Dunamis, (Gk. for "Might")
Strength has meant different things to my throughout my life. When I was younger, strength was something most other people had: adults could lift things I couldn't (including me), reach things I couldn't, do things I couldn't. Strength was something I observed. When I grew older, and puberty did its work, strength became something I was able to exercise: I could lift more, run faster, reach higher...and with practice and training, I could increase that strength to levels that were relatively impressive. As I grow older, strength takes on other attributes: it means endurance in the face of pain or decreasing ability; growing smarter instead of stronger; finding deeper reservoirs within, rather than looking for it on the outside.
The ancient Greek word for strength (might, power, etc) is dunamis. That's where we get the word for dynamic...and perhaps that is the word that best describes the melanges of the above traits we all experience when we think of the word strength. Over time, and throughout life, strength means different things to us. Feeling it coming from God in Malachi and the Psalms, and from Jesus in the Gospel, offers experiences of the strength of the Almighty to be active in our lives. It is little wonder that we get to see manifold examples of what that dunamis looks like, what it feels like and the effect it has on us and the people around us.
God's dunamis shakes the world on its pillars, and shakes us to our core. It calls out all our hidden junk, the stuff we struggle to keep hidden in the closets of our moral, public selves. It holds us to account, and reminds us that our only response to the Almighty is to face into our sin, embrace God's forgiveness and pursue reconciliation with God and our neighbor...with all our strength, heart and being.
Jesus' dunamis is abundantly manifest in today's readings. It flows from him in a number of ways. His words and teachings affect the multitudes. His word stills the storm. One gesture lifts the burden of possession from a man's soul. The hem of his garment heals a women. A gentle beckoning calls a girl back from the dead. Witnessing this strength is like being a little child again, being scooped up into my father's arms...away from a cold floor, a dangerous precipice, a worrisome stumble...and into safety. It's having my grandmother reach to the upper shelf for the cookies that would become our afternoon snack. It's watching the priest lift the host up so that everyone can see the bread that will become Body for us, soon. It's feeling held and known.
It's a strength that brings healing and blessing...and reminds us that God is with us, and that the strength we are witnessing is a strength that is our inheritance as God calls us into communion as one Body in Christ.