But 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. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies...So we do not lose heart.Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal." (2 Corinth. 4:7-10, 16-18)
Can't you picture Fr. Damien slowly reading these words of St. Paul and taking them into himself, recognizing that he, too, shared this destiny? From the moment he first stepped foot on the island of Molokai - so fearful of leprosy that he spent his first nights sleeping under a tree so as not to share the huts of the lepers -to his last moments watching the disease slowly but methodically eat away at his own body - he surely recognized his own frailty, his own body of clay which was still able to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and shine His light to the world.
What a meditation that must have been! He truly was afflicted in every way - fighting tirelessly for his lepers, rallying them to hope when there seemed to be none, comforting the dying, and burying the dead. But he did not lose heart. Even when his outer nature literally was wasting away he continued his ministry, secure in the knowledge that in spite of his fragility, both physical and spiritual, there was One who claimed him for eternity - his Savior, Jesus Christ.
We, too, share in that promise with all the Saints. For we, too, are covered in clay which crumbles and breaks. But God loves us so that He gave us a Savior who died so that we may one day throw off our earthly facade "to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling" (2 Corinth. 5:2). Alleluia! Yes, we are weak in this life; yes, there is grief and sadness which we may never reconcile; and yes, we will die - but our true life is in Christ Jesus, and it is eternal.
St. Damien of Molokai, please continue to pray for us!