“Neither he or his parents sinned; it is so that the work of God might be made visible through him.”

“Neither he or his parents sinned; it is so that the work of God might be made visible through him.[1]”

by Adolphe, sx. –

It is almost five months that I am amidst special children, that is, mentally and physically handicapped persons. Most of them are boys. For the first time I saw this variety of disabilities, I was wondering, from the bottom of my heart, upon observing each disabled person: why is he born like this or why is he in this situation? Honestly, I was viewing these disabilities as a result of a blind chance not really as punishment but it happened that somebody was born like that and while growing up he finds himself in that state and situation.

The question why he was born like this or why is he  in this situation nagged my mind inasmuch as it was often coming back to most of my reflections. Thus, this interrogation’s close similarity to that of the disciples’ in John 9:2; and a deep reflection upon the source of life pointed me straight to God as God created human beings in his image and likeness.

Through the sentence – ‘let us make man and woman in our image, after our likeness’[2] , the Genesis writer shows us that man and woman are the only beings whose creation results from a decision. Thus this decision implies human being’s sharing in God’s life. In other words, Man and Woman are bonded in a special way to their creator. Or simply put, Man and Woman are trace of God’s glory[3]. Thereby, even disable persons share in God’s life and are trace of God’s glory. Jesus makes clear when he responds to the disciples’ question (Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?): “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the work of God might be made visible through him.”

Now the question arises: how come these disabled persons, who are supposed to be visible sign of God’s might, are most of the time at the margin of the society? Saint Louis Guanella answers: “we need, however, a great deal of courage and faith sometimes to recognize these diamonds, hidden as they are, inside their contorted and expressionless bodies.[4]”

Really staying with or being close to these persons may foster courage and faith in order to have a special way of looking at them. For instance, it is through his experience in the community of Arche [5] that Henri Nouwen discovered that the most disabled persons are really true peacemakers. In fact, the most handicapped persons need always the company of an ordinary person to assist them in their basic needs. In other words, their situations call forth a presence of a person or different persons. Thus, their disabilities become a good occasion uniting persons around them. In the Guanella center where I am, it is really amazing to see different groups of persons and organizations flowing in mornings and afternoons in this Christmas time. All of them were coming to spend time with them, entertaining them with their songs, games, performances and giving also Christmas gifts to them.

Here, it is worth to mention that the disabled persons’ peace doesn’t consist in brilliant and rational speeches that, most of the time, end up in a kind of competition between persons in order to win the success of being the best peacemaker. Instead, their peace consists simply in “the art of being[6]”; that is, being in their situation or being who they are. It is their state that paves way to peace between persons by creating a community of persons.

Other spiritual writers like Jean Vanier call the disabled persons the poor ones that are said blessed in the gospel. Thus, handicapped persons hold a blessing which is the face of God through Jesus Christ who is present in them. In this way, ordinary persons earn blessings in serving them. This blessing remains the face of God hidden “inside their contorted and expressionless bodies.” In the same perspective, Henri Nouwen talks about “the reverse mission[7]”, that is, in going to help the mentally handicapped persons, the helper needs to let these persons offer him/her their unique spiritual gifts.[8] This is, actually, mentally handicapped persons’ mission to the normal ones. Simply put, they hid treasures that are valuable to ordinary persons.

In conclusion, disabled persons are part of God’s plan and they hid treasures that ordinary persons do not notice at the first sight. What comes first to their eyes is their handicaps and because of these, disabled persons are directly ranked at the margin of the society as invalids. However, the world of disabled persons remains rich in experiences. One cannot help them efficiently unless he/she enters their world. All the same, one cannot learn from them unless he/she makes himself /herself part of this world. In helping them, the ordinary person may not only realize that disabled persons are opening him/her up little by little to their world but also that they are teaching him/her some human and spiritual values. Thus, those who were invalids in the beginning can become valid and precious at the end. Saint Louis Guanella, Blessed Mother Theresa, Henry Nouwen and other saints and great persons of our time have a lot to teach about this.

[1] Jn 9:3

[2] Gn 1:26

[3] Evangelium Vitae No 34.

[4] There Was Once Upon a Time… a Kingdom of Good Children p 54-55 in Father Louis Guanella. Samaritan Priest, ed by Juan Bautista Aquado, Pious Union of St. Joseph, 2011.

[5] Arche “( Daybreak, close to Toronto) is part of an international federation of communities called L’Arche- the Ark- where people with a mental handicap and their assistants try to live together in the spirit of the Beatitudes ( see Finding My Way Home. Pathways to life and spirit p 56) .”

[6] Henry Nouwen, Finding My Way Home. Pathways to life and spirit ( Claretian Publication: Quezon City, 2004), p66.

[7] Henry J. M. Nouwen, Reverse Mission p58-59 in Here and Now. Living in the Spirit ( Paulines, Pasay City, 1997).

[8] Henry J. M. Nouwen, The blessings from the poor p 25-83 in  Here and Now. Living in the Spirit ( Paulines, Pasay City, 1997).

One Comment:

  1. The missionary is the one who lets by himself to be penetrated by the life of people to whom he is sent. I can read and understand through this experience what we call ” Incarnation and Solidarity with Filipino people” one of our community priorities. Thank you for this teaching life Br. Adolphe. Only, to live Christ in Christ through the margins of society,” Handicapped and Homeless” is he great witness of our belonging to the one who gave all his life to save the entire humanity, Jesus Christ. Really, he is at your sides, don’t be afraid even though the current situations are making life hard.

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