Our Christian life is such a paradox.

On the one hand, we can be at times so painfully aware of our failures and sin. On the other hand, we are already, in our union with the Lord, sharers in his fullness.

Paul expresses this fundamental paradox in an enduring image: “We are only earthenware jars that hold this treasure.” 

We seem so ordinary, made of the dust of the earth, and our bodies will return one day to that dust. And yet, and yet, this human vessel is breathed into by God, filled with his life. We have been bestowed with a divine wealth and beauty we have not even begun to understand.

St Francis understood that holding in delicate balance the full truth of who we are is the way to live Spirit-filled, Spirit-guided lives. This means acknowledging I am an earthenware vessel with nothing to boast of, but also rejoicing that I carry a precious treasure, everything has already been given to me in Christ.

In my experience many of us don’t get that balance right. The most common fault is to be so aware of our failings, sins, and mistakes – just how cracked, chipped, and broken the vessel is – that there is no recognition of, no delight in the splendour that is ours by the gift of God.

The Franciscan approach is to let our confidence in God’s unfailing grace and goodness root us in a secure place before God, even as we experience our weakness. Then our joy in the Lord comes from a humble, grateful heart!

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