Greatness

Prelude Op.28 No.15 “Raindrop”    F. Chopin (1810-1849)

This last week as pondered Martin Luther King, Albert Schweitzer and the Saints in general, and this week’s Gospel text in which a completely unknown Jesus walks into a synagogue and blasts them out of the pews with His message: “The great prophecies for which you have been waiting for centuries? Ta da! That’s ME!” — once again I am brought face to face with the paradoxical relationship between ‘greatness/strength’ and ‘poverty/weakness’ which pervades the New Testament.

For all the attention that ‘weakness/poverty’ gets in the New Testament and in Christian thinking in general, in the end it is still the Greatest of the Greatest that is at the very heart of Christianity, namely: Jesus the Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is His great power & authority which heals the blind, deaf and lame. It is from His great mind that the Sermon on the Mount flows. It is by His great Love and Selflessness that the Cross is possible.

One could object: “He was the Christ, and thus great things which were possible to Him are simply beyond a mere mortal like myself.” Yet Jesus Himself says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.” (Jn.14:12)

It is not weakness and ignorance that can address the problems we face as a society. It is not a benighted homeless person who can do something about Civil Rights, but the greatness of a Martin Luther King. As grateful as I am that someone flips burgers at McDonalds for my benefit, it wasn’t a burger flipper but a thriving theologian, philosopher, scholar and concert musician who turned his back on worldly success and become a medical doctor, founding and funding a hospital in Africa (Albert Schweitzer).

It is not our infirmities, but the strengths God gave us which make it possible for us to be of service to this broken world — strengths in which we should neither take personal credit (on what basis?) nor be ashamed (put under a bushel), strengths which are simply to be put to His service without further thought.

For every Scripture about how weak and sinful we are, there is another about how we are created in His image and likeness, and “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” What could be greater than that? (Once again, paradox seems to characterize great theological truth.)

After all, a Loving Parent is of course there for Her children when they are hurt, but what She really wants is to see Her children grow and fully realize their potential.