Power of the Powerless

January 7, 2016 at 1:16 pm Leave a comment







When the world thinks of victory, it always thinks of it in terms of power plays between different sides and the stronger side finally having the upper hand.  But what does it mean to have victory?  What does it mean to be strong?  I found the answer to these questions in a book I read some years ago, “The Power of the Powerless” by Christopher de Vinck.  The book is about Christopher de Vinck’s testimony about his brother Oliver.

“I grew up in the house where my brother was on his back in his bed for almost 33 years, in the same corner of his room, under the same window, beside the same yellow walls. Oliver was blind, mute. His legs were twisted. He didn’t have the strength to lift his head nor the intelligence to learn anything.  We bathed Oliver.  Tickled his chest to make him laugh.  Sometimes we left the radio on in his room.  We pulled the shade down over his bed in the morning to keep the sun from burning his tender skin.  We listened to him laugh as we watched television downstairs.  We listened to him rock his arms up and down to make the bed squeak.  We listened to him cough in the middle of the night.  Oliver grew to the size of a 10-year-old.  He had a big chest, a large head.  His hands and feet were those of a five-year-old, small and soft.  We’d wrap a box of baby cereal for him at Christmas and place it under the tree; pat his head with a damp cloth in the middle of a July heat wave.  His baptismal certificate hung on the wall above his head.  A bishop came to the house and confirmed him.

Five years after his death from pneumonia on March 12, 1980, Oliver still remains the weakest, most helpless human being I ever met, and yet he was one of the most powerful human beings I ever met.  He could do absolutely nothing except breathe, sleep, eat, and yet he was responsible for action, love, courage, insight.  When I was in my early 20s, I met a girl and fell in love.  After a few months I brought her home to meet my family.  When my mother went to the kitchen to prepare dinner, I asked the girl, “Would you like to see Oliver?” for I had told her about my brother.  ”No,” she answered.  Soon after, I met Roe, a lovely girl.  She asked me the names of my brothers and sisters.  She loved children.  I thought she was wonderful.  I brought her home after a few months to meet my family.  Soon it was time for me to feed Oliver.  I remember sheepishly asking Roe if she’d like to see him. “Sure,” she said.  I sat at Oliver’s bedside as Roe watched over my shoulder.  I gave him his first spoonful, his second.  ”Can I do that?” Roe asked with ease, with freedom, with compassion, so I gave her the bowl and she fed Oliver one spoonful at a time.

The power of the powerless.  Which girl would you marry?  Today Roe and I have three children.”[1]  The powerless of this world can scrutinize us and help us to discern what we truly believe in.  As the first reading of today says, “A man who does not love the brother that he can see cannot love God, whom he has never seen.  So this is the commandment that he has given us, that anyone who loves God must also love his brother.”  The gospel of today states that “Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee”.  However, it is significant to note that Jesus has received this power because He did not choose the power that the world offers in outward signs as signified in the three temptations of the Devil in the desert (Lk 4:1-13).  Rather, He chose to lean on the Word of God, and only those who lean on the Word in crisis moments will discover the “power of the powerless”.  The power to lay their lives down without defence for others.  The power to forgive those who persecute us.  The power to love those who hurt us.  The power to persevere in the face of insurmountable odds.  The power to hope when all seems lost.  This is truly the victory of our faith in God that overcomes the world’s faith in itself.

Where, what or who do you place your faith in?  Are your victories short-lived or do they continue to linger and grow?  If the latter happens, this means it is from God, if the former then it is generated by you and that is why it is short-lived. Let’s live today with the faith that overcomes the world!

Actions for today:

  • Spend time meditating on the story of Oliver.  Enter into a dialogue with Jesus. What does it truly mean to be in the power of the Holy Spirit?
  • Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation asking Jesus for strength to begin afresh with His love
  • Reach out to a family member or colleague who needs some help today. Become aware of how you feel doing this outreach

Retrieved from http://www.csctr.net/reflections/


Entry filed under: Catechesis.

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