and I don’t think I could have answered it. The examination team stop the exam and say, I think we should end this now and have you come back another day. Then they said, we do have to give you a grade and it is a D! A D! I walked out of the room stunned. I did not know what to do except to do to my Mentor. Each of us had a Priest who was our Mentor at Seminary who was our advisor. My Mentor was also the Vice Rector of the Seminary and he was in a meeting, so I had to wait. When I finally get to see him and tell him what happened, he gave me a totally surprising response. He said, I am glad this happened to you. What just happened to you, remember it, so that you never do it to someone else.  What should have been my moment of exultation was my moment of great humiliation.

Ezekiel was sent to the people of Israel who were in exile in Babylon and many of them felt they did not need God since God in their view abandoned them. Ezekiel was rejected and humiliated for the prophetic message he brought to the people. He was speaking out against a corrupt generation who had turned away from God. “Son of Man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me, they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.” (Ezek. 2:2-5) The prophet has a responsibility to speak these words of truth because they are compelled by their passion for God and their need for justice and righteousness. To speak such words to a people who have already rejected God requires courage and boldness. Ezekiel was called by God and in that moment of elation thought he could be that prophetic voice that would bring Israel back to faithfulness.

Paul was sent to the Gentiles to proclaim the good news. As he was having success in his evangelization as he went on three different missionary journeys, he was also inwardly suffering. He speaks about the thorn in his side in the second reading from Second Corinthians 12:7-10, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, My, grace is sufficient for you.” Paul in is greatest moments of elation as he succeeded in bringing men and women to faith was also humbled by this thorn. The thorn in his side was a constant reminder of his need for Christ. That in his ministerial success he was having spiritual battles which caused him to be humbled.

The rejection of Jesus in his own native place is a foreshadowing of how Jesus is continually rejected by past and future generations. “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.” (Mark 6:1-6) Jesus’ public ministry reveals him as not only a prophet but also Priest and a King. The prophetic ministry of Jesus challenged those who rejected the of Kingdom. This challenge brought Jesus to the cross. By the fact that Jesus made himself weak on the cross, we have been made strong.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Anthony


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