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Delaney CoyneSeptember 15, 2023
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for the Memorial of Sts. Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

Find today’s readings here.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these, I am the foremost.”

After my interview for America’sO’Hare Fellowship, I called my mom in the middle of her work day and choked out, “Well, I’m not getting that job.”

I had put the date on my calendar weeks prior: February 15, 12:30 p.m. I prepped my pitches and pored over sample interview questions and remote interview tips. I styled my hair, put on my most professional outfit and sat at my desk all morning rehearsing my answers, polishing into the smoothest, most pristine version of myself—until I received a text at 12:09. “Hi Delaney, this is Barbara from America Media. Are you still available for our interview? We’re on the call.”

The interview was at noon. I had entered the wrong time into my Google Calendar.

Frazzled, I joined the call and apologized profusely. My interviewers kindly told me not to worry (which, of course, made me worry). I soon launched into my pitches, feeling off-kilter all the while. I had spent so long cultivating “Delaney™,” the shiny, presentable version of myself I would sell to the interviewers. Having already revealed that I am, in fact, fallible, I felt like all my jagged edges were on display. I had failed to be the perfect version of myself for only an hour; why would anyone want to take a chance on me?

There is only one who can be incorruptible, worthy of honor and glory forever and ever, and it isn’t any of us.

By the mercy of God (and my now-coworkers), I did end up getting the job at America, although I don’t think that my initial prediction was unfounded. The world demands we present the smoothest, shiniest version of ourselves, as though our identities are a brand with a team of marketing associates rather than a complex, flawed human being. We are supposed to sand down our rough edges, shove the dark parts of ourselves far from anyone’s vision, and instead proclaim that our weaknesses are “perfectionism” or “working too hard.”

In today’s reading, Paul does the opposite. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” he writes to Timothy, “Of these I am the foremost.” It is his self-aware humility that makes Paul Christianity’s greatest evangelist; rather than hide or minimize his past sins, he owns them. He does not celebrate himself as a changed man; instead, he celebrates Christ’s mercy working through him, the foremost sinner. There is only one who can be incorruptible, worthy of honor and glory forever and ever, and it isn’t any of us.

What do we lose when we sand ourselves down, when we smooth over the undesirable parts of ourselves? Here, Paul reminds us that it is through the cracks and jagged edges that Christ enters our lives.

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