We can learn Paul’s secret. We can do all things when we discover the constant presence of Jesus in our lives and work in partnership with him.
There are moments when we feel happy, full of strength and everything seems light and easy. At other times we are afflicted by difficulties that make our days bitter. These can be the result of tiny failures in loving the people around us or our inability to share our ideal of life with others. Or we can be hit by illness, money troubles, family problems, inner doubts or trials, loss of work, the effects of war, which crush us and seem to have no let-up. What is especially burdensome in these things is feeling ourselves forced to face the trials of life alone, without support from someone who can give us the crucial help we need.
Few people like Paul have experienced such intense joys and pain, successes and lack of understanding. And yet confronting all risks he managed to carry on with his mission, without giving in to discouragement. Was he a superhero? No, he felt himself weak, fragile, inadequate, but he had a secret, one he shared with his friends in Philippi: ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ In his own life he had discovered the constant presence of Jesus. Even when everyone had forsaken him, Paul did not feel alone. Jesus stayed close by. He it was who gave Paul security and urged him to go on, to face every hardship.
Paul’s secret could be ours too. I can do all things when I too recognize and welcome in my pain the mysterious closeness of Jesus who almost identifies himself with my suffering, taking it upon himself. I can do all things when I live in a communion of love with others, because He comes into our midst, just as he promised (see Mt 18:20), and I am supported by the strength of unity. I can do all things when I welcome and put into practice the words of the Gospel; they make me perceive the road I am called to follow day by day, teaching me how to live and giving me confidence.
I will have the strength to face not only my personal trials, or those of my family, but also those of the world around me. So appalling are the problems of society and the nations, that this could seem naïve, something utopic, and yet it is true that ‘all things’ are possible for us with the presence of the Omnipotent – ‘all things’ and only things, that are the good which He, in his merciful love, has decided for me and for others through me. And if these things do not come about immediately, we can carry on believing and hoping in God’s plan of love that spans eternity and will be fulfilled anyway.
All we have to do is work in ‘partnership’, as Chiara Lubich taught: ‘“This may be a case when I can do nothing for that person who is sick or in danger, or for that complicated situation… Well then, I will do what God wants of me in this moment: study well, sweep well, pray well, take care of my children well… And God will see to the untangling of that knot, comforting the one who is suffering, sorting out that unexpected event.” It is a work in a partnership of perfect communion, which demands from us great faith in God’s love for his children and which makes it possible, through our action, for God himself to have trust in us. This mutual confidence works miracles. We will see that what we could not do, Someone else has done, and has done it far better than us.’1
1 Chiara Lubich, Yes Yes No No (London: New City, 1977), pp. 113-14 (translation revised).