During my years of ministry in the African American community, I encountered many people who used the sentence “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” as a mantra for living. I/can do/all things/in HIM/who strengthens me. What a power we experience when we believe and live with that kind of faith in our Savior! (Phil. 4:12-14, 19-20)
How did Amanda Knox deal with 4+ years in prison? How did Nelson Mandela deal with 26+ years in prison? How does anyone deal with the loss of a loved one? How does someone 63 years old realize his retirement savings just are not going to provide the level of living anticipated for year all his working years?
IN HIM, I can do ALL THINGS.
Remember, first of all, that Paul was reminding his listeners not to get too caught up in material wealth or possessions. He has lived well and he has lived poorly — he knows from exerperience that his strength and power come not from these THINGS but from his relationship with the Christ.
Secondly, he was thanking the community for what they had given him to support his work. “Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.”
But, if we want to focus on just those words themselves, i.e. I can do all things …. what kind of “things” might we do in Christ?
* How about doing my daily chores — doing them as a part of my work for the family, the community, my co-workers. yes, these chores are repetitive and boring and seem unappreciated …. but with the help of Jesus, I will and can do them with a sense of joyful gift-giving.
* How about doing a work or facing a challenge without giving in to fear — I can do something new, I can do something challenging, I can stand up to someone, I can rise to the occasion, and my nervousness will not paralyze me.
* How about forgiving myself for past failures? As one homilist has said, “God does not care if we have more skeletons in the closet than in the Halloween store!” As the Gospel tells us this weekend (Mt. 22:1-14), God keeps inviting us to the feast and he goes out of his way to include us — all we have to do is to accept the invitation and put on the clothes that he provides to all his guests!
* Facing a disturbing medical diagnosis shakes us — but in Jesus, we are strengthened for whatever lies ahead.
OK then: what does it mean to be IN HIM and how do we go about getting “into Him”?
Just as we ‘step into’ clothes each morning, we step “into” the mind and heart of Jesus which is open to us all. We actively try to see and think as Jesus sees and thinks. We breathe deeply and allow his name to roll off our lips. We are still and we focus our heart’s eyes on an image of Jesus.
We are fed by the feast of rich food and choice wine ((Is.25-6-10) provided by our God. This might come through Eucharist, or Scripture reading, or a study group, ir a prayer group.
We find the strength of Jesus (as did St. Paul) in loving and supportive communities. Our relationships should reveal the encouragement of Jesus. Others find the strength of Jesus through our own love and care.
In Christ we can do things we could never do on our own. In Christ we face new challenges everyday with more than our own wisdom and strength.