From Peter van Breemen, SJ:
We are all wounded people. Therefore, we are all a burden to ourselves and to others. … There is no getting around this. We simply must accept it. We must let ourselves be healed by others, and be open to healing, correction, and deeper self-knowledge. We must also accept others without condescension as wounded people, bear with them, and contribute to their healing.
Fr van Breemen channels Jean Vanier to provide the spine of his extended essay “Respect–the heart of love” in his book The God Who Won’t Let Go.
I’ve been dwelling on this chapter in the book for a few days now. For myself, it merits a closer personal look–mainly because of life circumstances. I’m not going to bore you with that. I have two places to explore with this concept. It will be sketchy, so if any reader would like to elaborate a bit . .. go for it.
First, more briefly, most of you are aware of Jean Vanier’s apostolate with developmentally disabled people. In that context, he realized that every human being is burdened with some kind of “disability.” Are we obviously limping on a leg? Maybe it’s a leg of self-esteem. Or addiction. Or something deeply hidden. But we all have something. Are all healed? Are all whole? I seriously doubt it.
Second, with more elaboration, how does this recognition of a common disability affect our worship? Some things are obvious. We depend on God, quite simply. Our efforts alone cannot make for perfect or even optimal liturgy. Great learning, doctrinal orthodoxy, the ability to follow a recipe: none of these are guarantees that our failings will not surface in some way during a particular Mass, or routinely in the liturgy because of a missed opportunity or misunderstanding. As much as we try to celebrate great liturgy–and I think we should always try–we achieve only a shallow representation of something far greater: the Son’s expression of adoration and affection for the Father, united by the love of the Holy Spirit.
And to be clear, our petty mistakes, errors, irreverent moments, and even our catastrophic blunders that border on (or dwell in) sacrilege do not burden or affect Christ’s action in the slightest. God absorbs these too. God accepts poor liturgy, disabled celebrants as wounded people. He bears with our poverty of worship. He even uses it to invite us to healing.
A deaf person is not excused from the obligation of listening, of communication, and of integration into society. Likewise, a person or community struggling with worship is not excused from the effort to get better. In worship, we have something of an advantage, in that we are all in the same boat. We can cooperate with the ways in which God invites us to be a source of healing, correction, and self-knowledge for one another.
Difficult, sure. But very much a reality on this plane of existence. How do you see the liturgy as a source of healing? How do others in your community help this?