Existence is precarious. It is easy to forget this until we come face to face with our own frailty and finitude. While some of us can hide this vulnerability, it is painfully apparent for those of us whose lives depend on the hospitality of others every day. The Scriptures make special mention of widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. I also think of people with disabilities, especially my friends living in L’Arche communities, who navigate various cognitive and physical challenges with the support of assistants.
But that’s only the surface, for they struggle with heartache, too: communicating with those who misunderstand or infantilize them, doubting their self-worth, missing family members who live far away, grieving aging or deceased parents, desiring a romantic relationship that may never happen, grappling with questions of faith in God, and trusting again and again in the care of strangers who may become cherished friends but eventually leave to pursue their own dreams.
And yet, my friends are some of the most joyful, loving, and free people I know. Through their experiences of profound vulnerability, they teach me how my wounds can be the source of my gifts. They also show me what God’s love is like. Every time I visit, I feel like I am coming home because of the extraordinary welcome and acceptance I receive. St. Ignatius describes this love well when he writes in his Spiritual Exercises that love is “shown more in deeds than in words” and that it “consists in the mutual sharing of goods.”
Love of God and love of neighbor go together. Jesus also reminds us that we worship God when we have compassion for the most vulnerable among us. When we recognize our basic solidarity as creatures sustained by God’s grace, we can truly proclaim with the psalmist, “I love you, Lord, my strength.”
- How might my experiences of human frailty and finitude help me to grow in love of God and in love of neighbor?
- How might I express solidarity with others who have disabilities, especially within the church?
Grace Mariette Agolia is a doctoral candidate in Systematic Theology at Boston College. Before she started her Ph.D., she spent a year living at L’Arche Daybreak in Canada.