Blessed are the cracked!

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” (today’s First Reading).

Sometimes our work as Christians isn’t the most wonderful-looking thing. But from God’s point of view, that’s not important, for there’s something much greater at stake. And that’s the question of who gets the credit. Our appearance of success isn’t important; what really matters is whether outsiders can see if our work is the work of God. And to this end, God fills our hard-pressed lives with his power and life.

Ordinarily we put our treasure in a safety deposit box or at least in a safe at home. Placing treasure in an earthen vessel seems unusual. What the apostle is referring to is our bodies, our essential humanity. That is what he means by the term, “earthen vessels.” So it's terribly humbling to realize that the Apostle Paul tells us we are clay pots. Harshly unflattering even! It would not be so bad if he was talking about our lives B.C. (before Christ), but he's talking about after we have Christ in us. Often we say a person is cracked. Not exactly a compliment! Problem is that too often we whine when we're jostled, spilling out stuff that does not look, smell or taste like Christ because we've never learned or somehow forgotten that we are clay pots filled with Christ. Rather than cracked and leaking a treasure that attracts toward Heaven, we've simply become "crack pots." Again, not too flattering, after all, a crack pot is often defined as a person who is eccentric, fanatical, or irrational. None of us want to have those kind of labels attached to us.

To hammer this idea home, Paul draws a comparison: he says that Christian work is sort of like the dead body of Jesus on the cross. For many it looked like nothing more than a huge failure, a dead loss. But God was glorified when he raised Jesus from the dead. And in the same way, God fills our dead-looking work with his life and power, in order that he might get the credit.

It is hard for me to read this reading without reflecting on the woman with the alabaster jar full of precious nard. If she didn’t break open the jar, that beautiful perfume would have remained imprisoned in the jar. As I am on the horizon of my second anniversary of Perpetual Profession, I am reminded greatly of this scene as it was the Gospel chosen for the liturgy of that very special day. I ask myself how do I carry this treasure?

The verse from Corinthians holds the secret to what gives life worth and meaning. Paul tells us what that enriching element is: There is a  treasure that enriches life! And that treasure is God himself, resident within us. Emmanuel: God with us. We were made to hold Someone: God himself! Therefore, it is accurate to describe a life without God as “empty.”
Yes we all have cracks but that doesn’t mean we are broken. Those cracks are the hairline fractures of life which remind us that we are fragile and that we can break. The cracks make us who we are.
It’s when we are crushed and broken and disappointed, our dreams shattered, that we begin to rely on the Lord. So in some sense we are and will be always cracked pots until we reach that perfection in Heaven. We are always being crushed. We are always being broken. We are always being given over to the circumstances that hinder and frustrate us. We shouldn’t be surprised. The result is that people see the treasure: the life of God living within us.
 
Blessed are the cracked for through them the light shines through!

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