Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I pondered weak and weary...
Anyhow the mug gave me an idea for a good Lenten exercise. Beginning next week with Ash Wednesday, and throughout the forty days of Lent, I will drink from the mug. As I do I will offer a prayer to God. I will commend to God the many ways that I am weak and weary – and I will ask God to renew me and to give me grace where He calls me to be stronger.
But then I will pray also for blessed surrender. That’s because often our weaknesses too can be occasions for grace. Our weaknesses, for one thing, help us to find contentment in our limitations. They keep us humble and teach us to embrace a holy poverty of spirit before God and one another. Our weaknesses teach us to keep our eyes fixed on God and to be utterly dependent upon Him. A healthy spirit is one that can embrace one’s weaknesses.
I am reminded of an article I read while I was in seminary entitled, “Because Beset by Weakness” (read the whole thing here). It was written by a Jesuit priest named Fr. Michael Buckley. In the article the author points out that seminaries, when trying to discern whether or not a young man is called to the priesthood, should try to assess more than just the candidate’s gifts, talents, personality, and habits. In addition to these, Fr. Buckley insists that there is a more important consideration to make – one that is more proper and central to the essence of priesthood. Above all else, he suggests, Church officials should be asking:
Is this man weak enough to be a priest? Is this man deficient enough so that he cannot ward off significant suffering from his life, so that he lives with a certain amount of failure, so that he feels what it is to be an average man? Is there any history of confusion, of self-doubt, of interior anguish? Has he had to deal with fear, come to terms with frustrations, or accept deflated expectations? These are critical questions and they probe for weakness.
Fr. Buckley points out how vital it is for a priest to “be liable to suffering, weak because he must become like what he touches – the body of Christ.” That rings true – and not just for priests but for anyone who would be a follower of Jesus. Each one of us must grow to be very, very familiar and intimate with sorrow, suffering, want, poverty, and the blessed weakness of the human condition – because that’s what Jesus became for us.
So that’s my Lenten mug prayer. That’s my prayer for all of us. May our weakness and our weariness draw us closer to God and to one another.