In his new book, Living Gently in a Violent World (coauthored by Stanley Hauerwas), Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, a network of communities which include people with and without intellectual disabilities, writes about what happened to him when he first entered an institution which cared for disabled people:
The cry of people with disabilities was a very simple cry: do you love me? That’s what they were asking. And that awoke something deep within me because that was also my fundamental cry. I knew I could be a success. I had done well in the Navy. I had a doctorate in philosophy. I knew I could go up the ladder, but I didn’t know whether I was really loved. If I fell sick, who would be there? I knew the need for admiration. I knew the need to be both accepted and admired. But something down within me didn’t know if anybody really loved and cared for me as a person, not just for my accomplishments. . . Something was awakened within me as I started to visit people with disabilities and heard their primal cry for relationship; it became clear to me that Jesus was at ease with people yearning for love. I began to understand that these people could help me grow in the wisdom of love. They would help me grow in a relationship with Jesus.
The cry for love is our fundamental cry. And it is not just the case that Jesus is at ease with people yearning for love. He leads us to fulfillment of the yearning by guiding us into deeper, more pervasive experiences of God’s reality.
As I read the quotation by Vanier, I was reminded of Jesus’ question to Peter, “Do you love me?” I often take for granted that I am loved by God (it is who I know God to be), but I forget that God cries out for my love in return. Love is God’s most fundamental cry as well.
I am also reminded of Simone Weil’s ways that we show love to God. We love God when we love our neighbor and “the least of these”, when we enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, and when we experience the beauty of religious ceremony and worship.
Love others, enjoy the beauty of all that is around us, and come together in gratitude and worship. When we show our love for God and deepen our experience of God’s love for us, we are able to let God’s great love flow through us to others. And the then it begins all over again.
Thank you for an insightful comment and for the helpful reminder of Simone Weil’s reflections on loving God.