Some say that it may have been a person--in short, someone who was a real challenge to Paul. We all have those kinds of people in our lives, people who may in fact bring us a lot of stress, or simply always point out our flaws or call us to change our ways when in fact, we don't want to change at all. The prophets all talk about this as well--how they just want God to leave them alone in their comfort and not call them into something greater.
I think in my own life I've known such thorns and moreover, I, like Paul came to rejoice in them. Often these were people that I respected and who came to know my own gifts and moreover my flaws as well and still learned to work with me despite them. The end result was a mutually graced relationship where we accomplished much in our lives.
Still, there are those who know us well who have a more negative attitude towards our flaws. In their eyes we think too much of ourselves and we can never do anything right. Often these are people who know us pretty well--perhaps even our own parents, siblings or close friends.
Jesus met these people in the Gospel today as well. After those who know him well, who saw him grow up hem and haw saying such things to the effect of "Who does he think he is?" something interesting happens.
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
I'm often troubled by this part of the gospel because it sounds like Jesus is powerless. But in fact, I think a careful reading might be somewhat sarcastic and perhaps even say more about these people who know him than it does about Jesus.
He was unable to perform any mighty deed there but then the next line says "apart from curing a few sick people by laying His hands on them."
Isn't that a pretty might deed? I think Mark is being coy here and suggesting that perhaps no matter what Jesus did here it would not be received well. Amazed at their lack of faith Jesus begins his public ministry away from this place--where the faith of simple people, unbiased in their opinion about Jesus received him into their presence and it was there that they met the living God.
Who are we biased against? Who don't we allow to amaze us with their gifts and talents? Are we the thorn in someone else's side? How about our thorns? Will they ever change their minds or do we have to move on down the road to someplace new where we indeed may be seriously challenged more than we ever have been before? Where is God calling us when we notice the thorns in our side?
That indeed is a question that we all need to answer today and pray. We pray to ask where God may be speaking to us when we encounter our thorns. Do they call us to more carefully look at ourselves, our flaws and where we don't measure up--or are they calling us so that we realize that they are the voice of those who unjustly refuse to accept us for who we are?
Today let us pray that we all find where God is calling us--even amongst the thorns that await us.