Beyond Our Unloveliness

[Posted on Facebook for the feast of Saint John of God, 8 March.]

From the matins reading from Saint John of God, exemplar of charity, who reminds us that living out the love of God is no recipe for ease:

"I work here [at the hospital and shelter founded by him] on borrowed money, a prisoner for the sake of Jesus Christ. And often my debts are so pressing that I dare not go out of the house for fear of being seized by my creditors."

To be caught up into the dimension of divine mercy and gratuity, to be a fool for God, means being homeless here. It means real financial distress, and social exclusion. If you've experienced it, you know there's a kind of trauma there.

But the lack of comfort goes far deeper:

"Whenever I see so many poor brothers and neighbors of mine suffering beyond their strength and overwhelmed with so many physical or mental ills which I cannot alleviate, then I become exceedingly sorrowful..."

The suffering of the wretched of the earth becomes our own. And how that throbs.

But it goes deeper still: think of how small our hearts are, especially if we're comfortable. From out of the parental neuroses and egoistic ugliness that rears its head and casually swipes at the young, and multifarious wounds inflicted upon the weaker all along the line as we grow up, we become unlovely in turn. It is so sad. There is so much meanness, so much contraction of soul. We can't say the true thing, or fight for justice, with gentleness or self-awareness or proportion. Unloveliness meets unloveliness. To look on that spectacle is to walk upon the weirs above despair. Is there a free human being anywhere? How many Christians are there, really? And what the Father wants is not a few...but all! It seems absurd, and most unlikely.

"...but I trust in Christ, Who knows my heart. And so I say: 'Woe to the man who trusts in men rather than in Christ.' Whether you like it or not, you will grow apart from men, but Christ is faithful and always with you, for Christ provides all things. Let us always give thanks to Him. Amen."