“Wow, what a powerful quote! It would be awesome if the world could live like this,” said a friend after reading this quote from last week’s blog post.
You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship. You stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved until bad behaviour is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear. —Gregory Boyle, SJ.
My friend and I talked about the quote and how it reminded us of the people we share a meal with at the Wednesday Lunch Club. Later on in our conversation, I mentioned a drifter who was back in town. “I saw him in a grocery store and tried to get out of there as quickly as I could,” I said and went on to explain my actions. I met this fellow when I was working as a pastor. He drained the staff of time and energy. We tried to listen to him and love him, but it was never enough. I was relieved when he moved on.
I remembered what I had said about the drifter when I opened my heart to pray the next morning. As I replayed the conversation in my mind, I humbly realized I had defended my right not to stand with this belligerent man.
God was grateful for my noticing and led me to this Syrian icon of the Pentecost.
Peter is standing with strangers from many nations. They are all saints, not because they are a cut above the rest, but because the Spirit rests upon them, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.
God was inviting me to see this drifter with a halo around his head and anointed with tongues of fire, even if he isn’t living into this reality. I don’t have to save him. I don’t have to engage him in conversation (although sometimes I may want to). But I do need to love him. Because whoever loves God loves all that God loves.
The Sandalwood Tree
The sandalwood tree shares its lovely scent
with any who come near.
God is like that.
Does the tree ever think to itself,
I am not going to offer my fragrance to that man
because of what he did last night,
or to that woman who neglected her child,
or because of what we might have ever done?
It is not the way of God
∗ ∗ ∗
This week I am away with four other spiritual directors on my second eight-day Ignatian retreat. It is a silent retreat (except when each of us meet daily with our director). We’ll have four or five one-hour prayer periods a day and, in the hours between, I’ll rest, go for walks or bike rides or relax with a puzzle or handcraft. I can imagine much love mischief happening as we are hosted by the Trinity.