Have faith: God uses our lowliness for greatness

| Deacon Kyle Kowalczyk | July 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

Galileans apparently spoke with a really strong accent. It was probably an accent similar in Israel to a southern accent here in Minnesota: the type of accent at which one likes to poke fun.

Nathaniel was from Galilee (Cana, to be precise), but is found in John 1:46 making fun of Nazareth, also in Galilee, a little to the south: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathaniel is apparently stating a common claim that Nazareth is the lowest of the low. Perhaps it was adding insult to injury when Pontius Pilot included the title “Nazarene” on the sign above Christ’s cross.

Perhaps this is what the Nazarenes were reacting to in the Gospel reading for July 5. They took offense at Jesus because they knew where he was from. They couldn’t grasp the fact that the messiah would come from such a laughable village.

Of course, one of the great mysteries of Christianity is that God raises up the lowly. The Bible is full of such episodes from Abraham to Gideon and from Mary to the apostles. It is comical to think of these fishermen from Galilee preaching the Gospel in their “southern” accents. Yet this is how God operates.

This requires faith on our part. The problem with the Nazarenes was not their lowliness, but rather their lack of confidence in God’s ability to use their lowliness for his glory. The problem with the Nazarenes was they had no faith: “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6). (If there’s anything you don’t want to hear the Lord say, it is how amazed he is at your lack of faith!)

St. Paul, on the other hand, gets it: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” He understands that it is through his weakness, not through his strength, that God will exercise his power. It is unclear as to what this “thorn in the flesh” was for St. Paul. It could have been a physical ailment, some sort of external persecution, or even an internal struggle with temptation toward a certain sin. Whatever the case, all of the above are possibilities for us, and all of the above are true for us. That is, whatever is making us lowly is something worth bragging about, because in all likelihood, God will do something amazing with it.

The Nazarenes missed their opportunity. They missed the opportunity to have God do something great for them and through them. If they had reveled in their lowliness instead of spurning it, who knows what Jesus would have done. For our part, we must avoid thinking the good we do is from us, but we must also avoid thinking God is unable to exercise his power through our lowliness.

Deacon Kowalczyk is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His teaching parish is Annunciation in Minneapolis. His home parish is St. Joseph in West St. Paul.

Sunday, July 5

  • Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


  • Ezekiel 2:2-5
  • 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
  • Mark 6:1-6a

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Category: Sunday Scriptures