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Strong in our weakness

· ​Editorial ·

A woman wearing armour and a helmet who is keeping a lion at bay. The shield next to the sword. A tower on the rock which, indestructible, stands firm against strong gusts of wind. This complex of images calls to mind something that brings together women and men from any cultural or ethnic provenance: the virtue of “fortitude”. The word is unusual but when we happen to come across it, it further suggests, if vaguely, that disposition of the soul which resists fear and does not let itself be crushed by destructive forces.

Today however people prefer to reflect on specific aspects of action associated with strength, rather than on the significance of strength in itself. In other words we speak more willingly of resistance, courage or – to use a far more fashionable term – “resilience”, that is, the capacity for surviving and reacting to adversities with a spirit of adaptability, sometimes even with irony. If they are practised under the banner of a constant quest for good, all these kinds of behaviour prove without a doubt to be the foundations for living a “good life” at the social, political and personal levels. Resistance, resilience, courage and firmness are in fact weapons in our hands with which to counter bullying, cynicism, and arrogance. And this is not all. Such behaviour has a positive influence on those who witness it.

However the presuppositions underlying this sort of behaviour do not always coincide – or at least not fully – with the foundation of strength understood in a Christian perspective. In this case, in fact, strength is revealed in its completeness only when it is illuminated by faith. When, that is, we are conscious of our weakness, we entrust ourselves to a God whose infinite power is revealed in the vulnerability of the Cross: a God who precisely by virtue of being made vulnerable becomes our shield, our strength, our rock. From this stake on faith – which is fundamentally an openness to charity – flows the gift of a serene strength, rather different from boldness, a strength that transcends, even while also including in itself acts of daring, resistance and courage. In short, this is an easing of the heart, an inner peace which we ask for with these simple words, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. St Paul wrote that it is when we are weak that we are strong (cf. 2 Cor 12:10). Is this a mere paradox or a profound truth? 

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