Let us hear the word of the Lord. It is taken from Romans Chapter four verses 14 to 25. “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I’m of the flesh sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now, if I do what I do not want, I agree that law is good, but in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me for I know that nothing good dwells within me that is in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that does it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self. But I see my members, another law at work with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am who will rescue me from this body of death. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord”. This is the word of the Lord.
“I do not understand my own actions for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”. This is a very strange statement by a great apostle. We are not talking about just an ordinary person. We are talking about the Great Apostle who some people say has founded Christianity. He said, “I cannot understand my own actions for I do not do what I want, but I did a very thing I hate”. It is an honest and yet a very bold statement. Who can say things like that? Who can say, I don’t know myself? People say I know what I’m doing. They seem to be very assured of themselves even though they are not very sure about themselves. They have to show on the surface that they are atleast quite confident. You know, I used to envy those who are so sure of themselves.
It was good to see that they have so much confidence in life. And I always thought, what do they have that I don’t have? They seem to have so much confidence in themselves about life, about everything. They seem to be so sure of what they are doing, but now I realize that they are not much different from me. They don’t have more knowledge, they don’t have more faith, and they don’t have much confidence in themselves either. Often it was just a facade that they put on to look strong and confident. Sometimes I see young people looking cool and tough, but behind their cool and tough demeanor, I also see that they are very scared of not being cool and not being tough. What if I don’t look cool? What if I don’t look tough? I see that fear. So after all, they are not that cool and tough. They’re just scared. Who has real faith? Not those who put on a religious facade, but the one who actually encounters God and those whose eyes are open because of that encounter to be able to see the reality of God. At the same time, they see not only the reality of God but they can also see what’s in them because their eyes are open. They could see their own shame, darkness, weakness, sinfulness, so they not only see the reality of God, but they also see their own carnality of themselves. God is light, when you come into the light everything gets exposed. Not only the good things, but even the ugly things gets exposed. So before you see your own contradiction within yourself, that’s what Paul confessed in today’s scripture, “I do not understand myself”. When I was young, I was scared of many things. I was especially scared of how people may look at me and how they will judge me. But as I got older, how people look at me is still important, but it’s not that important anymore. It’s still important, but it’s not that important to sacrifice everything that I do or what I’ve learned that it is all right just to be me. It’s not that great, but it’s all right just to be me. I think that is what maturity does to us. Maturity gives you the courage to accept the complexity you have within you. When I was young, I saw my own contradiction and complexity. I was very insecure about it, but as I get older I realize that it’s all right to have that complexity within me. You can have critical thinking about yourself and yet you don’t perish. That’s the difference. Before, if I saw contradiction within myself I almost perished, but now when I see contradiction within myself, I don’t perish. It doesn’t perish me. It doesn’t destroy me.
I was reading a book so I would like to share with you about it. It said: “critical thinking without hope is cynicism, but hope without critical thinking is naivete”. I think it’s pretty good. You know, we need to keep up critical thinking, but if you don’t give any hope, then that is cynicism in you. You just become a cynical person. When you do critical thinking you don’t want to be a cynical person. You don’t want to be a complainer. You want to make changes. You want to make a productive change. That’s why you do critical thinking. Not just because you’re sturdy, satisfied, so you never lose hope. When you have critical thinking about others and about the world and yet you never give up hope, then you’ll never become cynical. What is the Good News? What is the Gospel? What is the goodness? The goodness that Paul delivered today is this: you don’t need to be perfect. That’s the goodness. You don’t have to be perfect. That is a message of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to be so cool. You don’t have to be so perfect. You don’t have to be so religious. You don’t have to be so righteous, because you are not.
We all have insecurities within us, but we don’t want to live out our insecurities. I hope that we don’t live our insecurity in our lives.
As I read Steve Jobs biography, I mean he made great achievements and all that, but I felt sad. Probably he’ll feel sad for me, but I felt sad for him in a way because all his life he tried to prove to the world how good he is in everything he did because when he was very young, his biological parents gave him up. He always asked questions, why did they give me up? Why did they abandon me? Was I so bad? Was I so unworthy that they had to abandon me? He lived with this question all his life. When you watch the movie Amadeus, I don’t know whether it’s true or not but Sallieri always lived that lived out his insecurity. I hope that we don’t live out our insecurity. You don’t need to pretend to be so strong and so upright. As you hear the good news, you get this courage to think that you’re alright. You can be honest with yourself. That’s where everything begins, by being honest with yourself. Then you’ll be able to discover so much about yourself. You’ll be able to see the insecurity deeply embedded within you and then you can laugh about that. You know, when I was young I was so skinny that my kneecap kind of protruded and I hated that. That little kneecap. All the other guys didn’t have that, their’s were flat. I hated it so much that I didn’t want to wear my shorts at that time, but I don’t have that insecurity anymore because I don’t have that kneecap anymore. But also at the same time, I am strong enough to be able to handle that kneecap. But I’m just talking about a very small thing. The kinds of insecurities that I have, I cannot even talk about here. It is so embarrassing. I cannot even talk about it. Even though I still have so much insecurity within me, I know someday I’ll be able to overcome that too with God’s grace and I also know that those things cannot crush me anymore. I can even laugh about that.
I’m not sensitive about that. Once in a while I get sensitive, but most of times I am not. Jesus’ goodness frees us from the fear of our own weaknesses, darkness, and insecurities. The good news says it is all right, I’ll help you work out your own problems. You don’t have to hide it anymore. You don’t have to look down upon others for their weaknesses to hide your own weaknesses. I realized that the people who hide their weaknesses are usually abusive to other people’s weaknesses. Now you can embrace your own weaknesses and also other people’s weaknesses because you are not much different from them. As we received the good news, we become very comfortable with our own weaknesses. You are in a much better position to deal with your own weaknesses and you can also have compassion for others who are struggling with their own weaknesses, and I think that is a power of grace. That is a power of grace. Grace is a wonderful thing. As you look at your own weaknesses and embrace your own weaknesses, you can also embrace other people’s weaknesses. That is the power of Grace.
Paul lived all his life without knowing what grace was all about. He was a hard working man, and he was very good in everything he did and he had to be good. He tried to be good, and he had to be good in everything he did and most of the times, he was good. But he didn’t know what grace was all about. What do you mean living with grace? He didn’t live with grace. He left with his strong will, but unfortunately his strong will blinded him. Only when he discovered the grace in his life, his eyes were open and he was able to see his true self and he was able to see how scared people were and how hard they tried to cover up. I think grace is wonderful thing. We all have to understand God’s grace deeply. How do we know God’s grace? You don’t need to be so religious to know God’s grace. You don’t need to be morally so perfect to know God’s Grace. You don’t need to be so smart to know God’s grace. God’s grace is available to everyone who needs that grace. That’s all you need. When I need grace then that grace is available.
When you see your broken self instead of just looking at yourself, you can turn to God and you’ll see God’s grace waiting for you. That’s what grace is like. When you see only you, yourself, then you cannot see grace, but when you turn around and turn to God, you see God’s grace waiting for you. Jesus came to give us a grace. Jesus came and left, but he left grace with us. This is what it said in John: “and the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace”. That’s what God gave to us last week. We said said that life is a gift. Life can be only a gift when you have grace. When you know grace, then life is a gift.
There’s nothing you can do. There’s nothing you need to do to receive grace, but when you see your brokenness and turn to God, God will show you his grace. St Paul said this,” where sin increased grace abounded all the more”. I translated a little bit, and I think this is better: “where the perception of sin increased, the power of grace abounded all the more”. It’s not just because you sin more that you will experience God’s grace more, but when you understand your sin more deeply you will then be able to understand the power of God’s grace more abundantly.
Your weakness is not something that you have to hide at all cost. When you do that, you’re building a life of lies. You become a person of lies. You’ll just pretend a lot of things and you’ll show a facade, but that’s not you. I don’t want to build a life of lies. Your weakness is something that you need to confront, embrace, and expose to God. Then you’ll see God’s grace working in you. I do believe that is the power of life. Only there we can have true confidence in life. I hope that our insecurities do not eat us up, parish us and destroy us. Rather, let it make us compassionate human beings to other people’s weakness.