Bits of Wisdom from Jean Vanier
The spirituality of L’Arche implies that we act like rabbits and not like giraffes. Giraffes see from afar where they should go. Rabbits sniff their way. We are sniffing our way along, and we will go in the right direction if we keep eating with the poor, living with them, listening to them. (p. 104)
Fundamentally, when people start lamenting because there are people with handicaps in our world, the question is whether it is more sad that there are people with handicaps or that there are people who reject them. Which is the greater handicap? (p. 54)
The mystery is that Jesus is hidden in the poorest and in the weakest but also in the poverty of our own being. (p. 124)
Our modern world has fantastic power and knowledge. Man has conquered the moon, delved into the secret of matter, and discovered immense energies. Yes, we have amazing knowledge. But the only real knowledge necessary for the survival of the human race is lacking: the knowledge of how to transform violence and hatred into tenderness and forgiveness; how to stop the chain of aggression against the weak; how to see differences as a value rather than as a threat; how to stop people from envying those who have more and incite them to share with those who have less. (p. 63)
Aren’t we all Lazarus?
Are there not parts in each one of us that are dead,
caught up in a culture of death?
All that is dead in us,
more or less hidden in our unconscious self,
in the shadow areas or the “tomb” of our being,
provokes a kind of death around us.
We judge and condemn and push people down,
wanting to show that we are better than they.
We refuse to listen to those who are different,
and so we hurt them.
All these destructive acts have their origin
in all that is dead within us,
all that creates a stench in the hidden parts of our being,
which we do not want to look at or admit.
Jesus wants us to rise up and to become fully alive.
He calls us out of the tomb we carry within us,
just as God called Ezekiel to raise up from the dead
all those people of Israel
who were lying in the tomb of despair.
Thus says the Lord God,
“I am going to open your tombs
and raise you up from your tombs, O my people….
I will put my spirit in you and you shall live.” (Ezek. 37: 12,14)
This is what Jesus wants for each one of us today. (p. 91f)
I can really understand people who are atheists. I can really understand people who proclaim that they do not believe in God because what they are saying is that they do not believe in false gods. They do not believe in a romantic God that just blesses human beings by making them rich. They do not believe in a God who is going to punish them. Some atheists, who refuse to believe in these false gods, have a deep sense of the human heart and a deep sense of the human reality. (p. 135f)
Let us simply stop and start listening to our own hearts. There we will touch a lot of pain. We will possibly touch a lot of anger. We will possibly touch a lot of loneliness and anguish. Then we will hear something deeper. We will hear the voice of Jesus; we will hear the voice of God. We will discover that the heart of Christ, in some mysterious way, is hidden in my heart and there, we will hear, “I love you. You are precious to my eyes and I love you.” (p. 40)
As we learn to wait, we begin to discover the whole mystery of creation. On the one side God is so great, so beautiful and we are so small and so poor. We discover that God is at the beginning and at the end of all things. He is the alpha and the omega. He is the seed and he is the cedar tree. He is the beauty of all our world, and as I disappear into the earth, the sun will continue to rise and to set. I am part of something much bigger, much wider, much more beautiful than I can ever imagine. Our God is making this world move in love. God, independent of our world but totally united in some mysterious way to our hearts and to the hearts of this world, is present and is the eternal “now”…
As I discover the vastness of the project of history and the littleness of my being, I discover that it is all right simply to wait. It is all right just to be as I am, for there is something much larger than my vision and my program, no matter how large it may appear in this world. God is there at the source and the end of all things. And as I wait, somewhere I am saying, “I trust you.” (p. 146)
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Today’s quotes are from Jean Vanier: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters)
Modern Spiritual Masters Series
Orbis Books (October 30, 2008)