God works with our weaknesses

The other day some kind soul left a copy of Jean Vanier’s newsletter to his community outside my door. I don’t know who it was but I appreciate the sweet thought greatly, even more, after reading and reflecting on the text. Jean Vanier is the founder of the L’Arche community. Through his friendship with a priest named Father Thomas Philippe, he became aware of the plight of thousands of people institutionalized with developmental disabilities. In this newsletter, he shares his journey of becoming older and how he is slowing down, has less energy to do all that he would like to do. He concludes: “Jesus said to Paul: “My grace is made manifest in your weakness”. More so, I continue to discover that I too am precious for God, not for what I do but for that what I am: a child of the Father”. Too often, we relate to each other on the basis of what a person can do or what they can do for us. We quantify them in terms of productivity, use and benefit. We forget that God created that person simply to be loved and to be able to love and to beautify the world with their presence by using the gifts which He has given them.

Pope Gregory the Great says something similar: “Don’t be anxious about what you have, but about what you are!” In today’s Gospel, Jesus presents us with the example of the widow who gives everything that she has. She trusts that God will provide for her, not because of what she can or can’t do but because He is her Father and she is his child. To give from our livelihood is not only an act of generosity; it is also an act of trust in God. We can only give from our need if we trust that God will provide for us. Jesus himself demonstrates the ultimate act of generosity and trust in God as he gives his life for us on the cross.

It is the person who gives what is in monetary value not worth a pinch of salt, but in fact it is she whose generosity is the most absolute. It is the seemingly insignificant person giving a pittance whom no one else noticed, who has the spirit of the Gospel in her heart. Jesus measures the worth of her offering in terms of the self-offering involved. It takes not only generosity to do this, but also faith! It continues to be true that very often the most amazing and generosity often comes from those who are poorest, and who could have so many reasons for not giving anything of themselves because of their own needs.When it comes down to it, it is not about the big things but the little things. Mother Teresa used to say: “We cannot do great things for God. We can only do little things with great love.” This is what the widow did.

In a way, religious life is like throwing in those two coins which represent everything one owns and having nothing left in your purse but having trust in your heart that God in his Providence will provide. It is handing over dreams, aspirations, desires, and hopes knowing that they will be brought to fruition in the wonderful plan of God for our lives. In religious life, people often ask me, is it not frustrating to give up everything?  To give up your family and creating your own family with a spouse and children, your freedom, independence, career...the list goes on! It seems to be just a life of ‘giving up’ stuff. There are days alright when things aren’t going as planned when I do have words with Himself and remind Him how much I have ‘given up’ for Him. However, then I realise that truly He has given me Everything because He has given me Himself...what more can He give: His body and blood in the Eucharist and in the Word! When I look at it, I don’t have much to offer to the Lord but I can offer it wholeheartedly with a generous heart and without regret. It reminds me of the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with the costly nard and doesn’t hold back anything. I wrote an article on this for the Irish Catholic newspaper last year, you might like to read it here.
Let us pray that as Christ’s followers, our hearts may be opened wide to giving everything to Him, knowing that He alone knows the heart!

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