Monday of the First Week of Lent
(Leviticus 19:1-2.11-18; Matthew 25:31-46)
Fr. Henri Nouwen was perhaps the most noted spiritual writer in English during the last quarter of the twentieth century. In his final years he often wrote of L’Arche, the movement uniting in community persons with severe disabilities with caregivers. In one essay Fr. Nouwen described his service in an L’Arche community to an almost helpless youth named Adam. Although a priest for decades with an unparalleled appreciation of the spiritual life, Nouwen learned from the young man the meaning of today’s gospel.
Adam may not have had many alternatives; nevertheless, he allowed Nouwen to take care of him. He evidently maintained his composure even when he was in pain from his caretaker’s awkward assistance. In any event Adam proved himself like Jesus in that in being helped, he brought his helper a “peace that the world cannot give.” The lessons were simple and yet profound. First, Adam revealed to the author that what is truly important is a human person’s being not his success. Second, Adam showed that what makes a human person an image of God is not the mind that comprehends reality but the heart that lets go of preoccupation with self to embrace another in love. Finally, Adam demonstrated the importance of community since, like everyone else, he needed others to survive but, unlike most people, he was unable to hide that truth.
During Lent God invites us to find His Son in others. The more we assist suffering people, the more we will recognize that it is Jesus whom we are caring for. In so doing, he lifts us from our own misery to the joy of his company.