Today was all about yard work - and listening. The neighbor's yard man stopped to chat with me while I was cutting the front yard with the manual, rotary mower. "That's the best way to care for your lawn," he smiled. "The old way." This led us into a 20 minute conversation about the state of the world, learning to pray, prayers for his dear friend Michelle and so much more. Funny what can happen if I simply take the time to stop and pay attention with my heart to those who move through my day, yes?
Jean Vanier suggests that the most important need all people have is a sense of belonging. Not power or wealth, not status or even self-esteem. Belonging: the experience of knowing you are treasured. I have been "listening" to that wisdom for the past few days every time my "smart" phone chimes: "You are God's beloved forever" is the message that accompanies this call to prayer. I say these words to my self, listen to the bells and make the sign of the Cross. I belong and have been cherished by the Lord since before the beginning of time. In his spirituality of the L'Arche community, Vanier writes:
People suffering from intellectual disabilities do not know God in an intellectual, abstract way, but they can sense when they are loved. When children know that they are loved, they are peaceful. When they feel unwanted, they are in pain. They learn through contact with their hearts, their bodies and their senses. Isn't that the same for all of us? ... The most important knowledge is the knowledge that comes directly from a heart-to-heart relationship with Jesus in which (we) sense how much (we) are loved and are called to grow in love.
The experience of sensing Christ's love for me personally - and sharing that love with other lonely people over the course of my ministry - has unequivocally been the best part of the past 40 years for me. "Some people find it difficult to believe in the value of heart-to-heart love," Vanier continues, "it seems too childish or sentimental." It has been a constant blessing to me but I sometimes forget this truth. St. Paul describes it as the mystery of the Cross where "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world" to show us the way of trust and heart-to-heart love. As I listened to this truth in my heart today while cutting the grass, I got a clue for one of the ways I want to live into whatever public ministry remains: encouraging heart-to-heart connections with Christ's love and strengthening heart-to-heart love within our community.
As I sat with this insight, my wacky dog, Lucie, jumped up on the bed and fell fast asleep. She had been outside most of the day with me and was worn out. When I awoke from my nap she was still zonked out so I read quietly. About 10 minutes later she got up, stretched her big old body and came to snuggle in my arms. She looked up at me with eyes that said, "All I need is a hug." When she is loved and treated with quiet respect, she rests deeply. When others are around who are unknown to her - or when she has to venture into places that are outside her comfort zone - she frets, worries and becomes terrified. Resting in my arms on my bed confirmed my hunch for the next phase of ministry.
The words of the Blessed Virgin as she sings to God in gratitude before Christ's birth ring so true: "God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly." Thanks be to God.
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