At the evening meal, sometime during the week before Christmas, the monks of Tibhirine sit at the Refectory table eating silently. As they eat, they listen to Brother Jean-Pierre read from an article by Christian Chessel.

Chessel was a thirty-six-year-old priest of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa who was killed 27 December 1994 in Tizi-Ouzou, Algeria. The reading captures so many of the themes in “Of Gods And Men” that it is worth quoting in whole. Brother Jean-Pierre reads:

Accepting our powerlessness and our extreme poverty is an invitation,
an urgent appeal to create with others relationships not based on power.
Recognizing my weaknesses, I accept those of others.
I can bear them, make them mine in imitation of Christ.
Such an attitude transforms us for our mission.
Weakness in itself is not a virtue,
but the expression of a fundamental reality
which must constantly be refashioned by faith, hope and love.
The apostles’ weakness is like Christ’s,
rooted in the mystery of Easter and the strength of the spirit.
It is neither passivity nor resignation.
It requires great courage and incites one to defend justice and truth
and to denounce the temptation of force and power.

I will do almost anything to avoid confronting the reality of my “powerlessness,” “poverty” and “weakness.” And yet, when I am honest, I have to acknowledge how poor I really am. This is not false humility. It is simply the awareness that I fall so far short of the image of beauty and love for which I was created.

I know I was created to be something vastly greater and more luminous than this petty, self-preoccupied, little person who manifests so often in my thoughts and actions. I long to be free and strong. But Advent tells me that it is only as I am willing to be poor and weak that I will live more fully in tune with my deepest nature.

Paul captured the radical nature of the Gospel when he wrote,

I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Can I be content with my weakness in order that I may find the true strength that resides as the power of Christ in the depth of my being?