We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary
power belongs to God and does not come from us
2 Corinthians 4: 7.
The life of a believer in Christ helps us to accept the nature of the clay jar that we are. We have weaknesses. We have strengths. For some people who know us, our strengths outweigh our weaknesses. For others, our weaknesses outweigh our good traits. But we all live somewhere between what we have been and what our heavenly Father is reshaping us to become.
This is truly an image of God's kingdom. We live in the "already, but not yet" time. The salvation of our Creator God has come among us, but it is not yet enjoyed by all people and all creation. Our Lord gives us a glimpse of God's future glory, but its full realization remains in the future, yet we are living it as much as our limited human nature allows in the life of his Body, the Church. We are between the already of what our God has done and the not yet of what our God will do when we are finally brought, by his grace, to perfection. The work God is doing in us has begun with our baptism, but is not yet complete since we do not always cooperate with his sustaining grace.
"Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks" Matthew 12: 34. How many times do harsh words cascade from our lips with the force of rushing water? Ouch! Now as we think about them, we still immediately feel their pain. Immediately as well, we want to take back a hurtful and damaging remark. However, just like rushing water, the words cannot be stopped nor their force negated. If only we were not cracked jars! If only we didn't dwell so much on this aspect of our humanity and its very limited and stifling consequences. If only we emphasized the positive more than the obvious negative. If only we paid attention to the truth of God within us that we are created in his image and respond to the challenge of restoring his likeness in our daily living.
It is not that the words are not true, or even justified at particular times, but most often they are more harsh than the situation requires because we let the cracks in our being overwhelm us and with applied force, cause them to spread. Our words reflect what is in our hearts and that, many times, is not necessarily good, however revealing. As our Lord taught us, "out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks..." Therefore, when our heart is brimming with an emotion, that feeling will leak or perhaps even spout out of our mouths. If we have unresolved sin or guilt in our hearts, at some point our lips will reveal it, just as assuredly as when we literally brim over with the joy of the Lord. If we do not emphasize and work with the grace our God freely imparts, the cracks in our being will become only more obvious.
Some pray to be strengthened in saying the right things or not to say the wrong debilitating things. Negative words can still cascade from the mouth, almost unawares. We must come to realize the problem goes deeper than just words. It is a weakness of attitude, it is the cracks of observation not paying attention to the healing gentle hands of our God, not recognizing even the most dreadful sinner, the most abject weakling can be used by our God to advance his kingdom. This becomes rather obvious in our midst. Our Creator God has placed me among us, to obviate it is He who leads as He did in the time of Moses and Joshua. If it were not Moses who allowed himself to be used as an instrument of God, Miriam and her brother Aaron would have certainly damaged God's influence over the Chosen People as they were being led out of bondage. We all need Christ to move in our hearts and souls to correct wrong attitudes, to overcome the limitations of the cracked jar. If our hearts are filled with the love of Christ, the way is opened for kind and appropriate, encouraging, affirming and positive words to flow between us. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to overcome the limitations of the cracks in our personalities and emphasize the treasure we have within us to do his holy will.
Yet God's glory is seen clearly in our sinful, broken imperfect humanity. "We have this treasure in clay jars." We can focus on the clay jar or we can focus on the treasure of God in us. We can condemn and look down on each other, and ourselves for being a cracked, chipped, misshapen, leaky, brittle, traditional, or contemporary jar. But if we focus on the treasure, we have ardent hope, hope for me, hope for you, hope for us, hope for enemies as well as friends, for the entire world's people because the treasure is God's extraordinary power at work in us.
Beginning today, at this very moment we ought to begin looking for and emphasizing the treasure of God in us as He continues to fulfill his purposes in the world and in us which cannot be done without our cooperation.
May our ardent and sincere prayer be "Heavenly Father cleanse our hearts so that our words reflect your abiding love."