Monthly Archives: January 2023

Calling the weak and the wounded

A few days ago, I came across this quote from Father Ron Rolheiser on his Facebook page:

“I’m convinced that God calls each of us to a vocation and to a special work here on earth more on the basis of our wounds than on the basis of our gifts. Our gifts are real and important; but they only grace others when they are shaped into a special kind of compassion by the uniqueness of our own wounds. Our unique, special wounds can help make each of us a unique, special healer.”

This morning, while reading the call of Peter in today’s Gospel (Matthew 4: 12-23), I began to realize how Jesus called the incompetent Peter to follow him and be “a fisher of people.”

Sometimes I’ve thought that Jesus calls us because of our competence, looking at our gifts. After all, he called Peter the fisherman to be a “fisher of people” in His Reign.

But I had forgotten that Peter in the Gospels comes across as an incompetent and unsuccessful fisherman – having fished all night, at least twice in the Gospel accounts, and not having gotten a single fish. (See Luke 5: 1-11 and John 21: 1-14). He’s only successful when Jesus tells him what to do! “Put out into the deep.” “Cast your nets on the right side of the boat.”

Jesus calls us even when we are incompetent and weak, helping us see where we need to go – both to catch fish and to follow him in his mission.

(Image by Cerezo Barredo)

Weakness, Paul, and Agnes

In the middle of a health challenge, it has been a blessing and a consolation this morning to remember Saint Agnes and to meditate on a few scripture passages.

I often read the readings from Vigils in Benedictine Daily Prayer. This morning I was surprised by this passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (9:22):

“To the weak I became weak, so that I may win the weak.”

As if this was not enough, the first of the Mass readings for the feast of Saint Agnes includes these words of Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 1:27):

“God has chosen … to weak of this world to put the strong to shame.”

It gets more complicated. The short reading for Morning Prayer is, again from Paul, Romans 12:16)

“Put away ambitious thoughts and associate with those who are lowly.”

And the prayer for the Mass of Saint Agnes reads:

“Almighty ever-living God, who choose what is weak in the world to confound the strong…”

I have been wondering if God might be calling me for something more. I am, after all 75 years old, and I’m feeling a call for “more” – the Ignatian “magis.”

Is embracing weakness – as a force for good – part of this call?

Who are you?

Reading this morning’s Gospel, I was struck by these words the Jewish leaders asked John the Baptist: “Who are you?”

John denies all the titles that some people wanted to give him: the Christ, Elijah, the Prophet. They are not who he is? He is but a voice crying in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord.”

Deacon Greg Kendra, in his reflection for today in Give Us This Day, writes:

“But what about us? Encountering this passage, we might ask ourselves: “Who am I?” How do I fit into God’s plan? How do I see myself? Am I a voice? Am I a witness? Am I merely a spectator in the story of salvation? Or am I a disciple com­pelled to act—to give, to love, to proclaim, to sacrifice?”

But what about me?

Who am I?

As often happens when a passage speaks to my heart, I wrote in my journal:

A sinner, inadequate, but used by God, not so much to make the paths straight but to open spaces for grace. so that people can recognize the loving presence of God in their midst.

During a retreat in 2021, as I looked over my life and my ministry, I began to identify my mission as opening spaces for grace. I do this out of my vulnerability, my weaknesses, which open me to others in their joys and in their pains. But i think and pray that this is central to my diaconal ministry.

I have found Honduras full of contradictions and paradoxes. There are hard-working people, but the political and economic system make it difficult for them to thrive. They are a people with a deep piety, but it is all too often focused on sinfulness; I fear that this makes it hard for many to see the grace of God active among them, within them.

Most of all I see a people who have been put down so much in the past by the powerful that they don’t always recognize their dignity, their capabilities, and their capacity for good and for transformation.

Thus, this deacon comes and tries to open spaces for grace.

How? by listening, by calling out gifts, by noting the good, by giving thanks for what they do and who they are, by accompanying them, by being present with them.

I sometimes am surprised by what I do, but I think it is inspired by my desire to open a space for grace.

Yesterday, I accompanied the pastor at a funeral in a rural village, in the porch of a house. It was well-attended, with people from several villages in attendance. I was asked by the pastor to preach and tried to combine the feast of Mary, Mother of God, the new year, and the death of an older man who left behind a wife, several children, and about twenty-five grandkids.

After the Mass, as the family shared coffee and bread, a woman I recognized came up to me, just to get a hug. She was a daughter-in-law. I was touched by how she just approached me; we hugged and spoke briefly. I am surprised at her openness to me. What a grace for me – and I hope for her.

This morning, on the way to the parish center, I gave a ride to a woman carrying a little baby and accompanied by a six-year-old. I got out of the car to help the woman get down out of the truck. I noticed that the other boy was looking at a puddle of water under the truck. He seemed concerned that something was leaking. I showed him that it was just a stream coming down the hill that passed under the car. I noted to him and to his mother that he was a very observant young man.

How important it is not only to accompany people in their sorrow but to help people, especially children, recognize their goodness and their gifts.

These people help make me who I am.

I am grateful to God and to them.