letting go continues...

Time and again, I return to the cycle of prayer - sometimes with clarity and enthusiasm, often with only a gnawing awareness of emptiness - and so it continues. This morning's gospel reflection from St. Matthew speaks of Jesus looking upon his people with "compassion for they are like sheep without a shepherd." These nine words will serve as my anchor as the day matures.

Two thoughts from the insights of Jean Vanier of the L'Arche community have been swimming around in my head and heart for the past few days. The first is disarming in its simplicity:  until we are at peace with our own imperfections, we will always react harshly to the failings of others.  In other words, to live as one who honors Christ's compassion in my everyday, walking around life not only must I learn to rest in my brokenness, but let go of how others respond to these imperfections. As long as I try to maintain my addiction to bourgeois control - wearing the outward mask of success and wisdom - I dissipate and exhaust myself to such a degree that I don't have the energy to love. Letting go of social illusions in order to befriend my brokenness frees God's love within me to find expression. It also means, however, that I am willing to trust God's love beyond me enough to be vulnerable to those who would do me harm. That's a LOT of trust, yes? Truth be told, I am rarely that open. And without multiple times of prayerful reinforcement throughout the day, I wouldn't even attempt it.

The other idea that Vanier puts out there that has captured my attention builds upon the call to be open, vulnerable and trusting. He speaks of this as "the way of the heart."

Power and cleverness call forth admiration but also a certain separation, a sense of distance; we are reminded of who we are not, of what we cannot do. On the other hand, sharing weaknesses and needs calls us together into “oneness.” We welcome into our heart those who love us. In this communion, we discover the deepest part of our being: the need to be loved and to have someone who trusts and appreciates us and who cares least of all about our capacity to work or to be clever and interesting. When we discover we are loved in this way, the masks or barriers behind which we hide are dropped; new life flows. We no longer have to prove our worth; we are free to be ourselves. We find a new wholeness, a new inner unity.” The way of the heart is the embodiment of the Spirit of God’s love.

Such tender living calls to me.  It awakens what is most hungry and hurting within me. It is how I ache to live even as it stands as a compassionate judgment of what is missing from my soul.  To live into Christ's mercy is to let go of my need to prove my worth. No wonder Jesus tells his disciples: Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.  As the centurion replied:  I believe, Lord, help thou my disbelief.

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