Sometimes the greatest resource of all can be a small gesture of kindness from someone who is poor. It is often a gentle look from someone who is vulnerable which relaxes us, touches our heart and reminds us of what is essential. One day I went with some sisters of Mother Teresa to a slum in Bangalore where they were looking after people with leprosy. The sores stank, and humanly speaking, it was revolting. But the people there had light in their eyes. When I left I felt inexplicable joy, and it was they who had given it to me. – Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p. 185
Joe Corcoran is a fellow sojourner at St. Aidan’s and a generally wonderful man with great pearls of wisdom to share. Yesterday he sent along this little gem that he had received in a daily mediation from the L’Arche community. I read it a couple of times, left it for an hour and cane back to read it again. On the second reading of this quote of the great Sage Jean Vanier, I was reminded of the many times that I have been the beneficiary of the kindness of a stranger. The odd thing the moments that come to mind and are most powerful are instances where I thought I was the purveyor of all things kind, but came away realizing my own sinfulness in assuming the position of superiority. The important part of the couple of powerful experiences that rushed to my memory is not about my own failing however. The power in the story is the irony that in actively seeking to be kind to another in his/her pain or suffering I have been the recipient of simple and honest kindness. It is often exactly as Vanier says – it may be the light in another’s eyes.
Yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation to Mary. [We will celebrate the Feast today at 10:30 am at St Aidan’s.] God announces to Mary that her life and that of the world is about to change. “A lowly handmaid” accepts her calling and God becomes united with flesh in the unexpected of ways. God choose to be revealed in vulnerability. God becomes manifest in weakness. God chooses to enter into weakness. We are called to enter into the lives of the vulnerable and weak. As Mary was brave enough to become pregnant with Vulnerability, we too are called to become one with another’s vulnerability – and with our own. I pray that in these Lenten days we may find places where we might serve the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, the lonely, the grieving, and the lost. But we need to be ready for unexpected kindness.
At book study last night I related a story that I will repeat here. Years ago, I would attend daily Mass at a Roman Catholic Chapel on a Canadian Forces Base. One of the Priests, who would say Mass, was a sweet and gentle man for whom English was a second language. After the prayer of consecration one day he elevated the Chalice and the Host and in a wonderful French accent declared;
“BEWARE THE LAMB OF GOD….”
We all found it funny at the time. But perhaps there is more to it than the humour of a translation error. Perhaps we ought to ‘Beware the Lamb of God.’ We head into places of vulnerability and service often unaware of how God is so abundantly present. We are often unaware of the ways that our love can change another and unaware and unprepared for how engaging in that love and being loved back will change us. It is easy for any of us who serve to assume position when we approach the vulnerable from a place of relative strength, that we hold the bag of kindness and are happy to dole it out. We need to ‘Beware the Lamb of God’ who, in our encounters, will reorganize that encounter in order that kindness becomes a currency whose worth is increased when spent by the vulnerable. It is in those moments of serving and loving those who are vulnerable that we can become most keenly aware of the Lamb of God, who with no other currency but kindness, is able to with something as unexpected as a gentle look, is able to offer to us inexplicable joy. It is in those moments that we become aware of our own vulnerability. Let us go beyond beholding God – let us …Beware the Lamb of God — Beware the one who takes away the sin of the world.