I, Yet, Not I

Part 9

 

(Invincibility - Indefatigability)



INVINCIBILITY and INDEFATIGABILITY are not words found in most people's daily vocabulary. Even when these "I words" are transposd into "U form" — unconquerable and untiring — most of us would have to admit that these "little virtues" do not figure very highly in our roster of ordinary living. And, if we look deeper, we might even concede that in the realm of reality we are neither invincible nor indefatigable!


These "I words" teach us something very important about Christian virtue, though, something that St. Paul summed up quite accurately when he declared, I live, YET, NOT I, CHRIST is living in me. Ultimately, the exercise of virtue is not so much about what we do, but what we allow our Lord to do with, in and through us. St. Thérèse expressed this well when she said: When I am charitable, it is JESUS who is charitable in me. So too in the practice of INVINCIBILITY and INDEFATIGABILITY. If we are invincible and indefatigable, it is because Christ, invincible and indefatigable, is living and working in us.


The Gospels show us numerous examples of our Lord's INVINCIBILITY and INDEFATIGABILITY. He was never defeated by the derision of His foes, the dullness of His disciples, the indifference of the crowds. Even in His Passion, Jesus was unconquerable — fully surrendered, totally faithful, boundlessly good, loving and merciful. Sorrow, weariness, disappointment did not diminish His untiring, ever-giving love. Withdrawing to grieve the death of John the Baptist, our Lord's indefatigable compassion was moved at the sight of the crowd. Sitting exhausted by Jacob's well, His untiring love did not hesitate to reach out to the Samaritan woman.


St. Francis of Assisi would be the first to acknowledge that he was neither INVINCIBLE nor INDEFATIGABLE. Until the end of his life, he suffered his human frailties and limitations. But it was exactly on this "plain of weakness" that Francis found Christ marking out acres of INVINCIBILITY and INDEFATIGABILITY. Francis, the fiery little Italian, upset at the compromises and mitigations some of his friars sought, could cry out in anguish, Let them do what they want! Let us go and live in a cave! Yet Francis, the Little Poor Man, armed with Christ's INVINCIBLE patience, would go out to meet these erring brothers again and again. Francis, weighed down with pain and infirmity, could easily have withdrawn into the narrow rut of self-pity. Instead, he opened his heart to allow Jesus' INDEFATIGABLE love to send him forth to preach the Gospel until his very last breath.


Is this INVINCIBILITY and INDEFATIGABILITY impossible for us to achieve? Not at all! It requires large doses of faith in God and a willingness to believe that when we are weak, then we are strong. It asks us to practice a far-reaching self-denial, to constantly lower the capital "I" of egoism and to immerse it in Christ whose grace is all-sufficient, whose power is made perfect precisely in our weakness.


To achieve any measure of INVINCIBILITY and INDEFATIGABILITY, we also need to remember that Jesus' INVINCIBILITY and INDEFATIGABILITY reached their apex on the Cross. Our Lord was most invincible precisely when He appeared to be suffering the greatest defeat. He reached the summit of indefatigability precisely when He pushed past all physical and spiritual fatigue to complete His saving work. INVINCIBLE and INDEFATIGABLE, Jesus invites us to discover the joy of these I, yet not I virtues, which enable us to declare with all the saints: I can do all things IN HIM who strengthens me!




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