The person who is vulnerable becomes the presence of God.

The person who is vulnerable becomes the presence of God.

We are grateful for the wisdom of Jean Vanier, and we celebrate a beautiful life. Requiescat in pace.


Everyone is important

What Jesus wants is to bring people together. We know that in many cultures, people with disabilities are hidden away and put aside. Their parents’ hearts are wounded; in one way or another they erroneously believe that their child is a punishment from God. On the contrary, that child, like every child, is beautiful. That child, like every child, is a child of God. We are all different in language and in capacity. Some people are capable whereas others, perhaps by birth or perhaps through illness, are less capable. But everyone is important.

Our role in L’Arche is to say to those who have been put aside, the outcast and the marginalized: You are precious. You are beautiful, and you are loved by God. Stand up, rise up, and trust the Lord our God.

Jesus is not just speaking to the forgotten and to those with disabilities who have been hidden away in houses or in institutions. He is saying to each one of us, “Stand up and discover how beautiful you are.” You have a message, a gift to give to the world. In this world where there is corruption, division, and injustice, where there is a great divide between the rich and the poor and where there are armed conflicts, Jesus is sending his messengers. We are all his messengers, empowered to bring peace to our world and to discover that, through love and wisdom, we can build communities of love, signs of peace for our world.

To be vulnerable

There is something I would like to delve deeper into with you—something that will help us understand the vision of Jesus for our world and the place of people with severe disabilities in it.

The Gospel of John begins with the incredible prologue where we learn that before all things, the Word existed. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.” You can replace “the Word was with God” with “the Word was in communion with God.” Then we learn that the most extraordinary reality, the Word, became flesh. The Word of God, by whom all things were made, became flesh! It does not say “became a human being,” but rather, became flesh.

We all have this reality of our flesh. It is something that changes, something fragile and vulnerable. The Word became flesh, which can also be interpreted as “the Word became vulnerable.” I understand from this that those people who are vulnerable are the place where God resides. The person who is vulnerable becomes the presence of God.

I share with you my conviction that we need to discover the vulnerability of the heart of Christ, Christ wounded in his heart by our lack of love and lack of openness to this mystery. Together, let us contemplate the mystery of how people who are vulnerable are the presence of God and how Jesus is vulnerable. The whole of the history of humanity through all the cultures asks: Who is God and where is God? In many cultures, there is a fear of God. God had to be placated with sacrifices and his favor sought in order to get good things. We fear God because he can punish us. Jesus came to reveal that we are not to be frightened of God, because God is loving, God is tender, gentle, delicate, and humble.

Excerpted from We Need Each Other by Jean Vanier.

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